TEACHER PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT:
The J&D Curriculum Think Thank
If we want our students to be creative and critical thinkers unafraid to take risks and broaden their minds, then professional development should provide the very same opportunity and experience for teachers. Welcome to The Jazz & Democracy Project®’s answer to teacher professional development: The J&D Curriculum Think Tank. There is no pre-packaged curriculum here. You will be given raw J&D materials—namely, access to exclusive J&D interviews with emerging and established jazz masters—just enough structure, and the freedom to create in a critical way with your professional learning community.
Why does J&D do this? It’s very simple: you and your students are unique individuals in a particular context. Who you and your students are, matters. Context matters. The way Dr. Wes teaches students in Oakland, California, may not be the best way for someone else with a different background (teaching, musical, racial, gender, age, etc.) to teach their students. So instead of providing you with pre-packaged curriculum, Dr. Wes will take you through key J&D activities and guiding principles, you will experience a lesson or two, but the bulk of your time will be spent diving into the J&D materials and creating lessons that will work for your students. Dr. Wes wants to support you through your own critical, creative process, not stand there and talk to you all day about how he does it!
There’s another key ingredient here: students. At some point during the Curriculum Think Tank, students must be at the table. Why? Because it is rare for curriculum developers to involve students in the design process, yet it’s the most obvious design feature when students are the eventual consumers of that curriculum.
The very first J&D Curriculum Think Tank included students from Skyline High School in Oakland, CA, during the summer of 2013. (See the picture to the right for a few of their do’s and don’ts.) The task for those students was simple: let’s design lessons that you and your classmates want to experience. The task for teachers who take part in the Curriculum Think Tank will be the same, so why not have students side-by-side with teachers to create lessons for those very students and their peers? And it’s important to note that your best students aren’t necessarily the ideal students for this venture. Your best students have that label because they do well with anything you put before them. Better to involve those students who you know have a bright mind, yet you hardly see it within the confines of your classroom. Whomever you choose to accompany you on this journey, teachers will be responsible for bringing at least one of their students into the planning process.
Here are a few other guiding principals of the J&D Curriculum Think Tank:
- The value of a mixed table – Be it working across ethnicity or gender, with jazz novices or a jazz band director in your district, or with teachers from different grade levels, J&D values the creative tension that results when people work in groups filled with a range of backgrounds and expertise.
- Teachers are professionals – You will not be told how to teach or how to manage a classroom. The assumption is that you either have a baseline of skills in this area, or that you will seek appropriate assistance elsewhere. Your time in the J&D CTT will be spent creating what no one else can: an interactive lesson for your students based on who you are, who they are, and your lived experiences.
- Human presence matters – In keeping with the jazz tradition itself, the J&D CTT depends upon the integrity of those in the room interacting with one another in a shared space, in real time, engaging and responding to one another’s ideas.
Here’s what you get:
- The full catalogue of exclusive J&D interviews in manageable, edited audio snippets, along with written transcriptions ready for use with your students:
- Modelling of complete lessons and key J&D activities, along with intensive coaching from J&D Founder, Dr. Wes
- A half day with local jazz musicians
Here’s what you will leave with:
- Lesson plans crafted specifically for your students
- The know-how to create more lessons
- A new learning community
- A resource list
If you’re thinking, “I’m not a musician,” or, “But I don’t know anything about jazz,” don’t worry! Though Dr. Wes studied jazz theory and jazz history in college, he is not a jazz musician either. The very focus of the Curriculum Think Tank will be to find the way(s) that you—yes, even you—can bring jazz into your study of U.S. history, government, civics and culture.