Had he never heard of the Guidance-Oriented Approach to Learning, Tim Romanow would still be using it with his class. “Eventually students go out into the world and have to get a job. As teachers, we need to let them know there is a purpose behind everything we do. We need to make learning real for them.”
GOAL is embedded in the way Tim Romanow teaches his Cycle Three class at Everest Elementary School in Québec City. A couple of years ago, his students staged their own version of the “Antiques Roadshow” TV show. Each student brought in an item from home that told the class something about his or her family background. Through Skype, Tim then arranged for a curator from Québec City’s Musée de la civilisation to speak directly to the children about their artifacts. They learned from this expert what steps they could take to preserve Grandma’s teapot or Dad’s old camera. As a related activity, the students studied how sunlight and water exposure can degrade objects such as rubber bands, bits of wood and photographs.
It was a perfect example of how teachers can insert a GOAL element into the curriculum. Even as the Everest students were engaged in activities directly related to language arts, science and social studies, they were also learning more about their own interests and those of their classmates. Furthermore, they discovered something about the role of a curator and the skills and training required to do that job. Anything that helps students acquire greater self-knowledge, or knowledge of the worlds of school and work, is GOAL.
From the circus to the Olympiades
Last year, Tim’s grade 5/6 split class made live Internet contact with the person responsible for educational liaison within the crew of scientists, sailors and filmmakers aboard Sedna IV. This expeditionary schooner has been travelling the world raising awareness of environmental issues. Its travels are the subject of the documentary TV series 1000 jours pour la planète, broadcast on Radio-Canada.
On another occasion, his students visited a circus school and got to watch the performers as they practised their art and developed the skills needed to pursue a viable career. Every second year, the Everest students attend what Tim describes as “the best field trip ever”: the province-wide vocational and technical training Olympiades skills competition that includes hands-on activities for elementary and high-school students.
“There is always a career connection and you’ve got to exploit that. . .”
No matter what part of the curriculum he is teaching, Tim says: “I ask myself, ‘What are the real-world implications of this? What are these children getting out of this?’ There is always a career connection and you’ve got to exploit that, because these kids are going out to work one day. Period.”
Career research as a writing assignment
His class is also fortunate to be part of an Everest pilot project examining various ways of integrating technology into the classroom. That means each of Tim’s students is equipped with an Apple iPad. A career-research project that Tim assigned his students allowed him to evaluate their efforts in terms of both language arts and science and technology, while raising their career awareness and meeting the expectations of the pilot project.
Students had to choose a specific career and research the tasks it involved, the type of training required, the qualifications necessary to begin training, the working conditions, salary, job security, benefits to society and other factors. Then, using the iPad application of their choice, they had to come up with a creative way to present their findings to the class. “Some kids are still very naïve about careers and have no real grasp of salaries or training requirements,” notes Tim. “Some are readier for this type of project than others. But you are getting them started on the road. You’re putting the idea into their minds that this is something they need to think about.”
Meeting Mayor Labeaume
As a 30-year-veteran teacher, Tim is constantly looking for new activities to enrich his students and reinvent himself. Each term he introduces an essential question—the most recent one being: “What can a person accomplish in a lifetime?”
One of the tasks was to write a biography of a person who had made a difference in the world and some of the students chose Québec City’s mayor, Régis Labeaume.
Through a former school commissioner, Tim was able to make contact with the mayor’s office and, in a nice GOAL tie-in, the students were invited to City Hall to meet with Mayor Labeaume at the end of February. They also examined the characteristics of a successful leader, and students and teacher worked together to make an iMovie that they presented to the mayor. It explained what they considered his leadership traits to be.
“You can cover a lot of curriculum when you wrap it into a big project,” says Tim. “You can’t get carried away—you only have so much time. You pick three or four key activities and do them. The essential question ties everything together, so the kids don’t feel they’re doing a bunch of disjointed things. It makes learning more interconnected and interesting.” Just like life, he adds. “Life is not so specific. There are a lot of connections.”
And making those connections between life and school is what GOAL does best.