My Hidden Curriculum

The term "hidden curriculum" often conjures up images of robots and factories and students growing complacent. It almost requires a Pink Floyd track or a Frank Zappa quote. It's the idea that students are socialized in a hidden curriculum to become consumers and compliant workers. 

What if we hacked the term?

What if a hidden curriculum was a more subversive activity? What if it was hidden, because it was underground. Not illegal, per se, but certainly against the norms of some of the social structures? What if we, as teachers, found ways to push the things that matter most that are somehow absent from school? 

The following is a list of my hidden curriculum:
  1. Philosophical Thinking: Next week, we will have our first Philosophical Friday. Technically, it will be a lesson in "listening and speaking" along with writing. But it will really be philosophy. 
  2. Coding: I know that in my last post, I suggested that not everyone needs coding. It was a response to the obsession with "everyone needs" statements that can sometimes go overboard.
  3. Inquiry-Based Science: I'm going to teach my students how to observe, ask questions and then do something that tests their questions. Not a rigid scientific method. Not a pre-set experiment I have for them.
  4. The love of reading: I want them to find a genre that they fall in love with.
  5. Global interactions: I want my students to partner with a class across the world and talk openly about their shared humanity and their cultural differences. 
  6. Learn to serve: I want my students to learn to serve in little ways (holding doors, helping out -- our class jobs don't have rewards) and in big ways (trips to the food bank) 
  7. Hard work: I have a hidden curriculum of hard work. It's a piece that people often miss in this blog. Although I often advocate for student freedom, I believe that there is a moment when teachers need to step in and say, "You will do this even if you are frustrated, scared or bored. The end results will be worth it and you will be thankful that you moved past your complacency or your fear." 
  8. Creativity: Part of this involves painting and drawing. I have an art center. We might paint a mural. But I also want students to design their own works. I want them to write creatively. I want them to solve problems. I want them to make their own math problems, film their own documentaries, and use classroom materials to build stuff. 
  9. Asking Questions: I want my students to learn the art of asking critical thinking questions. I want meaningful, rich discourse, even when language acquisition is still an issue. 
  10. Tech criticism: For all the tech we use, I will push a hidden curriculum of tech criticism. 
  11. Government: I want students to learn about the differences (or lack thereof) in the political parties. I want them to see how the local municipalities affect their everyday life. I want them to see the lies and the propaganda along with the hope and the democracy. It needs to go beyond simply seeing a diagram of the three branches of government.
  12. Being polite: I want to model civility with students. I know this sounds quaint. However, I want my students to say "please" and "thank you" and to engage in conflict without bring rude.
  13. Learning is fun: I want to fight the perception that learning isn't fun. True, I want it to be more than fun. I want it to be powerful and meaningful. But on some deep level, I want students to see that learning can be one of the best things in life. 
  14. Passion: I want my students to become geeks about something. I want them to become passionate about some topic, some subject or some project and leave the classroom continuing to do that forever. I'm not sure if my previous list will get in the way of the last one. I'm not sure if every student needs every part of what I listed above. And I wonder what I am missing from their own desired list in a hidden curriculum.


John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler.
He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard
and the co-founder of Write About .

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