Laying the Foundations
One teacher's journey
The Beauty of a Script
As I was driving home the other day, the last movement of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony was playing. The sheer beauty of it was almost overwhelming. The way that the choir mixed with the orchestra made it an absolute ode to joy.
I was struck by how the impact that these musicians had on me, playing a piece composed almost two hundred years ago. Admittedly I was listening to masters of their craft, but each one was still following the musical notation written on the sheet in front of them.
The score in music is a script that allows artists to create beauty centuries after a piece is first created. Actors similarly use scripts to evocatively recreate the stories that Shakespeare wrote.
In education however, scripts are often demonised. In my first year of teaching I was told with hints of disgust that a particular program “was good, BUT last year we had to follow a script”. A similar disdain was evident when I began implementing scripted Direct Instruction programs. Scripts are seen to disempower a teacher by minimising their autonomy. A popular publisher has just blogged claiming that scripts shouldn’t be used in teaching because every child is unique.
I believe that we need to pause and challenge this bias against using scripts in education.
A refrain that I hear is that ‘teaching is more an art than a science’. And yet musicians, actors and other artists use scripts. One of the best artists I know would save up her money so that she could travel to Europe and ‘study the masters’. She spent this time copying their works so that she could improve her own technique. Scripts can have a similar role in education, providing teachers with a clear path to mastery. The irony is that in Initial Teacher Education, pre-service teachers have to write their own scripts, often with hypothetical students in mind. So why don’t we promote using scripts that have been carefully crafted by experienced educators?
I was hesitant to start using a script. I worried that it would take away my autonomy in my classroom. But it didn’t. I found that I no longer was stressing about what I had to say next and that freed my mind to focus on some of the myriad of other things. I was free to focus on which students were engaging. I was free to focus on how students were forming sounds. I was free to focus on providing feedback about the errors being made. I was free!
The benefit of being provided with a script meant that my planning workload was drastically reduced. I no longer had the need to add in some busy work because I had run out of planning time. I had access to high-quality resources and was able to use my time to enhance and refine it. Given that workload is one of the biggest issues in education, why aren’t we harnessing the use of educational scripts to provide this?
Scripts not only empower teachers, they provide clarity and consistency for students. I once inherited a class that had had six different teachers the year prior! The learning journey of these Grade 2 students had been severely disjointed. This could have been minimised if they had experienced at least a consistent programme. But the reality was that each teacher had brought in their own syllabus. While a script won’t eliminate the disruption, it will help to minimise it.
The disruption for students also emerges as the change teachers each year. Using a scripted programme allows each teacher to explicitly build on the specific knowledge that students have learnt each year. Rather than guessing what students might/should have learnt, their teacher is able to look at the scripts and have a much more thorough understanding of the knowledge that their class has.
Every child is unique, but so is every audience member. I don’t go and see Hamlet, while the person next to me is watching Macbeth. Rather the similarities between us means that we can experience the same show. Fortunately for education, the similarities between students is much greater than the differences. If this weren’t true than the system would come crashing down.
I believe that there is an art to teaching. Like musicians, actors, and many other artists, teachers should reap be given the tools to hone their craft. A script is a tool that can enhance our teaching and help us provide a better education for our students.
5/8/2022 02:18:12 pm
Wonderful ideas expressed beautifully. Teachers could be freer with more scripts. They could tweak but would have a solid place to start. They would be better able to focus on the students as they “perform.” You can’t complain about having no time and reject scripted lessons without being a hypocrite.
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I am a father of two (6 & 3), married to a future Early Childhood Educator.