Shiva Behradnia

Director of Teaching and Learning

sbehradnia@willnorth.org

Curriculum and Pedagogy

At Northside, we attend to the whole child to develop academically, socially, emotionally, and physically. We create safe and welcoming learning environments where each child feels heard, seen, and cared for. We believe cultivating positive relationships with our students is at the heart of learning. These supportive relationships have a positive influence on a child’s academic and personal development.

Our progressive approach to teaching and learning takes students’ interests, needs, and voices into account in designing learning experiences. Teachers employ a variety of instructional strategies to support students’ creation of knowledge and promote exploration and inquiry through hands-on, cooperative, and authentic project-based learning. 

Our curriculum is based on students’ interests, involving the application of problem-solving, interdisciplinary subject matter, activities, and projects. The curriculum is rooted in current research-based best practices and organized around questions, real-world problems, and authentic projects. Our student-centered inquiry approach to learning challenges students to grapple with concepts empowers students to take risks, value the learning process, and see mistakes as opportunities for growth. 

Our interdisciplinary units of study are collaborative, engaging, fun, and incorporate 21st-century skills. Students internalize their understanding and apply them in new situations across content areas. Engaging students’ creativity, curiosity, and passion for learning is critical to the development of higher-order thinking and intrinsic motivation.

Teachers use a social justice lens on the curriculum to create opportunities for students to explore developmentally appropriate real-world issues, view multiple perspectives, make personal and real-world connections to their learning, and engage in discussions to acquire skills of civic engagement. Students are equipped with how to listen to different perspectives with compassion, think critically about past and present issues, and how to respectfully communicate one’s own ideas and respond to the ideas of others. From a young age, students become socially and ethically aware, recognize that their voice matters, and see themselves as positive change agents. During their journey at Northside, we nurture a deep sense of agency, advocacy, compassion, empathy, and humility, and help students develop the dispositions, skills, and understandings to be lifelong, engaged, and active citizens. 

At Northside, we believe that the curriculum should be interesting, challenging, and relevant to children. It should be based on content research, best practices, and results, and serve as a guide to allow for creative and engaging instruction and build on students’ strengths. This will allow instruction to be flexible, allowing for differentiated instruction to enable students with different strengths to meet or exceed curriculum goals.

Assessment

Assessments are invaluable tools that teachers rely on to better understand each child’s abilities, interests, and learning styles. Teachers use data from multiple sources to inform planning for teaching and learning and differentiate instruction to meet the needs of all learners. 

We use a myriad of formal and informal assessments to gather data and measure evidence of students’ learning based on established learning goals, understandings, and benchmarks to assure the continuous intellectual, social, and physical development of the learner. 

Teachers articulate what they expect all students to know, be able to do, and understand, and provide students with a variety of opportunities to demonstrate their understanding. Teachers frequently provide timely and specific written and verbal feedback to support students’ progress along a continuum of learning.

We emphasize the importance of the learning process and empower students to take ownership of their learning. On the path of meaningful learning, we involve students in self-assessment in order to identify their prior knowledge, what they want to learn, and self-reflect on what they learned. Students become more aware of their strengths and can better identify reachable learning goals. They also recognize that the learning process is as important as the final product or outcome.

Professional Development and Growth

Our professional learning community continuously engages in the ongoing development of curriculum and instruction to ensure that our curriculum drives our mission forward, embeds our core values, and meets our students’ needs.

Our team appreciates the continuous cycle of reflection and believes that we must always seek to evolve and that the work is never done. We purposefully devote significant time for conversation and reflection about what we do, how we do, and why to offer a relevant and rigorous curriculum that best serves our students. 

Our faculty are passionate, quintessential life-long learners who model our motto, “Dare to Ask.” They are reflective practitioners who actively seek out opportunities to grow professionally and are committed to continuous school improvement. Our teachers never take time off from their learning. They can be found attending both on and off-campus professional workshops throughout the year to stay current with educational practices, improve student learning, and continue with their professional development and growth.

We empower and inspire our teachers by dedicating time for peer to peer learning workshops. Faculty who attend professional development workshops over the summer and during the school year are encouraged to bring back their newfound knowledge, skills, and resources in support of their colleagues. During these presentations, faculty discuss how they would implement the practice in their classrooms. Our peer to peer learning sessions further strengthen our professional learning community and exemplify our shared responsibility for our team’s professional growth.