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Curriculum impossible: Upgrading

3 min read


I’m a big fan of the Food Network show “Restaurant Impossible.” The show features a struggling restaurant on the verge of going out of business and host Robert Irvine makes over the restaurant in hopes of saving it. I’ve watched several episodes of the show, and the structure is one that is applicable to upgrading curriculum work.

  1. What’s working? What’s not working? — Identify what you do well and should continue doing and then identify areas that need improvement.
  2. Prioritize improvements — Of the areas that need improvement, which ones need to happen sooner than later?
  3. Secondary considerations — Do those improvements have peripheral considerations that will impact the intended need? (For instance, if you decide that you want to upgrade a writing moment using a blog, how much teaching time will you need to devote to learning how to blog and use the tool?)
  4. Gather a team — For the needed improvements, who do you need on your team? Technology integrator? Other content areas? Those that think differently from you? Collaboration is key to effective upgrades.
  5. Budget time — Time is always a thorny issue. You need time for planning, implementation, and reflection.
  6. Budget resources — Use what you have. Leverage what you need from your team. Look for opportunities in places you haven’t looked before, such as or
  7. Ask the customer… the students — One of the missing pieces in Curriculum Design today is real input from the primary targets: the kids. I recently saw a tweet where a member of my network wrote that he supplied the students with an objective, then invited their opinions about how to reach it. Viable ideas were added to the plan.
  8. Implement — Unveil the upgrade and put it into place.
  9. Reflect and revise — What worked and what didn’t? What moves us forward and what holds us back?
  10. How do you sustain it? — Sustain your work by not letting it be an all-or-nothing “eggs in one basket” event. Get into the groove of continuous upgrades — one step, one unit, even one lesson, at a time.

Additionally, this might be a novel way to approach upgrading other areas in a school, such as behavior/student management, interventions for students, modern methodologies, professional development and more. Anyone who reads me regularly knows that I like a good metaphor, and if a Food Network show can be involved — all the better!

On the show, Irvine returns to the restaurant several weeks later to see how things are going (hence No. 9 and No. 10 above). Upgrading your curriculum doesn’t have to be an impossible task, though with all of the current nationwide changes it may feel insurmountable. The steps here are not meant to be a menu, though. I’ve written it as a linear process. One thing leads to the next, one step at a time. Find a way to do one step at a time. Slow and steady wins the race.

Mike Fisher (@fisher1000) has more than a decade of classroom and professional-development experience. He is a full-time educational consultant and instructional coach and works primarily with school districts to integrate the Common Core State Standards, make data-informed instructional decisions, sustain their curriculum mapping initiatives and integrate instructional technology. Learn more at The Digigogy Collaborative or on his blog.