Sunday, June 5, 2016

Throwing darts at student education.

At a Parent-Teacher conference last year, I was meeting with a parent.  He is a great father and I was lucky enough to have all three of his daughters in my classes through the years.  We were talking about how different each girl was as a learner, as a person, and as an artist.  He went on to explain to me that he feels that the reason that all of his girls are successful in their own person way is that he let them and their personality guide their needs for parenting.

Again, all are successful  They are mature, but no stressed.  They get good grades, but not all of them make grades priority.  They are respectful and hard working.

After this meeting, I realized that this holds true for my teaching.  When I first started teaching, I was told to "throw a dart at the middle and that is where I should teach" by a veteran teacher that I respected.  That is to say, teach to the middle and hope the struggling students will eventually get it and the higher students will simply find ways to challenge themselves.

Next, I was re-introduced to the wonderful world of differentiation.  We all read the bible of this idea and there have been 100s of books published about differentiation since.  I started to equate this to throwing THREE darts instead of ONE!  I would throw one in the middle, one towards the top with some type of enhanced learning, and one towards the bottom that would be easier and less challenging for those that struggled.  Differentiation was the answer, or so I thought.

I was never satisfied with the 3-dart fix in differentiation.  I wanted to throw 25 darts at my 25 students.  Figuratively, not literally, although sometimes maybe...

I found that each student is a human being with their own needs, experiences, challenges, home-life, aspirations, etc. and none of them fit into a box.  I needed to find a way to personalize learning to each student!

I know this sounds a lot more difficult than differentiation, but it really isn't.  Personalizing learning has to start with knowing your students and trusting them.  By knowing them, you get to systematically get to know what they are needing and looking for in the educational journey.  By trusting your students, you allow them the freedom to take risks and take responsibilities!

I have found by having REAL and authentic conversations with my students, I am meeting their needs much better and on a much more realistic and wholistic basis.

Something to think about.

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