Thursday, January 16, 2014

How About That Differentiated Instruction?

That's always a good question to ask when the principal or some stray AP is walking by. They may smile knowingly, laugh out loud, or simply ignore you. After all, who knows what goes on in the minds of administrators? But they never jump in and comment. That's because no one is really sure what the hell differentiated instruction is.

I've had teachers tell me their supervisors were demanding multiple lesson plans. That's idiotic. It's also a violation of the UFT Contract, article 8E. Anyone who thinks you need 15 lesson plans to reach a group of kids is a troglodyte. But I digress.

Any intelligent person addresses different people differently. You can joke with some people, but others don't like it. Still others don't even understand it. You might talk to your priest in church on Sunday morning differently than you speak to your friend in a bar on Saturday night. In fact, as you know people, you might adjust your tone and vocabulary for each one.

I'd certainly hope you do the same for your students. I just finished reading a bunch of essays my students wrote, and I really differentiate in the comments I make. I was very sad to hear that a girl in one of my classes, one of my best students, is unhappy and has no confidence in her English. She appears enthusiastic and amused, but what do I know? Two kids in my morning class who are eager and irrepressible, as far as I can see, told me they were bored out of their gourds.

I can relate to that. Actually, that's how I felt through most of high school. I read incessantly in high school, but my teachers asked me to read almost nothing of interest. A ninth grade social studies teacher had us read The Good Earth, which we found amazing. We had never heard of parents planning marriage partners before. In English, though, I read The Incredible Journey, about some dog and a cat running around, and several books that we read aloud in class, one page at a time. I now realize that the teachers were just sitting there killing time. I try very hard to not be like them.

Kids won't tell you everything in class. And while David Coleman, the non-teaching genius behind Common Core will say no one gives a crap about the lives our students lead, he's dead wrong. I do. I care about these kids. That's why I'm a better teacher on my worst day than he'll be on his best.

My kids come from all over the world, and they have stories to tell. This year, I'm going to try to get them to tell me some more of them. And I won't have to differentiate, because they'll be doing it for me.
blog comments powered by Disqus