Monday, February 1, 2010

Apparently I Have No Clue

So my district is focusing on differentiating instruction in my classroom. I am okay with that.

Or I thought I was.

I thought (before all of our long, tedious professional developments on the subject) that I knew what differentiation was. Apparently I don't.

I thought that differentiation meant to tailor your teaching to each individual student. Every one learns differently (although there seems to be evidence against this), so different methods of teaching should be made available. I tried Kathie Nunley's approach one year. I was excited. This was perfect. I had several activities ready to go and copied off. I had my room set up more or less in stations. I jumped right in.

The kids hated it. It surprised me, but what they hated the most was choosing their own assignments. "Just tell me what to do." Even if that meant telling them what to do so that they would NOT do it. Frustrating. So I abandoned that after a semester and went back to switching things up.

I teach mostly lower level students, so I have had many challenges in my classroom. I have adapted. I have modified. I don't have a problem with that. Fair does not always mean equal.

So when I first heard the term differentiation, I thought I was on the right track. Let each student show he understands the material in a way in which he can SHOW me he understands the material. Just because little Johnny gets 2 out of 50 on a test does not mean he can't explain to me what he has learned. Maybe I need to read the test to him. Maybe he can make a video of himself explaining a concept.

Then we had a professional development day where a speaker did not show. Heaven forbid we should have time to clean up the sand lab from three weeks ago, so we were given a box of videos to watch. One touted a teacher in her classroom showing an "excellent example of what differentiation should look like".

She had given her kids bright pink laminated strips of paper to use in place of a ruler.


That is differentiation? But everyone was doing the same thing! Those kids got right to work on a worksheet using a pink piece of paper.

I actually got up and stopped the film I was so confused. We had a nice discussion after that, but never really came to a conclusion as to what we were supposed to be changing in our classroom. Since then, I have asked administrators and other presenters that have come to our school, but no one seems to be able to articulate the process or outcomes I need to be using in my classroom.

So I guess I still don't know.

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