Friday, December 27, 2013

Making A Habit Of Differentiation Part 2

Meet CTW. He went by his whole name. He was a zany kid with a faddish for paperclips, especially colorful paperclips which he created chains out of an stole from teachers to the dismay of his parents.

CTW was a lad who was a a genius in so many areas but his struggles were out in living color and made his learning difficult. You see, for CTW to write was an act of God himself! CTW had excellent ideas and when talking to you, created a beautiful detailed story, but when asked to write, nothing would be on the page.


To watch CTW during testing...testing of any kind, was painful. His inability to focus on the task at hand created a long testing period. My last testing with him his fifth grade year resulted in over 5 hours needed for him to complete the spring state test we call MCA.  However, through coaching and time, he pulled out great scores that sometimes took him above the level of his peer group.

Often though, his struggles led him to be in for recess because he could not "get his work done on time."  He needs help" would be the talk among the teachers, but not many helped him. I mean, really helped him.

And by that, I mean looked at his way of learning and adapting their style of teaching to how he learned. Some teachers believe that students should adapt to our teaching. After all, it is we who have the degrees to prove that we are "smart." We are the ones who know what we are doing. They are not.

I would suggest that this limited thinking traps us as educators. It traps us in to a box that was not meant to be there in the first place. The snare catches us at our weakest part of ourselves, assuming we are here to educate YOU. What if the students are here to educate us? What if that is really what it is all about?

I know that the greatest amount of learning has not come from me teaching, but from me studying the students and their lives and their God given abilities and trying to figure out who this blessed human is that has been given to me for this season of the educational journey.

I had CTW for two years as a student during which, I brought him to SAT at school, evaluations were done, and a process took place that put him on an IEP. My goal was to get him help now in his elementary years that would carry him through to MS and HS. I hope it has.

I saw CTW this fall at a multi-aged school function K-8 for the yr round program (his school 6-8, is in another building). He was walking around with a clipboard. He was a leader and a young man with a plan as he helped to organize groups for the nature walk tour. He was in his element and immersed in his gifting.

I came across a quote that I used in my other blog about differentiation by Seth Godin.  Here is entire manifesto: It is a powerful manifesto. To read it once does not do it justice. 

God didn't make us all the same. He made us entirely different from one another. Those differences are there to unite us, to cause us to become interdependent on each other.  We waste so much time fixating on differences as a reason for alienation. Really, if we thought better of each other, of humanity and of the fact that each of us, EACH OF US, is made in the image of the Most High God, we would do what Steven Covey asks of us, seek first to understand. I would like to suggest as well, that before Steven Covey asked it of us, God asked it of us first. Take the plank out of my own eye!

As it is, I am sitting here a few days after Christmas working on assignments because I know what my life is like when school starts. Its crazy. I prefer learning in the stillness of time like this with a quiet house and coffee. But as I sit here and reflect on my students and my own children,  tears are just pouring down my face. I can't seem to control my emotions.  I feel like I am caught in a system that only says it wants differentiating learning, but still boxes in children. I admit, it is easy to revert to old practices that are not best practices because differentiating the lessons takes work.

Solid. Mind blowing. Hard work.

I close this out with hope. I sometimes feel like a ultimate failure because I believe like Liam Neeson said as Oskar Shindler in Shindler's List, I could have done more as I reflect back. I could have done more. I know that I can do more and knowing is half the battle. As a professional educator, I want to be an agent for change and I will do more. I do not claim to understand differentiation, but I do claim to desire knowledge so I can further my understanding. That is the journey of learning.