This week my mind is jammed pack so to help clean out the closet I had to break my thoughts into three parts:
Thought 1: To Teach, Chapter 5: Liberating the Curriculum was a tough read for me. I often worry about making sure I am reading all the learning goals and that my students leave my classroom where they are “supposed to be.” I have always been a rule follower and a list checker. So when I get the grade 7 math standards I want to make sure that when my students leave they have a deep understanding of these standards. I like standards, I believe that they give a solid backbone to my instruction. I have yet to work in a public school where anyone tells me exactly want I need to teach and what standards I have to follow. For the last three years I could have taught anything I wanted to in my classroom, with little supervision from the administrations. But what would I teach? I almost can’t handle that freedom so I have used content standards to direct me. The questions that Ayers list on pages 70 and 71 made me think if I could take a different approach to my classroom time. But then that little voice inside my head says that students need to learn how to do operations with rational numbers even if the “work is (not) linked to student questions or interests?” (pg 71). What adolescent questions what a rational number is and how to add/subtract/multiply/divide with it.
Thought 2: To Teach: Chapter 6, Keeping Track. This past week at Back-to-School night a parent asked me a question that threw me for a bit of a loop. I had just finished explaining that even though there would not be a separate class for honors math this year I would work my hardest to meet each child where they were, and that my instruction would be differentiated to enrich and support students where they need it. A parent asked me how would the students work be scaled. She believed that differentiation hurts students, and that it was unfair to hold students to different standards. It took me a minute to process this, and I asked her to explain more. I have yet to come up with a response but while I read Ayers’s teacher’s question “Given what I know now, how should I teach this particular student” I must be right. Differentiation is definitely important, and maybe this parent would not have such strong feelings if schools were not so depended on the grade the student will get in the end, instead of focusing on the learning that has occurred. Here is a letter home to parents explaining differentiation, maybe I should take cue from this.
Thought 3: Understanding Youth, Chapter 1. It was definitely not the first time that I had read about Vygotsky’s ZPD, but reading it this week just confirmed what I already touched upon. “Researchers have found that optimal learning occurs when lessons are targeted toward the higher edge of one’s ZPD” (pg 11), I will continue to differentiate my instruction, and I will target it toward each students ZPD. I refuse to play into the game that has often been demonstrated at this school that we aim to have everyone pass everything and A’s are given out left and right because that is what parents expect and what students have grown used to. I am taking the time right now to get to know my students, “we must know where they are coming from before we can hope to take them where we want to go” (pg 11). Reading the first chapter of Understanding Youth has reminded me to work my hardest to connect with my students, to be present with them, listen to them, and hopefully understand them.