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Archive for September, 2011

I am all about instructional differentiation. I know that each of my students is different and needs to be appreciated as an individual. I know they are the product of a unique set of circumstances. They do, however, have one thing in common: they are all in my room at the same time learning the same information and skills from the same teacher.

In that respect, they must all learn a valued life-skill: adapting to different learning styles and environments. I believe we have mis-interpreted the learning styles paradigm. Whether a student is left-brained, right-brained, kinesthetic, aural – whatever, that preferences only describes that particular student’s natural predisposition toward learning. It does not, however, mean that the only learning that student can experience is that which is presented in his/her preferred manner. We, in fact, do our students a great disservice when we give them the illusion that the great spinning world outside the walls of our school awaits with open arms to custom fit it’s square peg to their round hole.

I do not remember a time when any college professor presented English composition in any manner other than their tried and true methods. We sat in a large lecture hall with 100 other students and LEARNED to LEARN. I do not remember any employer differentiating their instructions to me on the job. Bosses expect you to adapt to them. I have never heard a member of the military tell me that their CO adapted instructions to make following orders more acceptable to them. I can hear you veterans laughing from here.

In short, the most valuable thing we can teach our students is how to learn the subject at hand. This skill, once mastered, will last them a lifetime.

Hopefully, it will be a long and successful one.

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Martini by Bond

“Shaken, not stirred” is a familiar phrase to James Bond fans. It also describes many of our students.¬† We frequently throw some new idea at them, based on some retired administrator’s book, or some other’s expert “experience” and then wonder how we could have adopted some plan clearly ten years too late. The effect on the students is a mild shaking up of routine, but rarely a stirring of their souls.

Those in the upper ranks of edutopia regularly send down the “next new thing” to revive the schooling of children and when it doesn’t work, they blame the teachers, drift off in mid-tirade, and latch onto another equally ineffective initiative.

My own teaching experience teaches me that students don’t seek things “new and exciting” in education. They seek that in their private lives, yes, but when they enter the classroom they want only one thing-what works. Tried and true, time-tested, you-can-count-on-this learning gives them a sense of trust and security.

Granted, you’ll have to figure out how to do this yourself as it applies to your particular subject, but save the dog-and-pony-show for the circus.

Give your students real knowledge.

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