At our last staff meeting we had a vice principal come in and talk to us about what differentiated instruction is and what it isn't. The presenter was a lovely individual and did a fabulous presentation but I was feeling somewhat disappointed.
It would be nice to have someone present who was in the trenches themselves. Even if you've only been out of the classroom for a couple of years, teaching has changed drastically in even that short time. I am constantly amazed by my colleagues and how much they have adapted to the increasingly trying classroom configurations and parent/administrative expectations. I often wonder how I would cope if I returned to the classroom.
I also would love to hear a presentation that was cutting edge and spoke to the middle school setting. In middle school, we don't have parent volunteers in classrooms, we don't have either the space of the schedule flexibility to combine classes. In middle school, we have all the students in every class. Students can't yet choose what type of math class or elective they are in. Fitting with middle school philosophy, we have all students of all abilities in every class. The problem is that the divide between the lowest student and the highest student is becoming an overwhelming gulf. And the supports (LA teacher, Resource teacher, CEAs) are being slashed.
Perhaps we in the middle school setting need to have a different discussion first. Maybe we need to talk about student apathy. Maybe we need to talk about chronic absent students. Maybe the system needs to realize that not every student flourishes in the traditional public school system.
Maybe. But we all know that change will not be happening any time soon.
Maybe we need to talk about what wonderful things are happening with the students that are attending and are engaged in learning. When we focus on those students, we realize how much we have adapted our teaching already to meet the needs of our students. Teachers are developing highly engaging classes that really invite students to challenge themselves and wrestle with the curriculum. Teachers are already differentiating instruction for the myriad of learners they face and often they differentiate on the fly as they identify the student's current needs. Teachers are working harder than ever to make sure each and every student is given the opportunity to succeed.
I think we, as teachers, need to acknowledge all that is being done well and build upon it.