This week our local chat is about differentiation. In order to prepare, we were shared a Tedx video, The Myth of Average: Todd Rose at TEDxSonomaCounty (https://goo.gl/4R2xY8). For many, the word differentiation is a bad word. It means more work for the teacher to prepare different lessons to meet the diverse needs in the classroom. Part of me agrees. It is difficult to find activities that allow every student to access what you are trying to teach. It's one reason that I have found project based learning and hyperdocs to be such a joy. Differentiation is a huge part of them. A bigger part of me wonders why it should be so difficult. Shouldn't the purpose of teaching be to help EVERY child learn, no matter where they start from. I have been told by other teachers when I discuss working with small groups as a way to differentiate, "that doesn't work for me". I had to try really hard to hold my tongue when this happened.
Now the real purpose of this blog was actually not about the students. It is something I am struggling with in becoming more of a teacher leader. It's about the teachers themselves. This weekend I attended another "unconference" with some friends. We are all at various stages of technology integration and understanding. While I overall enjoyed the conference, I was bored for parts of it. A friend looked like she was going to start crying because she felt that everything being discussed was 10 times over her head. The style of unconference allowed for attendees to ask questions and get what they needed from other teachers doing the same things or wanting to try something new. So this should have been a good place for her to start. What really got to me was when I saw my friend upset, looking like she wished she had never attended. Don't get me wrong. It was a good day for most of the participants. I did get some good ideas myself. But how could it have been better for my friend?
What has gotten me thinking is that as teachers we often forget that other teachers are not at the same levels, with tech, experience, or subject knowledge. Having worked in education for over 20 years, I am well aware of teachers having different strengths in different subjects, even at the elementary level where we have to teach all of them daily. It's the tech that is causing some interesting tensions and feelings of inadequacy in teachers that are fantastic at their jobs. It is difficult to remember that these adults need differentiation as much as the students. We need PD that fits teachers at their level. Districts are making strides in this area. But is it enough?
Teachers need to step up and share what they know with their peers. Those good with tech and new teaching methods need to be willing (and patient, a trait I am working on with adults) to help those not there yet. Our district has developed a PD opportunity where teachers can step up and lead sessions for others. Not enough are taking advantage of it though, as leaders or attendees. I hear a lot of "NOT ONE MORE THING." I get it. Being in education is tough, especially when we are constantly being told to change this or try that, or just do it! However, when it comes from a peer in a supportive manner over a staggered (scaffolding for adults) period of time, maybe there will be less tears and stress. As staffs, we should no longer be supporting teachers in an average manner. We should rely on our "experts" in the classrooms and design for those edges.
What I learned:
- I need to remember adults are just like students who need differentiation.
- Teachers should be more in charge of what they are going to be doing for PD. (Think this is a lesson that needs to be constantly reinforced as I know I have mentioned it before.)
- Be willing to step up and share your knowledge. I recommend blogging when you are ready!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching