Saturday, February 5, 2011
"What's Fair Isn't Always Equal...."
I am in the process of reading yet another book called "Fair Isn't Always Equal" by Rick Wormeli. He discusses that what we do for our students as far as differentiating instruction is fair but may not necessarily be equal for each of our students. He asks the question, "Did your teachers differentiate?" My first response was "NO...my teachers didn't." BUT they indeed did. They did things like rephrasing a question, extending a deadline, gave me a choice in assignments and provided me a few extra examples if I needed them. THAT is part of differentiating instruction.
Teachers hear those two words....DIFFERENTIATING INSTRUCTION and automatically associate it with a lot of work and offering the students a crutch to stand on. The more reading I do about the topic, the more conferences I attend, and the more thinking I do, this is not the case at all. Differentiating instruction is simply doing what is fair for our students. The purpose is to maximize the learning of our students...give them the tools to handle the situations that they are faced with, do different things for different students to ensure their success in our classes and in even simpler terms....IT'S HIGHLY EFFECTIVE TEACHING!!!!
When we really sit and think about it, the world is differentiated for us. You have a grace period to pay your mortgage, your college professors give you a preview of what will be covered by providing you with a syllabus on the first day of class, and if you do something like bouncing a check you are able to fix it. Sure you will be penalized and pay extra fees but you get a chance to fix it. I was once that teacher that stated to my students that "It's due on the deadline! No exceptions! The world is not fair! You have to do it the first time! You won't get any breaks in the real world!" I have had what Oprah calls an "AHA moment" in terms of differentiating instruction. If we look at it as simply doing what's right for our students and as highly effective teaching, we then take ownership of what it really is and the purpose that it serves.
Our students have more on their plates than we EVER did! So many of them come from single parent homes. They are working to help mom pay bills. They don't eat anything until they come to school and eat breakfast and lunch. They are involved in extra curricular activities and don't get home until late. Some of them don't have lights and heat at home. Some of them even live by themselves. Others don't have running water and can't take showers and brush their teeth. After they deal with ALL of this...HOW DARE WE NOT DIFFERENTIATE INSTRUCTION FOR THEM!!!!!! Who do we think we are????
Wormeli says it best when he says, "What is fair isn't always equal, and our goal as teachers is to be fair and developmentally appropriate, not one-size-fits-all equal."