The other day in my Twitter read, I came across an article by Ellen Notbohm: A Word About Normal. As educators, it is easy to caught up in the trap of this little, but powerful word. As soon as we begin to divide our students into "normal" and "abnormal" or whatever term you use to describe the kiddos who don't measure up to your internal standard for children, we have a BIG problem. Really, as the Tylenol commercial says, "get back to whatever your normal is." Who decides what is normal? Who's measure do we follow? I think it is "normal" to differentiate for all of my students based on where they are in their learning at the time. Maybe you don't think that is "normal" but a crazy and unattainable impossibility. You may think it is "normal" for a child to sit for endless hours doing mindless worksheets. I would argue that it is crazy to expect children to feel engaged and really learn from such a practice. I would argue, I have never had a "normal" day because everyday has something exceptional that makes it memorable.
Ellen says that the "n" word needs to be abolished. It is an outdated term that has no place when describing children. I agree. If we are to make a difference in the lives of our students and prepare them for a future that we really do not have an idea about since technology is changing faster than we can imagine, then we better get down to knowing our students and their strengths and then teaching to those strengths.
When a teacher complains that her students just aren't getting it and she has explained it over and over, I expect that her strategies will change and she will differentiate. But not just give the kids the same work over and over and complain because the "normal" kids get it! Arrrggghh! I want to pull out my hair. We have to start recognizing it is okay (and even NORMAL) for kids to progress at different rates and we need to figure out what they need before moving on to the next thing without insuring they have understood the basics. Hard work? Yup, but as professional educators, it is OUR work.
Sitting listening to the Minister of Education the other night, he expressed the need to meet students where they are at and develop their creativity for an unknown future. This is apparently the party line, but without training for teachers who are still teaching in the industrial model, it just isn't going to happen. I am not sure what the government wants or expects? This situation will magically change for a number of teachers who teach the way they were taught in the 60s and 70s? Heck, one administrative colleague got up and ranted about the three "hellions" in a class and likened them to the girl in the Exorcist with their heads spinning, destroying the classroom and ruining it for the NORMAL children. I almost threw up and had to bite my tongue. I cannot believe there are still administrators holding on to this archaic and low-minded attitude. The first thing that came to mind was "Where is the support for these frantic little people?" And how on earth do we expect them to do better if that is what we expect, all the while projecting such an unwelcome existence where no one loves them. I am saddened to think they go to a school where they are certain to realize they are not welcome.
I realize that it is within my circle of inflluence to change those around me with my actions and words. That is the best I can do. . . And pray for those who still live in their own dark ages.
Phew, I feel better.