Practices in Pedagogy

"To Teach is to Learn Twice Over"

Archive for the tag “Diversity”

Differentiated Lessons

As part of the requirements of my EDU 4250 course, I was asked to write two lesson plans that were purposefully, thoughtfully differentiated. “Differentiation” refers to Tomlinson’s model of DI (Differentiated Instruction), a model focusing on adapting a lesson’s content, process, and product in order to better adhere to the growing diversity in classrooms around the United States. The three main components of DI are flexible grouping, continuous assessment, and student readiness– all elements I intentionally reflected upon and implemented into my lesson plan. My two differentiated lesson plans were created for 12th grade World Literature students, but their targets and strengths are undoubtedly different. The first lesson, centering on exploring symbolism in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, emphasizes thoughtful engagement, kinesthetic activities, collaborative learning experiences, and linguistic reflection in order to address the individual needs of my students. The second lesson also draws attention to the significance of student engagement in the learning process, but focuses more on real-life application of the lesson’s content, the educational power of communal reading, and ongoing, self assessment.

To put it simply, differentiation is time-consuming, arduous, and incredibly complicated. It took me hours to revise my lesson plans in such a way as to meet the individual, specific needs of my students. It took me countless attempts to create and establish classroom modes that would appropriately assess student readiness, as well as provide adequate opportunity to modify my lesson–in the midst of teaching– so that it would adhere to the varying levels of readiness. On top of all this, the process of differentiation also forced me to think, rethink, and rethink several more times the purpose and value of each and every one of my lesson’s learning experiences. I painstakingly examined and altered every detail I could think of so as to effectively reach my respected students. Yet, I enjoyed every minute of it! I loved the fact that differentiation puts students before teachers, before curriculum, and before everything else. Differentiation, at least in my minimal experience, is the truest form of student-based teaching. Every thought and decision made in the preparation of lessons is intentionally, systematically executed in the light of the students the lesson will teach. And with the growing diversity–whether religious, economic, cultural, or sexual– of the modern day classroom, differentiation is a necessity! We as teachers must be aware of the individual needs of each and every one of our students, and appropriately construct our curriculum in such a way as to fulfill those needs. We must treat every student with the amount of respect, appreciation, and love they deserve. Only when we do this will we be able to confidently call ourselves successful teachers.

As you will be able to discover when reading the rationales at the bottom of both lesson plans, I have spent a great deal of time and effort reflecting on several standards. However, I will select one in particular for the purposes of this rationale. This artifact demonstrates my competency of Principle H1, which states, “Teacher-candidates plan and/or adapt learner-centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.” This is because the process of differentiation, at least the process of DI I went through with these lesson plans, is the clearest form of “learner-centered curricula” that one may achieve. Differentiation takes into account EVERY student’s specific needs, levels of readiness, and capacity for academic achievement so as to produce the most effective teaching practices possible. The revisions I completed on my lesson plans were all part of my ongoing attempt to engage students in “culturally responsive, developmentally, and age appropriate strategies” for learning.

 

Differentiated Lesson 1- Symbolism

Differentiated Lesson 2- Friendly Competition

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Bibliography (Books by Muslim/East African Authors)

Here is a bibliography I, and several other interns, created as part of an exploration into diverse reading in EDU 4250:

Bibliography (Muslim/East African Authors)

 

The purpose of this assignment is pretty straightforward: to research and become acquainted with several books– in our respected endorsement areas– written by authors from a different cultural background than our own. In particular, my group was tasked to explore Muslim and East African authors, and discover several texts that could be used in our classrooms one day.

Why might this be important? Well, simply put: not every student in the world is white, male, and middle/upper class. Even if every student in the world WAS, there would still be students who would not want to read books written ONLY by white, upper class men. The world is diverse. Therefore, the students we teach are diverse. Therefore, our curriculum must also be diverse! This assignment is incredibly important for it helps us slowly become accustomed to the arduous process of locating texts that will better meet the needs of our students. This aligns quite well with SPU’s Principle H1, which states, “Teacher candidate plan and/or adapt learner centered curricula that engage students in a variety of culturally responsive , developmentally, and age appropriate strategies.” The more a text speaks to the cultural background of the students who are attempting to read it– the more students are able to connect and relate to the text or the author– the better the learning.

 

EDU 4250- Pedagogical Reflection

Malcolm Little, known by most as Malcom X, was raised in Harlem. I was raised in the suburbs of Vancouver, WA. Little was often hailed as a “model schoolboy” throughout his early academic years, displaying a wonderful joy and enthusiasm for life. I was a carefree, easygoing troublemaker in my early years. Little was told by a junior high school teacher that he had no chance of becoming a lawyer—a dream of his at the time—because he was black, and black people supposedly “had to be realistic” (49) about their occupational possibilities. I was told that I could one day become an incredible teacher. Little responded to his news—his unfortunate, new knowledge about the realities of life for a young black child—with a tragic plunge into a life ruled by drugs, hustling, gangs, and crime. I responded to the supportive encouragement I received by working tirelessly to improve my intellectual self. Little went to prison; I continued to go to school. While in prison, Little discovered a passionate love for learning and leadership. This new knowledge led to his being freed from prison and eventual rise to prominence among the African American population of the day. One early morning I was frantically woken by my mother and told to pack my things, as we were moving out of our house because my dad had lost it by gambling away all of our money. A couple days later, my mother and father filed for a divorce. This knowledge led me down a path of frustration and self-doubt. Little continued to rise in influence, power, and fame. I began a long period of avoiding my schoolwork, slacking off, and breaking any relational bonds I had at the time. Shortly before his death, Little traveled to Mecca and was immediately touched by a peaceful, humble way of life. In a series of several experiences throughout early high school, I was forever changed by the love and affection of my Savior, Jesus Christ. Little’s anger diminished; my self-confidence returned.

In no way, shape or form, am I suggesting my life should be seen in the same light as the legend of Malcolm X. He was simply a genius, I am but a simple man. He was intellectually gifted, passionate, influential, and a brilliant leader of his people. I have yet to do anything of any real circumstance in this world. My point in the above paragraph is not to advocate for my comparison to the great Malcolm X, but rather to point out how everyone—no matter their background, upbringing, or experiences—undergoes a series of transformations. Jane Roland Martin, author of Educational Metamorphoses: Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Culture, argues these transformations, these small or large educational experiences, are the foundation of our personal, social, and intellectual development. She asserts, “Throughout history and across cultures education… has changed the way we humans walk, talk, dress, behave, view the world, and live our lives. In other words, it has utterly transformed us” (1). Malcolm X experienced four of these transformations; one in his development into a model schoolboy, one as he fell into a criminal life on the streets of Harlem, one in rise to a infamous, influential leader, and finally one in his discovery of a humble, beneficent faith. I experienced several as well, including my life as a young troublemaker, development into a driven student bent on becoming a teacher, fall into shame during my parent’s divorce, and rise to a passionate, confident follower of Christ. According to Martin, education serves as a “powerful maker and shaper of human lives” (2).

As part of Martin’s exploration into how educational metamophoses “make and shape” our lives, she discovers that we must abandon two common assumptions: education resides only within the confines of a school and education necessitates improvement (48). Personally, this first thought is rather significant. Although I am ashamed to admit it, when I used to imagine education, my mind immediately leads to school. However, lately my ignorance on this issue has become quite apparent. My first few weeks in the classroom have served as a constant bombardment as to how my students are not simply blank sheets of paper when they arrive at school each day. Each student comes to school with backpacks filled with cultural backgrounds, identity issues, past experiences (good and bad), personal bias, unique personalities, relational concerns, painful memories, happy memories, emotional inconstancies, and varying socio-economic backgrounds. To assume that these students are only going to learn from what YOU teach them that day is simply ignorant. We as teachers must respect the significant educational experiences that occur outside our classroom. On the second day of my internship, a young female student announced her homosexuality to me during passing time. She then went on to describe how her ex-girlfriend had attempted to commit suicide the previous evening, and how she was leaving school to be with her partner at the hospital. Clearly, this student was learning much more about life from what was occurring outside of my classroom, than inside of it. Citing  argues, “Schools can make people dependent on school without really educating  Somehow my lesson on Sophocles’ character development in Oedipus Rex did not hold a candle next to the raging fire of fear, regret, relationship issues, and identity complexes burning within that student. I walked her down to the counselor’s office to then be picked up and taken to the hospital, and have never regretted my choice. I know that if I had simply understood education as schooling—if I had ignored the true, applicable learning experiences life presents everyday outside of the classroom—I would have failed that student.

The second assumption about education Martin argues must be torn down is that education necessitates improvement. As Malcolm X’s experiences in junior high school with the “realistic” teacher clearly portray, education does not necessarily lead to improvement. By being told he should give up on his dream of becoming a lawyer, by experiencing that painful bout of education, Malcolm X’s life was immediately led down a road paved with pain, crime, and prison. Martin explains it much more clearly: “Malcolm’s metamorphosis into a hustler was not brought about by a wave of a wand or the administration of a drug… it was due to education in the broadest sense of that term… that acknowledges that education can be either educative or miseducative” (49). In similar fashion, learning of my parent’s divorce lead me to a dark place of shame and frustration. Simply put, education cannot only lead to a life enriched, but also a life worsened.

So what does this information mean for teachers? Should these broken assumptions and new ways of thinking undermine our passion and commitment to teach? No. Never. By reflecting on Martin’s ideas, along with our own experiences in the classroom, we must never forget that teaching is a fragile, sacred art. As sculptors carefully, painstakingly form beautiful statues from rocks, so to must teachers sculpt. We, like the sculptors before us, must see our students for the potential they possess. We must see them filled with a potent power to transform, and be willing—in insatiable courage—to support their transformations. With love, affection, understanding, and patience, we must see to it that the transformations we encourage be ones of improvement. With a continually widening perspective, we must see to it that we support our students’ education outside of the classroom. With constant reflection and refined thought on the complexity of students’ identity formation—from gender to ethnicity—we as teachers must always respect our students as individuals, and treat them as such. In all that we do, we must always remember that life is simply made up of a series of educational metamorphoses, and that the decisions we make as educators will undoubtedly affect the lives of our students for years to come.

 

Citation:

Martin, Jane R. Educational Metamorphoses: Philosophical Reflections on Identity and Culture. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. Print.

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