Diane Ravitch explains that differentiation involves "offering several different learning experiences in response to students' varied needs. Educators may vary learning activities and materials by difficulty, so as to challenge students at different readiness levels; by topic, in response to students' interests; and by students' preferred ways of learning or expressing themselves."
This month's featured resource, Differentiating Like A Star, offers suggestions for differentiating instruction, including using data, assigning tasks or texts, and creating classroom groups. The more stars you're able to introduce, the more strategic and targeted the instruction!
Challenges can spark many reactions. For some students, a challenge is an obstacle to overcome. For others, it can be a moment to reflect on personal growth. In Defying the Odds, student authors offer gritty and unfailingly honest personal narratives that speak to their struggles, and reveal watershed moments in their young lives. Readers will encounter stories that spark admiration and compassion, and will find themselves inspired to forge ahead despite adversity.
USING THIS PUBLICATION IN THE CLASSROOM
This book reveals the tenacity and hope that students possess, even in times of difficulty. Defying the Odds prompts discussion around topics not easily talked about in classrooms.
We invite you to use this publication to support your students in reflecting on personal challenges. As your students craft their own stories, allow them to consider how they might respond to situations in which there are no easy answers. Consider designing an inquiry unit around notable figures who have maintained hope in unimaginable circumstances, and who learned to lead themselves and others. Ask your students to explore the motivations behind this resilience, and the importance of connecting to others in difficult times. Dare to engage your students in reflecting on the challenges faced in their own lives and communities .
By COURTNEY BROWN
As I get older and work as a coach and mentor for teachers, I am increasingly thankful to the educators who supported me throughout my journey as an educator.
In the beginning, teaching was a challenge for me, as it is for many teachers during their first years. I lasted a year in my first official teaching job, before, humbled, I decided that I just wasn’t equipped enough, and went back to school to get a Masters in Teaching English. After finishing my degree, I eventually returned to teach at a large high school in New York City. There were over twenty teachers in my department, many of whom were veteran teachers. These remarkable educators became my mentors and coaches, generously offering me advice, lesson plans, teaching moves, and moral support.
Beverly Epstein, Sue Blattner, Demaris Fernandez, Annette Tomasetti, and others shared their enthusiasm and folders full of lesson plans, notes, and short texts and invited me to visit their classes. I quickly learned from their range of approaches that there was a variety of pathways to teaching each lesson or topic. These true professionals were also warm and positive and made me feel that I could master teaching.
From Beverly Epstein, I learned how to make classic texts, like The Odyssey and Hamlet, engaging to students by linking them to current events and helping students make relevant personal connections through authentic discussion. Annette Tomasetti shared with me her passion and a myriad ways to make group work and collaboration happen. Sue Blattner could make any poem come to life in the classroom, and Demaris knew systems and structures. Each of my mentor’s talents and skills had a distinct impact on my approaches and thinking.
Now, as I work to mentor and coach early-career teachers, I realize that these remarkable educators also modeled for me how to mentor and support others; to recognize novice teachers’ potential and promote their passions.
I owe them so much.
Every educator plays a role in creating a positive school culture, regardless of their level of experience. Each person has something to offer, and something to learn.
Teaching is a career of apprenticeship, and the best way for us to learn is from each other. Take time to recognize the crucial role you play in your school, and explore how you might support others in your teaching community.