Jefferson famously remarked that the only two certainties in life: death and taxes.
I would add to this list that, without question, there will be a new educational initiative with a clever acronym each year for the rest of time. In fact, check out Greene County’s cheat sheet of commonly used acronyms. For those of you keeping count, that’s ten pages of educational acronyms…and I’m not sure that is all of them.
I have been a part of the education world for four years. I have seen a lot change in that short time. One thing remains the same…you can always count on everything to be different the following year. You can also count on EVERYONE insisting that they have the answer to fix education. Oddly enough, I’ve found the answer…
Education cannot be fixed. There is no science to fixing a failing school because we live in a broken world filled with broken families and broken promises. Our product in education is students…new students that change each year. I learned very early on in my career that I cannot save the world.
Before you mistake me for a pessimist, please know that I’ve also learned that I can make a difference in a handful of students lives as long as I show them that I care about them as people. Let me be clear, I must show them that I care about them; not acronyms or initiatives. I have been a part of the highest and lowest performing schools in Dekalb county. No matter what happens, I know that students will give their best if I give them my best.
To that point, there is one initiative that I haven’t been wholly opposed to: differentiation. EVERY educator has heard this over the last few years. While many higher ups would consider differentiation is simply a readiness level, I take it a step further. I consider how my students learn best and use their strengths in their assessments.
Last year, in order to identify the learning profiles of my students, I developed a portfolio system to make heterogeneous and homogeneous grouping efficient within my classroom. There are two ways that I prefer grouping: by readiness level and by learning style.
At the beginning of each school year, I have students complete a multiple learning assessment. After, I have them stamp a manilla folder with a corresponding representation of the highest and lowest scores. I would stamp a flower at the top right of my folder, for example, which represents the way that I learn best is through language. The bottom right hand corner of my folder would have a present, which represents a logical and mathematical intelligence…which is my lowest score.
Additionally, I look at longitudinal data for each of my students and assign a color. Red indicates the student is reading at a high level and colors go in the order of the rainbow until you get to purple, which is the lowest of the scores. The best part about the color-coding system is that students are not aware what the color means…only that they have a color. When it comes time to group, if I want to group by readiness level homogeneously, for example, I ask that each student find themselves in a group of four, but each student must have four of the same colors on their portfolio.
This year, I grouped my students according to their learning style to complete a summative assessment for Divergent, the newest young adult novel series to be taken to the big screen.
|I can’t WAIT to see this film…maybe soon!|
In lieu of a traditional paper test, my students were to prepare a project based on their learning style strength. Each student was assigned based on their learning style assessment given at the beginning of the year. Euphonious, for example, the musical “faction” was assigned creating an original score that represented each of the five factions present in the novel. The kinesthetic faction was responsible for re-creating an aptitude test and choosing day and capturing and producing a short film.
Next week…I am going to talk candidly about the problem with salary freezes and why men cannot afford to teach.