During the past couple of years, our division, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools has spent considerable energy researching continuums of support for all students. School teams have participated in national and international conferences to learn more about, in particular, Pyramid Response to Intervention (PRTI). This is supportive of our province’s move toward a more inclusive education system.
One of the premises of PRTI, is that the majority of the students’ educational needs in the classroom should be met by the individual teacher. During my annual meetings with each of our school administrative teams, I asked the question if their teachers were prepared to meet the needs of 80% – 85% of the students in their classroom without external support? That is a tough task even for experienced teachers because they really need to have excellent classroom management and employ excellent differentiated instruction. Yet, that is what is required to meet the needs of the majority of students in the typical classroom of today. The lowest level of intervention is differentiated instruction!
I have heard Carol Ann Tomlinson on numerous occasions and have just finished reading, “Leading and Managing A Differentiated Classroom” which she co-authored with Marcia B. Imbeau. What I have consistently come away from her presentations or after reading her books is that differentiated instruction is just common sense and just plain good teaching. More importantly, differentiated instruction speaks to the core of our beliefs as teachers. We believe that every child is unique and therefore deserves a program that supports and enhances that uniqueness. Unfortunately, differentiated instruction like many excellent practices receives it’s fair share of “yes but” excuses. Chapter 7 of this book addresses these excuses easily and I would recommend every leader in education to review if you have staff who are resistant.
In our division, we have focused through AISI on teaching differently because students learn differently. Our project, Engaging the 21st Century Learner has caused us to think differently in our approach to not only teaching but our own learning as adults. If we are teaching or for that matter leading the same way that we did 10 or 20 years ago… our students are suffering. The world is a very different place and we must prepare students for tomorrow not yesterday. In order to prepare our students, the next generation, we must embrace technology (a future blog) and we must differentiate our instruction to all students. This is not an optional exercise.
I believe that the vast majority of us in education came into the profession not for the money or holidays but rather for the ability to change and impact the life of a child. In our quest for effective over efficient, teaching to learning, memorizing to understanding, evaluation to assessment, passive to active and isolated to connected learning differentiated instruction is a requirement.