19 June 2014

Reaching Every Student, Is it even Possible?

Source: StockMonkeys.com

Having just read an incredibly thought provoking post by the Nerdy Teacher himself, Nicholas Provenzano I have to wonder, can we really reach every one of our students? Should we worry if we can’t and/or don’t? Are we failures if we can’t and/or don’t?

How many of us feel the same way Nick does here:
I strive to make sure that I reach every student and that every single one of them feel like they are in an environment that support them in learning. For me, 20 Time was the best project for that because it gave the students the power to control what they wanted to explore. How could I fail at giving students the choice to explore their interests? In implementing 20 Time I had to make cuts in the curriculum. I trimmed fat that was not required and cut out assignments that felt were nice, but redundant. By doing this, did I hurt my students for next year? 
I understand that the perfect lesson is my white whale. In a class of 90, is it acceptable to have 15 that did not like the lesson at all be the deciding factor as to whether or not I bring a lesson back? How valuable is student feedback. I know it is important, but how much weight should it have in making decisions like this?
As educators, we need to make sure we are doing our best to reach every one of our students, but should we really cut out lessons and activities we feel are valuable because a small percentage of our students dislike them? Are we hurting them by making sacrifices, although seemingly beneficial, in the curriculum we are asked to teach? Just how important is student feedback? I know I enjoy receiving it, both positive and negative, and yet, do I always use it to make adjustments?

I think many of us have felt similarly to Nick at the end of the school year. I know I always have a sense of melancholy near the end of the year and especially in the days immediately following the last day of school. Many times I start to question my every move and lesson throughout the year and then I have to stop myself and just let it go, at least for a few days. I have tried to make myself take a couple of days after school has ended and I am checked out for the year to not think about the teaching and learning that occurred in my classroom. I feel like I need to let it simmer and then come back to it after a mental break when I can focus more and truly give the reflection and growth the time it deserves and needs.

As Nick puts it:
Maybe I need some more time removed from these year defining events and think more about what 20 Time, not only meant for my students, but meant for me.
We can’t let ourselves get too discouraged at the end of the year, especially if we haven’t let ourselves rest stop and think about what actually happened.

Thanks to Pernille Ripp for pointing me to Nick’s excellent post. It has forced me to do some difficult thinking and reflecting on my school year. But it’s okay because I’ve had some time removed from the classroom this year and have been able to actually make some progress with what need to be done next year.

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