Differentiated Instruction

It’s hard to keep up with every buzz word that the education policy world conceives of to keep teachers in a constant expertise limbo. I was talking to a teacher friend this past week who said that “universal design” was the new hot item–the idea that you should provide different types of assessments for students (not just different levels)–in order to differentiate for their various learning modalities. Of course, when you allow a student to write a graphic novel as a concluding project for a novel study someone will then tell you that’s not “rigorous” enough, even if you explain that it’s following the principles of universal design and meeting the needs of the visual learner in your class who is six grade levels behind in his reading.

Yes, it’s enough to make you feel mad. And not mad as in angry, mad as in I”m-going-to-need-a-straightjacket-to-keep-from-strangling-this-person-and-getting-an-assult-charge-on-my-record mad.

I remember feeling this way A LOT last year. It’s been a bit less this year in the world of community college, but only a bit.

The most frustrating thing is the idea of expertise limbo. Every year the Department of Education here in New York City pulls some new reforms out of the current trending world of reforms and decides to apply them with urgency to all failing schools. There’s minimal training for teachers, who are supposed to implement these ideas, shift a whole curriculum, and become “experts” immediately. When they do not demonstrate expertise, they are then punished, threatened, or chastised (or all three). It’s completely ludicrous.

This video by my hero of snark and wit, Mr. Teachbad, make my day last year. We all crowded around our Assistant Principal’s desk and watched it and even she–the queen of education buzz words–had a giggle. Sometimes you find to find others who also see the insanity to make you feel less crazy.

And the photo is from a real road off the Taconic Parkway in upstate New York. If you want to know where the rigor is, it’s at Rigor Hill Road. Duh…