As a first-year teacher at a low-performing high school, David Griffith taught — or tried to teach — a social studies class with “every type of student imaginable,” he writes on Flypaper.
. . . seniors, juniors, sophomores, freshmen, kids with behavior issues, kids with attention issues, kids with senioritis, kids who have taken the class before and passed it but are taking it again because the registrar’s office is incompetent. And, of course, a few kind, sweet, innocent kids. Who. Cannot. Read.
He was told to differentiate instruction. But how?
Griffith longed for Hermione Granger’s Time-Turner, so he could teach each class 31 times to “make sure each of my students gets the lesson he or she would most benefit from receiving.” It was not available.
Differentiation is the “Holy Grail of effective practice,” the “solution to all problems,” writes Griffith.
Struggling to control your class? Let them choose their own adventure! What could go wrong?
Struggling to motivate your students? Give each of them a different assignment and hold them to different standards. They’ll never notice.
Struggling to craft a rigorous, coherent, well-aligned, scaffolded, data-driven, creative, and above all engaging lesson plan for each of your three classes between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m.? Triple your workload! Nothing drives quality like overwhelming quantity.
Perhaps teachers should stop “flirting with multiple-personality disorder by attempting to be all things to all children” and just teach the best lesson they can, concludes Griffith. It would be easier to find something that works if there were some “effort to differentiate kids before they entered the classroom.”