A Compass for Differentiation
Recently, on a teams I serve on we were asked to take a 'Needs Inventory". The idea was, that the better we know ourselves, the better we can communicate our needs, the better we can know our teammates therefore the better we can work as a team and collaborate.
This particular "Needs Inventory" (there are different ones out there) you could have a need for power, love, fun, and freedom. I scored with having a strong need for freedom, followed closely by fun. Each team member actually had a different set of needs. The inventory was a catalyst for some important team learning but it got me thinking;
How has my need for freedom and fun served me as an educator?
I know that I always struggled with mandated, prescriptive curriculum. It never felt quite right, never quite fit for my students or me. I have always struggled working on teams that wanted everyone doing the same lessons and sequence. It always seemed to take the creativity out of the profession.
This compass, with a need for freedom, served as my due north when it came to differentiation and later project based learning. Years before I had the skills to do differentiation well, I was making attempts. Making (mostly) mistakes. Trying new strategies to ensure that the variety of needs in my classroom were being (or attempting to be) met.
I was ok with the messiness of different learning experiences happening in every corner of a classroom. I was ok with the not all kids doing the same thing. I was ok with the noise and the mess. Kids saw the efforts. Kids saw their needs being heard; even if the learning experience wasn't always quite right. I always wanted to do well, but my need for freedom allowed me to reject the "whispers" of perfectionism that so many teachers armor themselves with.
Differentiation wasn't an event...something I did once a semester to say I did. Differentiation was a stance, every lesson, every day. It was a stance of my classrooms and now a stance of the professional developments that I conduct.
Now of the original team members that I spoke of in the beginning of this post, our needs and ersponalities are all needed to ensure our team runs well. We need the person whose need is power in order to help us meet deadlines and finish projects. We need the person whose need is love to help us take pause and realize that we are in the business of humans not widgets. We need the person whose need is fun in order to make us laugh and not take ourselves too seriously even in the pressure cookers of schools. And we need those whose need is freedom to help us keep our eyes on the horizon of possibilities.
I am an MLL specialist, coach, and educational consultant that is dedicated to building a more transformative educational landscape that honors linguistic diversity and challenges societal paradigms.