Differentiation Starts with Self-Awareness

Guest blog by Julia Rea, Counselor at Mary Jo Sheppard Elementary in Mansfield ISD.

Hi everyone!  As we continue to grow in our skills and knowledge of differentiation practices, I want to provide some resources and ideas to support your efforts.  Classrooms serve as a “micro-version of the larger system and within that learning organization, the educator can create the conditions and capacities most conducive for students to perform at high levels and meet the expectations of new learning standards.”  The attached articles speaks to strategies to improve retention of learning.  One strategy is called “brain dumps” (very similar to the K part of a KWL chart) and has proven to be highly successful.  Other strategies discuss managing self-paced learning, designing environments that welcome everyone, and challenging every student.

It is up to us as educators to provide FAPE (free appropriate public education) to ALL of our students.  As we know, each of our students have differing needs and areas of strength.  It is therefore imperative that we, as the adult and professional in the classroom, have the insight and self-awareness to transform our instructional practices rather than walking down the middle and expecting all of our students to conform to our idea of what an elementary student should be.

Perhaps the most significant lesson I learned as a classroom teacher, while sitting in my empty first grade classroom (in 1999, yikes!) and reflecting on a really rough day, was this:  I do not have any control of these twenty little humans, I can only control myself.  By changing my attitude, my approach to instruction, my willingness to try new strategies with consistency and fidelity, my desire to inspire growth in my students, and my mindset to enjoy and love my most challenging kiddos, I felt truly empowered.  Let me say that again… by changing ME I was empowered to be a better, stronger, more successful teacher.  This was a life changing, career changing epiphany!

The goal of classroom management should never be to control anything.  The goal is to provide an environment conducive to the learning of all.  The only way to be the kind of teacher our students need is the courage to change our own practices (and maybe even our own hearts).






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