Differentiated Instruction

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What do teachers do to meet the needs of all learners in their classrooms each day?

A story:

Many Things I Need to Know about Teaching I Learned in the Apple Store

I wonder if anyone has ever written a poem called, "Many Things I Need to Know about Teaching I Learned in the Apple Store?" If not, I think I might be able to write it.

I recently sat down at an Apple store near my home to get some help with my computer. Directly across from me was a darling, elderly gentleman. This lovely man had never worked on a computer, didn't own one now, yet had just purchased an iPad for himself for his 89th birthday. His 89th birthday!!! What a marvelous example of being a life-long learner. I was completely enamored as I observed his energy, interest, positive attitude, and diligence.

The young girl working with him also captured my attention. The store was busy with noise and energy, yet she was completely present, listening carefully to every question, acting as a guide by the side as he explored, discovered, gained experience and learned. Her tone was always kind and never condescending. I eavesdropped and watched as she flawlessly fluctuated between assessing and teaching, giving him enough to empower but not overwhelm, question but not frustrate, while each newly acquired skill became motivation to learn the next.

At the end of their session the birthday boy turned to his teacher, over 60 years his junior, and said, "See you tomorrow!" I looked happily back to my computer helper (who frankly was glad I was paying attention to my own lesson again) who said, "We don't usually give standing appointments for daily one-to-one learning, but he really needs more help right now to get him on track. We all want to work with him, he is such a learner and such fun to teach!"

There was my big lesson for the day. Not what I was learning on my own computer mind you, but what I learned from the young computer tutors; fair is not always equal. They all understood that in order for this new learner to have his needs met, he needed lots of support right now at the beginning of his computer journey. They weren't worried about rules or mandates; instead they were completely focused on the needs of their student.

As I walked away from the Apple store, I couldn't help but think about how this might apply to our classrooms today. If every teacher was able to live by the belief that fair is not always equal, willfully neglecting long-favored rules and mandates in order to meet each child's individual needs, the impact on the education we provide would be significant.

And to think I learned it in the Apple store.


What can we do to enhance our abilities to meet the needs of all learners in our classrooms?

On January 14th, for our professional development day, you will have an opportunity to guide your own learnin g