Who learns in your classroom?
I know when I first started thinking about this question, my immediate reaction was, "Why...everyone, of course!"
But I think that's the answer I want to be true.
If I'm really honest about it, not every student in my class learns. In fact, there may be days when few of them are actually learning.
Some students are distracted, unmotivated, or uninterested, and will not connect with the material because I do not make it relevant to them.
Other students will struggle, and maybe they will be unable to learn the content. Perhaps somewhere between my planning and the execution of the lesson, I missed something, or maybe they aren't developmentally ready for the material.
Still others already know the content I am planning to teach--they don't learn it, because they already know it.
This last group is the ones I'm really thinking about today. I think our school culture today is strongly focused on the low achieving, low ability students. Even the name of the legislation for funding much of public education--"No Child Left Behind"--emphasizes this fact.
And it's hard, right? They are smart kids. They are the ones who read ahead, who are bored by the stuff they already know. If they aren't causing trouble, it's easy to leave them to their own devices, because we're all so busy ensuring that no one is being left behind. We figure that things will work out for them, because they're sharp kids.
Is this okay?
Can I slack off and say, "Hey, there's only one of me and 20 (30?) of them. I can't be all things to all people. They're the smart kids; they'll be fine."
It would be nice to be able to say that some days.
But I think we need to get real about the fact that school is supposed to be about learning. Yes, that means we want low-ability, low-achieving students to learn. But that also means we should be providing opportunities for high-ability, high-achieving students to learn as well!
I think we need to reconsider what we are doing for gifted learners just as much as we think about what we are doing for struggling learners, and the kids in the middle too. How can we shift our thinking? We need to be deliberate about making school a place of learning for all of our students. Just this morning I read this article from Education Week entitled Gifted Ed. is Crucial, but the Label Isn't. Teacher, I encourage you to read it. Reflect on it. Discuss it with colleagues.
How are you going to make your classroom a place where all students learn something new every day?