A Broken System.
This is something that I’ve heard a lot of college professors utter when talking about lesson planning or unit design: “teach to the middle.”
This idea makes sense in a more traditional lecture based instructional model, but fails to meet the needs of the modern student. This also only makes sense if we want to continue destroying our educational system.
The Myth of Average
Todd Rose had an amazing Ted Talk that illustrated the problems that surround our society’s obsession with average and the inherent problem that exists since “average” doesn’t actually exist. This problem is even more detrimental to success when it is applied to education. We are constantly trying to standardize to a norm or average that doesn’t exist. It occurs in curriculum, state testing, and in lesson design.
What Can You Do?
The first thing that we all need to do as educators is eradicate any notion that “the middle” or average exists. Every single one of our students is an individual with their own needs, aspirations, dreams, and abilities. It is our job to create learning environments that embody this idea and can meet the needs of all learners.
The word differentiation needs to be more than a word, and buzz words like Universal Design need to be reality, not just something we say to sound smart in meetings. There are so many ways, whether it’s PBL’s, Mastery Learning, or some other flexible and “open” instructional model, to allow students, with all of their individuality, to thrive in your classroom.
No More Excuses
I can fully understand how this philosophy started over 100 years ago. With limited resources, one room school-houses, and the lack of technology anywhere, teaching to “the middle” was probably just the most efficient way to instruct. With the increasingly large 1:1 initiatives in schools across the country, and the availability of information, there are literally thousands of tools that can be used to meet the needs of all students. I know because I’ve seen it. I work with teachers and schools every single day to break the traditional bell curve and reach ALL learners. So stop teaching to the middle and start teaching to them all.