Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Miracles, Means & Methadology in Modern Education

A springtime miracle occurred yesterday--Mr. T brought home NO homework and a spelling list with 4 words crossed off and a note telling us to only study 11 words. I think the principal shared our concerns with Mr. T's teacher and pointed this out to Mr. D. Mr. D took issue with Mr. T doing less work (he's really afraid of upsetting the teacher because he likes her). I pointed out this analogy I learned in an education course years ago:

You have a box full of sweatshirts--they're all a size "Small" and you have one for each child in your class. Every kid gets a small sweatshirt. Is this equal? Yes. Is this fair? No. Why not? Because some kids are too big for a small sweatshirt so they can't wear it. Is it fair to give someone something they can't use?

Mmmm, Mr. D says.

Look at it this way, you give Mr. T a list of 20 spelling words and he gets 16 wrong every week. What does that accomplish? Give him a list of 10. If he can get all 10 right, isn't that better than getting 4 right on a list of 20?

Well... Mr. D says, at work if people are slackers they have to step up or they're fired. I don't see how this is different.

Mr. T's not lazy--he's been doing all the work, even though it doesn't make any sense to him. I've never said that Mr. T shouldn't be held accountable. But you wouldn't hire someone to do a job they weren't capable of doing. That's where business and school are different.

True, Mr. D agrees.

Mr. T needs math--like he needs a sweatshirt. But he needs it in a size that will fit him. That's been my argument all along. And if his teacher can't deliver--because she doesn't understand, she doesn't have time, she doesn't have the resources--then they need to find somebody who can. An aide, a special ed. teacher, a different curriculum, whatever. It's not fair to constantly set my kid up to fail just because he needs numbers in vertical columns or can't write as many sentences or scrambles up his letters. What she's been doing to him so far is just plain mean, and as his mother it's my job to make sure he gets what he needs and what is fair.

Mr. D fully grasped my point now and inquired about supper. I made meatloaf, mashed potatoes and mincemeat pie--anyone care to guess the letter of the day?


  1. Me first! M!

    It is true that in teaching you don't give everyone the same thing, you give everyone what they need. That's equity.

    Mel Levine is a great author and researcher on learning disabilitiles who discusses this type of thinking (The Myth of Laziness, A Mind at a Time, etc.) School is the only place in life where you are expected to be good at everything.

  2. Your son is extremely lucky to have you for a mom. My brother is dyslexic and went through school at a time when learning disabilites were never considered a possibility and so they just labeled him as stupid. My mother spent many years beating her head against a wall trying to get him some help.

    Coincidentally, my brother married an elementary school teacher who is constantly preaching exactly the same message you are - teach to the individual child. Keep fighting the good fight!

  3. Aaargh!! You are totally correct and have every reason to be upset. Differentiated instruction is a requirement! although hard, it is a requirement!

  4. mmmmmmmm meatloaf. When I was an aid, that was my job, creating accommodations for each particular child with special needs. It makes a difference

  5. People who have never been in education have a hard time understanding that not everything can be the "same" for each student. No matter how hard the teacher tries..Mr. T's teacher has tried way to hard to make it "fair" for all..and that just doesn't work in eduation

    Mincement Pie...not real sure on that Green Girl...how about just some ice cream for dessert

  6. Your "sweatshirt" analogy was brilliant. The best I could come up with for my son's first grade teacher was to inform her that my son apparently hadn't been cut out with the same cookie cutter as the rest of her class.

    And I had the argument with another teacher that if he could get 45 out of 5o problems correct, why make him struggle to do 100?

    He is 23 now, but it's still frssh in my memory.


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