Alterations Required

For teachers, summer is a time of reflection and creation. Thoughtfully, we examine the student interactions with our previous presentation of the material and plan for new students, children we do not know. This looking forward, toward possibility, is a gift that we bring each year to a classroom of students we have not met and do not know. The best we can do is predict and be prepared to be flexible in our plans to meet the needs of the humans that show up in our new classes.

This predictive work is valuable. Once school starts, time for planning disappears in the rush to work with students, grade papers, attend meetings, and communicate with parents. Then there’s our job within a job: completing mountains of paperwork required by administrators and the state and national government. In this atmosphere a good summer plan often makes the difference between successful instruction and useless floundering when there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish the work piled on our desks.

But as teachers we understand our summer planning is a pattern that will need alterations – it will need modification to meet the needs of each of our new students, and can only be tailored after we meet them and come to understand their needs and interests. These patterns are a good starting place for flexible and differentiated instruction that meets the needs of the humans we work with every day. To administer a curriculum in a standardized and consistent manner to all students would only be appropriate for a few students because one size cannot fit all.

If a school handed out the same size uniform to every 9th grade boy and girl in the school, the community would be outraged, yet standardized testing does just that. It expects every student to learn the same content at the same rate. And who determines the content of what Pellegrini describes as the “Royal Route to Competence?” Why are our students that are bilingual thought to be working in a deficient? They know two languages, more than required, but less than what’s valued.

Standardization is a biased, dehumanizing way to educate. Standardization leaves little room for valuing cultural variety in its attempt to create sameness in our students. Students who do not assimilate to these standards are rejected and denied an education. Their ideas, culture and humanness rejected in favor of the standard.

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