"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, July 26, 2010

Students are different. Or are they?

This was also published in IRA Inspire. The International Reading Association supports rigid and rigorous language arts standards that insist that all students follow the same path and take the same tests at the same time. It does not recognize individual variation in rate of literacy development, interests, or that "students are different" in any way.

From Early Struggles to Lifetime Success

Roy (not his real name) had trouble with reading, right from the start:

"I was at the bottom in reading skills and spelling skills. I was a very, very slow reader and couldn’t read out loud or silently. It began in first grade and continued in second grade, third grade, and on and on and on…."

He repeated first grade, spent years with tutors, but even now, as an adult, he has trouble with spelling and oral reading. But Roy is also a leading medical researcher, with a doctorate and a string of publications and awards.

"My interest in chemistry started with my interest in airplanes in grade school. That quickly converted to propellant systems in seventh and eighth grades. I set up a lab in my basement and did experiments. That early experience was useful, building your own confidence."

With a passion for science and a curiosity to learn, and with the support of family and teachers along the way, he harnessed multiple intelligences and followed an unusual path to literacy.

Which goes to show: Students are different, and they learn in different ways. Once teachers find those ways, great things are possible!

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