Differentiated What?

When a friend of mine chose to homeschool her daughter, it greatly agitated her sister. This sibling didn’t raise the usual bugaboo about socialization. Rather, she was horrified at the idea that “just anyone” felt capable of teaching a little girl to read. 

Her consternation made more sense when my friend shared that this sister was a reading specialist, who had invested years and money in training. No wonder my friend’s confidence in her own abilities, despite a glaring lack of credentials, upset her sister.

I am full of admiration for teachers who can take a group of children with disparate interests, maturation and skill levels and coax each one to do his or her best. I deeply respect the skills and dedication of those who teach children who, for one reason or another, don’t respond to regular methods of instruction. However, I don’t appreciate spreading an aura of complexity around areas in which most caring and intelligent parents and teachers are already perfectly capable.

For this reason, I raised a skeptical eye when I saw an announcement for teacher training in differentiated instruction. One way to make parents feel inadequate and to prop up the idea that children need trained teachers is by introducing new and esoteric language. How can one possibly teach one’s own when you don’t even know what educational terminology means ?

I looked around a little and discovered that differentiated instruction is a convoluted way of describing the way that any good parent or teacher has always taught. Recognizing that children may respond to different techniques, constantly assessing a student’s strength and weaknesses, guiding children to understand broad concepts and knowing to vary individual instruction with group instruction are some of the not-very-groundbreaking notions of differentiated instruction. In other words, there is nothing new under the sun. Only a highly educated specialist who left common sense and mentorship at the door and mindlessly swallowed the latest educational textbook theories would have ignored any of these ideas previously.

If your child is thriving in school and has an excellent teacher, I hope you express your appreciation. If your child is doing little more than logging hours in school, I encourage you not to be intimidated by fancy words. We can rephrase Confucius’ words about life to refer to much of today’s educational theory: “Education is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”   

2 thoughts on “Differentiated What?”

  1. When my son was in middle school, he was told by at least one “teacher” that parents weren’t qualified to teach their children. This same woman, who “taught” English, frequently sent home handwritten notes on his papers riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors.

    Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your view, I was able to respond to him that I was just as, if not more than, qualified to teach as this woman, as I held teaching degrees in Art and History and certainly knew how to string together competent sentences (although I’m too tired right now to verify the comma usage in this sentence 😀 ).

    A lot of homeschool parents don’t have teaching degrees. Some don’t even have college degrees. But to label all parents as inadequate to instruct their children is egregious. Could it be that she meant parents aren’t qualified to shove the progressive agenda down their own students’ throats?

    1. Rabbi Daniel Lapin

      It’s that, and even more, Suzanne, (too many commas?)
      It’s called job-security. The more successfully the entire GIC (Government Indoctrination Camps formerly known as K-12 public schools) propaganda machine can persuade parents and the public that teaching is a highly specialized job requiring intense professional training the more they can justify continual pay increases and guarantee tenure. Home schoolers imperil that entire false narrative especially when they excel academically after having been taught by parents with few or no academic credentials as is common. Teaching children who are born with curiosity is not neuro-surgery. Successful teaching consists mostly of not destroying natural curiosity, posing questions and pointing to places where answers can be sought. Sorry all you great teachers out there but your unions don’t do your reputations much good.

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