TEACHING TO THE BELL CURVE
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Do we expect students to adapt to the way we teach or do we expect teachers adapt to the students we have? Those are two lines in the sand that have been drawn pretty deeply in the teaching profession. One that says we are doing a complete disservice to our students by not meeting their learning needs and the other that says students need to learn how to learn using the style of the instructor, because they will always have someone different and should not be “mollycoddled” when they leave high school. Then we have the “wild card” of what the school administration requires.
In my online communities I have a sneaking suspicion that 90% or more would go with the the teacher adapting to the students they have (to some point) and adapting their curriculum to meet the needs of the students. I just as strongly believe that there are many teachers who do not participate in the online world (and maybe a few who do) would go in the opposite direction and fully expect their students to adapt to their teaching style and the curriculum.
There is no one real method of teaching in the United States, irregardless of the hype and publicity that the media, standards-based proponents, NCLB or other educational reformer would have the public believe OR want. Actual teaching in the classroom is done by individual teachers who have distinct personalities, strengths, weaknesses and abilities, no amount of legislation, hype or reform will change this.
Teachers are in the classroom and will teach how they feel most comfortable until they are replaced or leave. We all may whine, complain and bitch a bit about how other teachers teach, but we do not have the ability to affect measurable change most of the time once those classroom doors shut. That in my opinion is what bothers many people outside and inside education – the lack of control of what goes on in the classroom for good or ill.
The method that is probably the most prevalent method of teaching that I have seen, is teaching to the middle of the class. Which does not do too much for those who need more challenges or those who need more help, but it does satisfy what the majority of the class needs. It is the Bell Curve method of teaching and it is reality in more classrooms than some more progressive or conservative educators/administrators want or are willing to admit.
Most teachers have good intentions, but the overwhelming time constraints and workloads that most of us face, make it necessary that we make choices to do the most good in our classrooms and we make decision on how and what we actually teach that are not completely based on student’s needs, but based on the reality of the teacher’s abilities. What is taught in the classroom is more often based on the needs, wants or ability of the classroom teacher and will be for the foreseeable future (whether it claims to be student-centered or not).
Educational reforms are all the news, but how many ever really make it to many classrooms and become incorporated in the curriculum? Or do many teachers, simply just keep teaching based on their own individual methods and educational beliefs behind the closed doors of their classroom, pretty much ignoring the “reform du jour”, while sort of listening for the “next” reform, but keep teaching to the Bell-Curve of their student’s abilities?
Is this a valid view of our profession or am I way off base?
“Do the right thing for the right reason and make a difference.”