I’m slowly, slowly reconciling the fact that growing up on the farm is different than my experience growing up in town. Differentiated, even. I’ll let you be the judge.
So, my ten-year-old and seven-and-a-half year old have both driven our yard tractor. The eldest hauls things around all the time, helping his father build our new home on the farm. I haven’t even sat on the thing!
The ten-year-old also drives the half ton around the yard. He came around the small shop a couple of weeks ago hauling his brother on the contraption he built (see my post on Close Reading of Picture Books). His father and Papa laughed about it. I got over enough of my initial shock and fear to take a picture.
I guess that teaching them to drive at the farm seems unreasonable to me. Reason One: age. Reason Two: equipment. Reason Three: see Reason One. Reason Four: I didn’t learn to drive until the law said I was old enough to do it.
And here are the “counter-reasons” of which I was delicately (not really) reminded. One: Curtis was 8 when he was driving the half ton. Papa drove the combine about 50 km when he was nine. Two: the equipment has a safety feature that if they stand up, it shuts off. Three: if there’s ever an emergency, our boy will be able to go get help. Four: life is different on the farm.
That got me wondering: different or differentiated?
What the boys are learning at the farm is individualized, based on the environment, and includes content, processes, and products that I obviously can’t fathom for lack of background knowledge. It’s based on their interests, readiness, and learning profiles. Basically, it’s about them and not me.
Differentiated instruction is about meeting the needs of the learner in order that they have success and growth. It’s about focusing on specific outcomes. It’s about developing what kids know, understand, and are able to do. And just because I’m not the instructor doesn’t mean that their “instructors” aren’t paying attention to all of these things and more!
I have goals professionally and personally to know more about what my students know and are interested in, but also to trust their educators (whoever they may be!) to be differentiating their instruction to meet their needs. I will also ask questions and raise concerns when I’m worried or don’t have a clue!
When have you ever felt that the learners might be ready or prepared, but you weren’t?