Have you ever been asked to try something new? Perhaps you’ve been required to read a new piece of research, watch a video highlighting a different approach to meeting student needs, or handed yet another “magic bullet” curriculum. Have you ever thought, What I am doing is working, so why change it? It is easy to go there, especially if you’ve been around long enough to swing with the pendulum a few times. In a recent conversation, a fourth-grade teacher shared that her team uses the Walk to Read format for literacy instruction. Children leave their regular classrooms and receive instruction via a scripted program in another room based on their reading level.
After hearing the research by John Hattie, Richard Allington, and Mary Howard that this practice isn’t the best way to meet our students’ needs, this teacher was in an uncomfortable and defensive state of disequilibrium. She told me she disagreed with the research because what she is doing is working for her students.
When I asked her if she could think of one or two students for whom it wasn't working, she quieted. The faces of those one or two whose needs weren’t being met or who weren’t making the type of gains she wanted came into her minds eye. The idea of changing her practice felt overwhelming, yet when I asked if there were one or two things she might change so those students' needs could be met, she gave it careful consideration.
It is a great starting place. We should always ask ourselves, Are there one or two students for whom my instruction might work better? This simple question can prompt important refinements of our practice, keeping the needs of our children in the forefront of our work and helping us face change with courage.