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could do. Since this would undoubtedly differ from student to student, I could have individu- alized this review by focusing on areas of need on a student by student basis. For instance, if several students really struggled with the skill of reading and analyzing maps, I could have grouped these students together to help build these skills, while additional students and groups were working on other areas of review. Further, some of my students most likely would have excelled on their tests without even one day of review. This time set aside for review could have been spent enriching those students, providing them with opportunities to employ critical thinking skills based on, or extending from, the same standards on which they would be tested. This model could apply during the year as well. The underlying prem- ise remains the same—preparing students for an end-of-year assessment doesn’t require that everyone learn the same content at the same time. Responding to the individual needs of students will ensure maximum growth for all, not a predetermined level of proficiency.

Concern #2: “I was taught with the traditional lecture, worksheet, test format and I turned out just fine.”

Whenever I hear this I’m often reminded of the saying “we used to cut down trees with an ax, but a chainsaw is much faster.” There is certainly something to be said for traditional methods, but it only takes one look at the drastically changing educational environment to realize that teachers must adapt as well. Most schools I work with are very diverse—socio- economically, culturally, ethnically, etc. The melting pot analogy used to portray the United States is also an apt descriptor of our nation’s schools. Learning in a more traditional, teacher- centered, environment may have worked for some students (and still does work for many), but certainly not all. We must ask ourselves, however; why continue to teach in a way that will reach only a certain percentage of students when it is possible to adjust instruction to respond to all their needs? Much of the lack of responsive teaching can be traced to a level of trepidation among teachers. It has long been established that teachers often teach in ways they were taught, and that this cycle can be a difficult one to break (Lortie, 1975). Some educators are wary of trying something new, of relinquishing “control” over their classroom. Maintaining a differentiated, student-centered approach to teaching is not about giving up control, it is about a different kind of control, often described as “controlled chaos.” If teach- ers maintain high expectations for both behavior and academic success throughout the year, then they will most certainly have control of their classes. It is not about letting students run wild. Instead, it is about letting their minds run wild, engaging them in meaningful curricula, and helping them connect the content to other subjects and the world around them. At its very core, differentiation is about providing students with varied opportunities to uncover material rather than simply trying to cover it.

I often tell the story of a young man I once taught who consistently struggled in my geog-


Virginia Educational Leadership

Vol. 7 No. 1

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