If someone during my first year of teaching had asked me, "What's the hardest thing about teaching?" my answer would have had something to do with the wide spectrum of abilities represented in my classroom and how to meet all those needs. Ask me again 21 years later and my answer would have something to do with the wide spectrum of abilities represented in my classroom and how to meet all those needs. A lot of things have changed over the years. That challenge is not one of them. I'm guessing not every teacher would agree that this is the hardest aspect of being a teacher, but I would bet it's towards the top of the list for most. While one little person is trying to learn their letters and sounds or simply count to 20, another is reading chapter books and doing double-digit addition. One size certainly does not fit all.
You'd think after doing this teaching thing 21 times over, I'd have conquered this challenge a long time ago. That's far from the truth though. I've made significant gains, and there are parts of my day that feel individualized and differentiated, but I still feel like my system is in a constant flux as I continue to seek out better methods and practices for reaching the varied needs in my room.
I found myself thinking about what's required in order to provide each child with a plan that's tailored to his or her needs. Here's what I came up with:
- I must know where each child is at.
- I must know where each child needs to go.
- I must know how to get each child there.
- I must have time to conference with each child.
- Each child must have quality time to practice.
- I must have time to assess how each child is progressing.
- I must be organized.
Oh, is that all? (And I probably left out a few other important bullets.) Plus, as an elementary teacher, I need to do these things several times over with each subject area: reading, writing, math, etc. Okay, so it all sounds a bit overwhelming, but with the right systems in place and the willingness to pursue better methods, I believe I can inch closer to what Boushey and Moser are talking about for every child, for every subject area. In 21 years someone might ask me, "What's the hardest thing about teaching?" I probably won't be teaching anymore, but for the fun of it, let's say I stick to my tried and true answer. I'm guessing there will never come a day when one size fits all.