Connecting pedagogy with dimensions of student diversity.

When looking at the Principal Quality Standards and seeing that one of the strands states that as an instructional leader the principal should be or be able to connect pedagogy with dimensions of student diversity actually made me giggle, a little. Removing all of the educational lingo, what does this mean? To me as the Educational/ Instructional Leader this mean that :

” How people are expected to go about learning may differ and does differ between students. In order to maximize learning opportunities, teachers must gain knowledge of the students needs and abilities as they are represented in their classrooms, then translate this knowledge into instructional practice”.  Villegas, (1991) relates this specifically to culture, however I believe that this pertains to all areas of student learning.

You may be asking why or what I found funny about this, and I suppose it relates directly to my own experiences as an educator. For the previous eleven years, I taught children in care, children that due to a multitude or reasons were either removed from their homes or chose to leave their homes for more consistency and security. Teaching and learning from those children, gave me an in-depth understanding of the different methods students learned, the different elements that need to be in place and even the different levels and speeds that students learn.

A memory that gave me an ah-ha moment comes to mind. One of my students consistently used to ask me if she could work on the floor. Thinking like a traditional teacher I said “No, because if you are out of your desk and on the floor the other kids would all want to be out of their desks and on the floor”, and trust me in this setting this could be problematic. The student didn’t get mad, but also didn’t complete alot of work being very distracted for the rest of the day. She asked the same questions for the next few days, always receiving the same answer. However on the Friday, the weather was nice and I informed the kids that for the last two periods of the day we would be working outside. This set off my student as she became angry, started yelling and eventually flipped over her desk resulting in her being sent to timeout. After she had calmed down, I began to process with her, asking her why she was so opposed to working outside. (This is where the light came on) the student revealed that she was scared to be outside, she was convinced that even being out where we were that someone would drive by and well shoot at us. This also revealed why she liked working on the floor . . . bullets traveled in her experience with more ease through windows that they did through walls. Being on the floor allowed her to decrease her anxiety about violence that could occur. Monday brought a new development in the class, my student was permitted to work on the floor, for notes, assignments and anything else that didn’t require her to be upright. Some of you may ask, well didn’t others want to be on the floor? The answer is, yes they did, but they thought of it as fun and when the novelty wore off they returned to their desks. Eventually, she did return to her desk, however it was when she felt that it was safe to do so.

In relation to my duties as an administrator and instructional leader, as one staff put it so well when she reflected about our conversations in relation to student planning or programming “The thing I appreciated about Shawn during our time together, was his ability to present the other side. He was always able to play the devil’s advocate to ensure that we covered all bases”. M.Dallinger

I am always the one to ask what have we done, what have we tried, why haven’t we tried this or would this work. I have had some interesting reactions in respect to some of my comments but as I stated previously, I learned a long time ago that different things work for different students and that we, as educators need to know the students and where they come from to determine what that is and looks like. Before I end this post I am reminded of a quote which I hope I get right, Education is not about teaching the curriculum it is about teaching the student.

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