sunset-91936_1280Does curiosity pay off?  How can we assure that by staying curious about our students and about our profession that we will continue to meet the rigorous standards set forth by the state and the federal government?

In this day of education it is all about showing growth with students and making sure all children are developing to their full potential.  So how does that mix with what teachers know to be best for students in how to reach each of their individual needs?

What I’ve learned and witnessed is that it can mix rather well and the outcome can be fantastic!  Meet Jenn.  Jenn is a kindergarten teacher who was presented with a most challenging class at the beginning of the school year.  She was quite puzzled on how she would meet their various needs given the resources she had and the expectations she felt were laid upon her.

Jenn had a group of students this year that were very much below the benchmark of most incoming kindergarten students.  She knew she needed to do something different with this group because trudging through the regular curriculum at the given pace would not benefit her students.  So she set out to do just that.  Curriculum was modified, the pace was slowed down for children who needed the time, and she made individualization a priority.  At times she found that she was way behind the other kindergarten teachers and what they were teaching in their classrooms.

It was tough.  It was tiring.  There were times where she felt that they wouldn’t make it.  But in her head she kept telling herself, “They are 5, they need to love school.”  So she made sure that happened.  Staying curious can be uncomfortable, it means stepping outside of the norm and questioning what you are doing and why you are doing it.  It’s not “willy-nilly” or a free-for-all. It is thoughtful, intentional, and meaningful.  And in the end they did it! Her students excelled at a remarkable rate and left the school year meeting the benchmark standards.

So how easy is that for you to do?  What I learned from Jenn’s journey this year is that it is not easy.  The pressures of covering content and getting through the curriculum can be a huge deterrent for doing what you know is best for the students.

My wondering around this topic is this; how do we make it easier for educators to do what they know needs to be done for students?  How can we ensure we do not cripple educators or stifle their passion for teaching while still making sure we are meeting standards and progressing effectively?

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