This month we contemplate Saskatchewan’s 2010 Education Week theme; celebrating diversity. This generated a diverse interpretation by teachers. I have an interest in differentiated learning spaces within and extending outward from the studio classroom I am trying to establish in Room 7, Sunningdale School. Last year I created a VoiceThread illustrating the different places and ways my students liked to learn. For me, diversity means differentiation. Our contribution to the school assembly this week was a (badly made) video illustrating learning around the school from the orientation of the common eight multiple intelligences.
Others interpreted the theme as referring to cultural diversity. We rarely achieve much depth during these provincially mandated activities. If we did, it would be interesting to explore the import of cultural diversity on learning. Sunningdale is a middle class suburban school and cultural diversity is a minor theme compared to a community school like Prince Arthur where I taught two years ago. That school confronted the significance of cultural diversity moment by moment in a multicultural mix of immigrant children, First Nations, and subtle variations on the familiar European mix of North America.
It might have been very interesting if someone had had the courage to approach celebrating diversity from the perspective of economic differences and how they have an impact on learning. That might have been too sensitive for many. It might have been very challenging to the staff if a class had explored classroom diversity. I imagine there would have been a pointed discussion amongst the students about the differences between teachers and their approaches to learning. Like multiple intelligences, this sort of discussion could focus on the strengths of each teacher’s approach. That sort of open critical reflection is not welcomed I think.
All of the above brings me back to the counter currents in Saskatchewan education. Diversity, differentiated learning, and adapted curriculum are examples of a strong current sweeping us along. Moving against this current is the hard blunt force of standards. Common assessments presented in a common manner to a diverse body of young people. The contradiction is a frustration. Perhaps I am supposed to accept the idea that we do everything in moderation. Perhaps we are striving for a balance in education. That is consistent with my long standing philosophy; however, I wonder now. If you paddle your canoe against the current maintaining a balance of forces, don’t you just stay in the same place? Where do we journey? I am an eternal optimist, but there are moments when we do seem to be simply static. The current pulls us one way and we apply our common assessment paddle and negate the movement.
When I think about the Tao of learning, I recognize that diversity and the differentiation it demands is the path to follow.