When educators are asked why they selected this profession, answers often capture their desire or hope to support and foster students to reach their maximum potential. I have found this to be a common mission as I have met and collaborated with teachers from all around the world. We are unified under our desire to support all students in reaching their maximum potential.
With so many individuals morally compelled to support students, why do we face such obstacles meeting the needs of all students? Data is constantly collected and analyzed at the classroom, school, district, city, state, national and international level, identifying and highlighting groups of students that are performing below their peers.
In the forward of Achieving Excellence through Equity, Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu states,
“Even if the mind is captured by a glorious vision that the heart is morally compelled to pursue, the body will need specific direction and courage to make the journey successfully in the face of many obstacles.”
Courage and specific direction are necessary in order for educators to achieve their ultimate goal.
Let’s focus on the idea of specific direction.
For decades, specific curricula and programs have been provided to assist educators. The results have not met our goal.
Specific direction to me is the action plan we put in place to guide our journey in service to meeting our goal. We know that the heart of this answer is meeting the unique needs of students, to tap into their interests, and to make them part of their learning. Specific direction is providing educators with a paradigm to integrate academic and social emotional skills in a manner that will truly help meet the unique needs of students.
As we grapple with the idea of equity in our schools and ensuring that all students have the opportunity to have their unique needs met, the idea of personalized learning can provide the specific direction, the road map for our journey. Take a moment to consider the following questions:
- What does your data indicate?
- Are you meeting the needs of all learners?
- Has the learning construct you have been using yielded the results you want?
- How are you empowering students to be part of their learning journey?
Embracing personalized learning should not be a choice on a menu of instructional approaches to pursue; it should be considered an example of the specific direction necessary to meet our moral obligation and personal mission as educators. Revisit your reason for being an educator, reflect on your practices, and pursue your goal with courage.
Personalized Learning Resources:
Learning Personalized: the Evolution of the Contemporary Classroom. Zmuda, Curtis, and Ullman
Student at the Center: Personalized Learning and Habits of Mind. Kallick, Zmuda
Excellence through Equity: Five Principles of Courageous Leadership to Guide Achievement for Every Student. Blankstein, Noguera, and Kelly