Book reflections 1: Differentiated Instructions made practical

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The book: Differentiated Instructions made practical – Rhonda Bondie Akane Zusho

Chapter 1 – Motivation

Starting Position: List, write or draw (look at the image!)

Well, I started a new book on Differentiated Instruction which was recommended by who else, my fellow colleagues at FLEVO on Flipped learning for language teaching.

I kinda like reflecting nowadays, because it really helps me drive deep into my thoughts and think about the ‘why’ I do things and what makes me tick.

So this ‘Starting position’ asked me to think about what motivates me to do things and asked me to think about the best time I was highly motivated to succeed and the worst time or was not motivated at all.

This got me thinking about my education. In my school years, I just managed to scrape through high school, with an average grade or really a good grade if you consider the years and who I culturally was. A child of economic immigrants from Greece, I was probably the only child of my relatives that got into university back then, so in comparison, I was considered a good student. Saying, when I got the chance I fled to Europe straight after high school, ended up dropping out of University in Australia, only to enrol in a University in the UK! The thing is, I wanted to study engineering and I had taken on subjects in V.C.E that wasn’t connected to the engineering field, and this was a disadvantage I had to fight for. Anyway, enough of that.. I am sidetracking…

So, when thinking about school, I thought about high school at Salesian College, an all-boys Catholic semi-private school, my now not so poor family could afford. I thought about my worst experience and how I completely flunked a maths unit on Roots and want to talk about how I used my calculator to do the end of module test and I got a 2% grade and that was out of 100!

I was so disconnected from the subject of roots in high school. It was probably year 7, I can vaguely remember the classroom (I still visualise looking outside the windows) and I can remember the discussion I had with friends in the corridor next to the lockers. I think it was that time where I liked “the Bros”, and “Boy George”. I hated playing school. I was an awful actor in class. I just couldn’t concentrate on what the teacher was saying, lost in my own imagination and in my own world. I was so disconnected with one of the units in mathematics I think it was about roots that I got a 2% on the test. I think that when I actually sat down at home with no help to connect with the content I had lost for probably over a two-week period, the night before, I figured out that there was a square root button on the calculator and I thought… Well, this is easy!! To think back though. Disconnected in the whole unit? Why wasn’t I noticed? Or was I? Was I ignored? Was I the student from hell for this teacher? Why didn’t the teacher reach out to me? Anyway, the only feedback I got was from a red pen on a timed summative test with 2″%” scribbled in a circle, in red, at the top of the page. I can still visualize it. The teacher made me feel awful, made me feel bad… The only thing I remember about that teacher was that it was a man -his gender… that’s it. In my memory, I can clearly visualise the position I sat in that class that day, how I was looking out the window and the way I felt getting the test back… And that’s it… What a shame… I don’t want that for my kids or any of my students, let alone anyone…

Saying that the best part I can remember about my high school maths later on the year was the fact that my parents seemed help and got it from a close relative of mine, Emily, who offered to help me after school (she was a Maths teacher at an all-girls high school) and that I really loved those tutoring sessions I had with her. We were really close, and we still are… I can still remember how she explained the reasoning behind all the maths I was struggling to connect with. What got me engaged in her lessons were, well…. the way she used colour-coded pens and markers when we were building representations and understandings together. They were great, they looked so cool, her writing was really neat and tidy too. I still like buying and using coloured markers when correcting and giving feedback (I hate red by the way..), even in making my notes or when I dabble at sketchnoting too!

I think it she played an important part in me choosing my studies and early career and because of her, being there for me, helping me understand, making me feel that I could, drove me to become an Engineer in my early career. Achieving a 2.1 in a Masters of Engineering course in a respectable university (yay! hehehe)

Moving on, and adding to that good feeling of being motivated to learn, what I can remember being at university, was my mathemetician teacher and my best friend, Marios. I can still remember my first day at university and being in this huge amphitheatre in the UK, at a respectable university and at the engineering school. While he was talking about our class doing a get-to-know me (the teacher) routine, he looked at one of my Greek friends (we tended to huddle together on the first days!) because he was wearing an Olympiakos FC T-shirt, and he said, “You from Greece? Olympiakos right? “And then he went on to say, “a friend of mine told me, beware of Greeks bearing gifts” and the whole 386 students cracked up laughing… I hated the old bastard… Yet, what I loved about advanced mathematics were those intense peer sessions I had with my buddy, Marios. He was so immersed in his love for mathematics, you could just feel his passion in the way he explained everything to me! I still admit it. I was doomed for a flat fail in maths and could have flunked the year if it wasn’t for Marios. Nonetheless, I ended up writing 65%! To me with differentiation in mathematics and Fourier equations out of nowhere, it was like getting 100%! I did not do advanced mathematics in senior high school, I did other subjects, like politics, and geography!

So overall living the experience of being peer taught, was a blast, an awesome experience that I still can vividly remember after 20+ years…

These moments motivate me as a teacher, and these are the moments I seek out to bring into my classes.. (the positive ones!)

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