Walking with the Teacher #3 Differentiated Instruction

Differentiated Instruction, or individualized instruction, is defined in The Act of Teaching as, “Instruction that attempts to tailor teaching and learning to a learner’s unique strengths and needs”. Another source adds, “The intent of differentiating instruction is to maximize each student’s growth and individual success by meeting each student where he or she is, and assisting in the learning process . My ongoing thesis in this series is that Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived and that we who desire to spend our lives educating and inspiring young people would do well to study his life and to learn by watching and then emulating Him. I am finding that an examination of what research determines to be the best practices in education somehow always results in praise to God, who of course, as the designer of our brains, knew these things all along.

I found myself in need of some individualized instruction in the hours before dawn one day last week. After a prolonged period of wrestling with the bedcovers and my own anxious thoughts, I could finally stand it no longer and got up in the dark. Painfully aware that I had not had sufficient rest to get me through all the tasks that faced me and too sleepy to start my day with the structure of my Bible study workbook, I just wrapped myself in a quilt, went out into the backyard, and watched the sunrise. Finally, I grew still. In that chilly solitude filled with bird song and the brilliant colors of the morning, it was easy to know that he was God. That I was not. And that was precisely where and when Jesus, my Teacher came and gently directed me to a passage of Scripture that would “maximize ( my) growth and individual success by meeting ( me) where I ( was ) and assist me in the learning process.”

A passage came to mind from Luke 12:22 and I turned there. I have wrestled with worry many times and so it was not an unfamiliar passage. Words like “Which of you by worrying can add one hour to his life?”, or “… you of little faith…” followed by that wonderful encouragement to “seek first the Kingdom” hit me right in the heart. Now that I was finally still and listening, what we educators might term “ engaged” , my Teacher was able to administer some more individualized instruction, pointing out to me that when I get worried I also become a wee bit argumentative, borderline bossy, and even downright grouchy. He was able to deliver this news to me in such a way that it truly became good news because it came with a clear-cut solution. Repent. Trust. Obey. There really is no other way.

Because Jesus loves me and knows me individually, he gave me a new song to sing. I suppose he must have read the research on multiple intelligences, because this was just the ticket for me. Any teacher knows that a very effective mnemonic device is to put concepts to music to help auditory learners memorize content. Jesus knew that the song would get stuck in my head and would remind me to take the thoughts that had been troubling me captive. Suffice it to say that my anxiety was quelled, my spirit soothed and my joy restored.

These “Be-still- and-know-that-He-is-God” moments are essential in the life of a busy teacher. When the traffic in our own heads becomes deafening, it drowns out our ability to hear the needs of the students God has entrusted to us. As we follow Jesus, our Master Teacher, we come to know his attention to our individual needs and it is from that position of strength that we are able provide ” instruction that attempts to tailor teaching and learning to a learner’s unique strengths and needs.” Once again, we realize the God is able to equip us fully for the work to which he has called us.

As you walk with the Teacher and sit with him in the silence, may your joy be full and your cup overflowing!

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