Equity is at the very heart of Growing Writers.
Equity in classroom instruction is my passion. I believe that academic success is extremely important for students who were not born privileged in our society.
Early in my career I felt strongly that project-based teaching, stemming from children’s interests, was the kindest and most child-centered way to approach education. My perspective changed rather suddenly when I was in graduate school in the late 1990’s. I was reading a book (title long forgotten) in which the author had interviewed low-income parents on what kind of schools they wanted for their kids. All of them were adamant about rigorous academic learning and strict discipline.
My strong opinion about what was right had to yield to the question, “Right for whom?” My priority was exploration, relationships, and creativity. For most low income parents, the priority for an education was to give their children academic skills that would lift them out of poverty.
Even when I was immersed in project-based instruction, I still felt that academic learning was important. I just thought that kids would quickly pick up the academic skills they needed through various hands-on experiences. I didn’t fully appreciate the huge role that background knowledge plays in “picking up” skills.
Instructional equity isn’t easy to accomplish. It includes teacher biases as well as the type of instruction. I consider explicit instruction to be the most powerful way to meet the needs of all students. This isn’t just a socioeconomic issue. Children from all backgrounds can benefit from explicit instruction, especially those who tend to learn more slowly, for any variety of reasons. And equity should also include those who need a faster pace.
After graduate school I delved into learning about different models of instruction. I’ve tried out many writing lessons to experiment with what kinds of lessons and pacing keep everybody “on board”. If I tried a lesson and ended up with a high failure rate, it was scrapped or broken down into smaller chunks. I thought carefully about how to be equitable to those students who needed a higher level of challenge as well. In this way, I gradually worked out the most equitable approach I could find to teach writing.
The result is a curriculum that, if combined with high expectations, will have a considerable impact on learning for all, and includes fun and creativity as well.