A lot of what we talk about in education is designed around the path of least resistance. We design schedules, curriculum, buildings, etc in attempts to ensure these systems are easily navigable by teachers, parents & last, students.
A growing dialogue is to do more to ensure we are designing our systems with students in mind. Rather than making things easy for adults, we should be focusing on the needs of our students. Differentiation is a buzzword associated with these ideas & some are even saying we should be helping students to take control of their differentiation.
These ideas are hard to argue with as is the battle cry “student centered”. However, how messed up is it that we are trying to make things easier for students?* I get that we as educators care about our students & don’t want them to struggle, but “playing to their strengths” might just be undermining the growth we are hoping to encourage. I guess I’ve always been very happy when my students have left my class feeling challenged. I would have been disappointed in myself had they left feeling catered to.
*just so I’m clear, I’m all about removing pointless hoops & prejudicial hierarchies, but I am confident that in some situations we have done damage in the name of differentiation.
**What follows is more of a higher Ed issue: we cater to customers, not students. When students are seen as clients or customers, something has gone terribly wrong and our (teachers’) ability to push students to places they didn’t know they could go is undermined.