The more I thought about this throughout the day, the more I realized that this is a perfect illustration for how many of our students feel every day in our classrooms.
I began to think about gifted students. These students often feel like what we are teaching in our classrooms is too small, too tight for them. They long to stretch their learning and make it meaningful for them. Gifted students often become frustrated because the learning just doesn't fit. It's information that they already know, facts they've mastered over and over, or just mundane learning that they do not find interesting at all. But day after day, they show up, try to squeeze themselves into the learning that is "too small" and "too tight" for them. I think about how I feel when I wear jeans that do not fit. I feel limited and annoyed. I can only assume that this is how our students feel as well.
Then, I thought about the students that struggle. The ones that become frustrated and find themselves in a classroom that seems too difficult for them. Our classrooms probably feel uncomfortable for these students. The learning simply falls off when they give their best effort to learn and retain the information that they are being given. On the rare occasions that my jeans are too big, I feel anxious and awkward. This is not a feeling that I want my students to experience.
Finally, I realized that so many of our classrooms are designed to the meet the needs of our average students. The learning is "just right" for them and fits them perfectly. It's the same as if we went to the department store to buy jeans and they only had sizes to fit average-size adults...no larger sizes, no petites...just average. Can you imagine the frustration? We definitely wouldn't return to that store!
However, our students don't have that option. They don't get choices. They must attend school and find ways to either squeeze into or hold up the learning that they are offered each day.
Every student might sometimes need to shop in a different section. I definitely haven't worn the same size jeans my entire adult life. I go back and forth...sometimes I need smaller and other times, I need larger. But I have the option to shop in any section, at any time.
I'm writing this to encourage teachers to make it a priority to make sure you have all of the "jeans" in your classroom. Let your students try them on and see what works for them. Encourage them to find learning that fits and makes them feel good about themselves. Offer variety, give choices, and trust them enough to let them decide what works and what doesn't. Don't be a "one size fits all" classroom. Because, well, it just doesn't!