As I looked around the waiting room in the doctor’s office, the other patients all appeared to be suffering from the same illness; we all were coughing, blowing our noses, and had an look on our faces. We were all sick and waiting patiently to be seen by our individual doctors so they could diagnose our health concerns and hopefully prescribe something that would make us feel better. I wondered if it wouldn’t just be quicker for the doctors to just write us the same prescription and get all 20 of us out of the waiting room and back home eating soup and watching bad daytime TV.

When it was finally my turn to see the doctor, it took less than ten minutes for her to diagnose my upper respiratory infection and give me a prescription for an antibiotic that would have me feeling back to normal in five days. As I left the doctor’s office, I was grateful for the one-on-one time the doctor spent with me to find out exactly what my symptoms were so she could ensure she gave me the best possible treatment. After inquiring about the other patients she had seen earlier and hearing that their illnesses ranged from allergies to pneumonia, I was relived the doctors didn’t use a one size fits all prescription just to save time and energy. Considering the fact that I am pregnant and have limitations on medications I can take, it was even more important that the doctor treated my individual needs and did not lump me into a large of group of sick people suffering from similar symptoms.

I started wondering what the consequences, both negative and positive, would be if doctors treated the waiting room full of patients as many educators do their classrooms full of students.  The doctors could treat all the patients as one large group suffering from similar illnesses and prescribe one or two treatments to the group in hopes of healing the majority of patients.  Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but isn’t this what some educators do when they do not differentiate the content, process, product, or assessment for the 20 different students in their classroom?

I am grateful that this is not the case at Ravenscroft! As we enter year three of our new literacy initiatives, we are seeing first-hand the impact and importance of one-on-one connections with our students. Transitioning to a reading and writing workshop model for teaching literacy has established learning communities in our classrooms that allow teachers to get to know their students better as readers and writers. During each workshop, teachers are able to meet with individual students to discuss their progress as readers and writers and provide specific instruction that best meets the needs of the individual. Teachers are also able to provide the whole group with instruction that all students will need through focused mini lessons and then follow up with reinforcement or enrichment during small group meetings. By providing students with choice and independence within the workshops, students are able to read and write text at their “just right” level and experience what it means to love reading and writing.

Jennifer Baccus, third grade teacher, recently reflected on her students’ progress in writing workshop and I think it describes exactly what I am talking about in this post: Mrs. Baccus Blog.

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