“I think I used to be more like Mr. Appleton, because I gave a lot of lectures. But now, I am more like Mrs. Baker, as I do many fun activities as well as some lecturing. I’m afraid I do not use many of the ideas of Ms. Cassell.”

“I agree, I’d like to be more like Ms. Cassell, but I think I would have to be careful if I wanted to have a life outside of the classroom!”

Teachers like to talk about themselves. In my ten years teaching teachers, I have asked participants in my Differentiated Instruction course to write a reflection about themselves as teachers after reading Carol Ann Tomlinson’s now-classic essay, “Mapping a Route Towards Instruction.”Tomlinson develops her essay around three teachers who all teach about ancient Rome.

  • Mr. Appleton represents the classic stand-up, one-size-fits-all teacher who uses a textbook, has students read the text in class and take notes, and lectures frequently, expecting students to take notes, as well. He gives out study sheets before tests.
  • Mrs. Baker introduces graphic organizers to help students read the textbook. She brings in pictures, invites students to wear togas, and to bring food for a Roman banquet. Also, she shows video clips on gladiators and reads myths to her students. She goes over the chapter before the test rather than making them do it at home.
  • Ms. Cassell plans her year using long-range thinking concentrating on a few key concepts and generalizations, sets clearly defined facts and skills, provides multiple pathways to learn material, and develops essential questions to drive the thinking. Her classroom is more unified, more intricate, and more complex than the other two.

The teachers in my courses say they see themselves in various combinations of all three teachers. Many state that they used to teach like Mr. Appleton but have moved over to Mrs. Baker’s approach in an attempt to make their classrooms more appealing to more students. Few say they emulate Ms. Cassell—many see the value of her approach but, at the same time, say she should “get a life” because of how much she attempts and accomplishes!

Do you fit one of these profiles? Or a combination? What profile most closely represents your favorite teacher?

For more on this crucial issue see Chapter 14 “End One-Size-Fits-All Teaching” in Teaching from the Middle of the Room: Inviting students to Learn from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Teaching-Middle-Room-Frank-Thoms/dp/0615358918.