UDL in Practice · Universal Design for Learning (UDL)

Reflection on the Pendulum Swings

I recently opened a MATSOL e-bulletin and found this article:  English-only extinct.

Maybe I’ve reached a “certain point” in my career, or maybe I’ve reached a certain age in my personal life, but I feel like the pendulum is swinging back on a number of fronts across various areas of my professional life.

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When I first started teaching full-time in Massachusetts in the public schools, I taught English Language Learners (ELL).  At that time, in my school, we had a full bilingual program, a full ELL program, and a transition team that accepted the FLEP students into the mainstream classroom.  I began in the ELL program, teaching ELL and math.  I had tiny classes, seven at the most, in a minuscule room (the former smoking lounge on the 4th floor of the old high school).  Although I loved it, the writing on the wall was clear:  that was the year that Question 2 was voted in.  I was the last one hired, soon to be the first one fired, as my colleagues in the bilingual program took the spots that remained in whatever the ELL program would look like.  At the same time, an opening appeared in mainstream math and I jumped at it.

How ironic, then, to see this article in EdWeek, to see how the pendulum has swung, thank goodness, back the other direction, with the end of English-only programs possibly in sight!  It is near-miraculous to think that I will still be teaching when I witness this reversal come into its own.

Simultaneously, in my “new” (at the time 15 years ago) field of math, which has become my curricular home, I have lived through a series of pendulum swings as well.  Again, when I first started my time in Massachusetts public schools, we were just beginning to teach certain standards by two-grade bands.  Remember those days?  You got to duke it out with the grade above or below about how to divide up “add, subtract, multiply, and divide fractions, decimals, and percents” which was a single standard.  How about the Pythagorean theorem?  That has traveled between 7th and 8th more than once.  It was a relief when the State finally separated the standards into a single set per grade level, which then shifted again two years ago, especially between 6th and 7th.

It’s also interesting to find the gaps–when, exactly, does the State want us to teach solving equations with variables on both sides?  Students are expected to know it in 8th grade, but are taught equation with variables on one side only in 7th grade.  I guess it appears by osmosis in the summer between the grades?  And when do they have time to learn the mechanics of Mean Absolute Deviation (MAD), which used to be taught in sixth grade so we could have students work with the implications of MAD in statistics in 7th, but is now added to 7th grade?

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I know that I have grown in my own practice, of course, over time.  I no longer spend the week before school starts with first day of school nightmares; at this time, I’ve pretty much figured out that, whatever happens, it will all come out in the wash by the end of the year.  But I’m struggling to wrap my head around the idea that I’m closing in on 20+ years in education, 17+ years in Massachusetts alone.  There is some part of me that still believes this is all just beginning, that I’m only a few years out from that first day of the first year.  How could I possibly have been doing this long enough to have watched the pendulum swing in not one, but two, major areas?  And where will it swing again before my time is done?

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