In the English classroom teachers have been arguing for years over the value of teaching the classics. Some are staunch supporters and some swing to the opposite extreme. I can say that I have always sat on the fence. I could see the value of teaching the classics and at the same time I could see how disinterested my students were. For years I tried to balance somewhere in the middle. Do a little Shakespeare here and some more modern materials there, and always in the back of my mind questioning if I was doing the right thing.
It wasn't until about my eighth year of teaching (yeah I'm a little slow) when it finally occurred to me that maybe the content didn't matter. That maybe it should be about what the students want to learn. The moment these things started to occur to me my world started turning upside down. My practices in the classroom missing the mark; these newfound values were shaking the way I saw teaching and learning as a whole. I started struggling with my own preferences and fighting the urges to teach my way instead of the way I knew was better for the students.
I wanted to incorporate things that they were interested in learning- to include more options and choices and creativity. At the same time, I fought against how it would change the way my classroom operated. I was playing tug-of-war with myself! I started searching, scouring the Internet for ways to incorporate more opportunities for choice. After banging my head against the Internet wall for weeks, I stumbled upon a teacher who was attempting something that clicked for me. Her name is Carol Zortman. She started differentiating her curriculum by creating required parts of a project and then offering choices for the rest of the project.
I found that this was a place for me to start. I took her material and ran with it changing it and adapting it to work with the materials I had or that I was able to get my hands on. I finally found what I believed was a step in the right direction for me and my students. Carol Zortman