Settling into US life has been fun. I’ve tasted the local cuisine (and by cuisine I mean ice-cream and cheesecake), I’m having the most interesting conversations with colleagues, making friends, and have seen all the local sights. But there’s a problem. I need to drive. ‘Ah, you can drive Mags’ I hear you say. And yes, I can. I can drive a manual car, on the left side of the road. So what happens when I’m asked to unlearn this, go against my instincts and drive on the right, to me wrong, side of the road-in an automatic!!! Can you feel my anxiety levels. So many barriers! I can’t get driving lessons until mid-October, I’m unclear of all the rules of the road even after reading them. When exactly can you you turn right on a red light? But I’m solution-focused right, so my answer for now is to only go places I can access on public transport, which really reduces the number of amazing places on my list I can visit and isn’t a great solution.
Now, imagine I’m a student in your class. My prior knowledge, whether that be culture, language, or skills is different so just doesn’t quite match to the learning and teaching activity taking place. I’ve already started from a place of disadvantage and this might make me feel anxious, or worse stupid. Without someone to guide me through ‘the rules’ of this class I might keep breaking that red light, I might disengage, become disruptive, or I might catch up really quickly and be fine. As a teacher, you won’t know which path I’ll take until I’m on it. But, if you plan for variability, for those who learned to drive on the left and the right, are just learning to drive, or ride a bike, and plan for flexible routes for reaching their destination. If you have those knowledge and skills lesson supports ready you not only reduce those barriers but develop the skills your student needs to achieve. The alternative, limit their options and potential, and the amazing persons they can be.