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The message in many of our What’s Right in Education blog posts is a challenge to individuals to bring value to those they engage with by creating results-oriented cultures, implementing evidence-based practices, and establishing accountability. In Friday’s blog we also challenged readers to:

Connect with colleagues to create educational environments where students want to learn and are inspired to achieve, where great teachers want to teach and leaders want to serve, and where parents trust to send their children for an excellent education. Create a culture of ownership – where all employees engage and build a sense of ownership – and bring value to those they engage with.

As an aunt of eight fabulous (of course!) nieces and nephews I challenge myself to bring value to them when I visit with them or when, as I wanted to do last week, consider holiday and birthday gifts. For many years it was a trip to our favorite bookstore to purchase their favorite books. Now a trip to the bookstore is not necessarily needed—with tablets and e-downloads eBook purchases are an option… and this year for seven of them it was to assist them with purchasing something that they wanted. For the eighth, a high school sophomore who is an outstanding scholar and student athlete, I simply helped connect her more to technology.

I have had more than one individual question the different gift for one, that is, “how do [I] ‘get away with’ getting something different for one of the eight?” Although the reality is that there is no difference over time, my response is grounded in differentiated instruction—these eight kids/students are not all alike. “Based on this knowledge,” Hall, Strangman, and Meyer (2011) write:

Differentiated instruction applies an approach to teaching and learning that gives students multiple options for taking in information and making sense of ideas. Differentiated instruction is a teaching theory based on the premise that instructional approaches should vary and be adapted in relation to individual and diverse students in classrooms (Tomlinson, 2001). The model of differentiated instruction requires teachers to be flexible in their approach to teaching and adjust the curriculum and presentation of information to learners…

Similar to my work as a colleague, educator and leader in my challenge to bring value to those I work with and serve, in my life as an Aunt I realize that the level or type of engagement (differentiated) is grounded in achieving equal value and opportunity. Consider the following example:

Last week a former colleague contacted me and after offering a couple examples of possible solutions for her/him and her/his current colleagues and leaders to consider this ended my email response: You know I kind of have a dog in the fight only in that I want the best for outstanding faculty members like… without really having a dog in the fight. This underscores the focus of bringing value to every engagement with others. As an educator and leader I want to do whatever I can to provide opportunities for current and former students and colleagues to be successful.

As I was writing this there was a story about the Rosie the Riveters on one of the morning news shows (video clip here) which included the following message, “I’m going to tell my daughter that her great grandmother… opened the door for her to be able to do whatever she sets her mind to.” This is the value that I want to continue to offer these kids and my colleagues; that is, my goal is to do whatever I can to provide them the opportunity to be able to do whatever they put their minds to.

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Curry, Ann. (12.24.2012). Real-life Rose the Riveters reminisce about WWII. The Today Show on NBC. Accessed online http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/50288752#50288752 on 12.24.2012.

Hall, T., Strangman, N., and Meyer, A. (Updated on 11.2.09; 1.14.11). Differentiated Instruction and Implications for UDL Implementation. Accessed 12.24.2012 online from the National Center on Accessible Instructional Materials here.

Our mission at Studer Education is to provide students with a great place to learn, teachers with a great place to teach, and parents with confidence that their children are getting a great education. To do this we work with school boards, leaders, and teachers to apply Evidence-Based continuous improvement processes and the principles from How to Lead Teachers to Become Great in their districts to get the best student learning results and create results-oriented school cultures. Visit us online at http://studereducation.com. Studer Education is a division of Studer Group, a recipient of the 2010 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.