Teaching to the Highest Ideal

It seems to me that a teacher’s goal should be to teach to what an ‘ideal’ child of that grade level should achieve. This will rapidly expose where each child is relative to that goal. What I wrestle with is where to find the bandwidth (student time plus teacher time) to remediate children below target levels. The class days I observe are full to the brim with academics, the arts & PE, recess, and lunch.If I assume, as I think is true, that each of these activities is essential, I run out of hours in the school day. My role model, Rafe Esquith, runs before school and Saturday study sessions. I am prepared to do the same, though I don’t know if these sessions should be mandatory (or if that’s even allowed) and what to do with children who won’t or can’t participate.

The next option is to run remediation during the non-academic school day. I really hesitate to do this. The school day is already rigorous to the reasonable limit or beyond. Additionally, there is more to be learned at school than academics. Taking the slower achievers out of the social pool might well create a negative cascade for them. On the other hand, it might be possible to do it in a way that being in this ‘study group’ might become a sort of badge of pride (pride of achievement).

Finally, it is possible to remediate during the day’s academic time. This could be done by tiering students, having each group doing work appropriate to their level. I could work with the students most in need of help while other groups could work with other adults or independently. Clearly, this is a necessary part of the solution. But unless the faster children aren’t working on academics, I don’t see how substantial catching up happens.

To conclude, it seems to me that the best way to go is to expect each child to achieve ‘ideal’ learning and to remediate with a combination of out of school time, free time and academic time to ensure each child gets the time and attention to achieve expectations.


Esquith, R. (2003). There are no shortcuts. New York, NY: Pantheon Books.

Esquith, R. (2007). Teach like your hair’s on fire: The methods and madness inside room 56. New York, NY: Viking.

Esquith, R. (2009). Lighting their fires: Raising extraordinary children in a mixed-up, muddled-up, shook-up world. New York, NY: Viking Adult.


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