A long, long time ago in a land of brick school buildings with desks lined up in rows and teachers wagging yardsticks for attention, I was one of many students at East School, a kindergarten through eighth grade grammar school. Sitting in a straight-backed chair, which was attached to my desk, I was in a reading group with six other students. I propped up my red Open Highways book, a basal reader that was a staple of many reading programs in the 50s . . . or was that the 60s?
I distinctly remember wishing I were in the other basal reader - the green one that the robins reading group used. I wasn’t even a blue jay, the name of the second reading group; I was a crow; that was the name of my reading group, the third reading group.
I knew I was in the slowest reading group. The name of the group was a dead give-away, and it was pretty obvious, one could tell by the slow speed and cumbersome pronunciation with which members of my group read. I was pretty self-conscious, heck I still remember it 44 years later. Maybe this experience is what caused me to be a proponent of heterogeneous grouping. Now, working in a school where children are sectioned in multi-aged groupings is my idea of a safe, sane, and sound educational practice. It makes sense to have children of differing ages, abilities, and skills in the same classroom because children grow at different speeds – fast and slow – at different stages of their lives.
I have grown to rely on Dr. Montessori’s philosophy and pedagogy that look at children in three-year developmental stages. Children need that time for freedom of growth without fear of not meeting a rigid predetermined standard. Too often we confine our children to single years as we ask them to perform intellectually, emotionally, and physically. “Not reading by the end of first grade?” “Didn’t make the travel soccer squad?” “She would rather go to the movies with mom and dad instead of the middle school dance?” Children have many years in which to grow, learn, and develop. It is up to us as parents and teachers to give them ample encouragement and time.
There are no crows here, only birds feathering their own nests, in their own fashion, at their own pace.