In science, the Goldilocks zone refers to an area that is just perfect for human life to inhabit. This means the distance from the closes star is the perfect distance compared to the size of the star so that human life form can be supported. The temperature is not too hot or too cold. In these zones water can exist. There is not a set distance from any star. It depends on the type of the star, how large and strong the star is, and the rotations of planets around the star will shape the Goldilocks zone.
I could not help as my husband was describing this phenomenon to me that it sounded a whole lot like the type of environment we try to create in the classroom. Teachers are trying find the Goldilocks zone for each of their students. The issue that we come across is that teachers are the star in the classroom and are trying to create Goldilocks zones for students that are in varying distances from the star. The teacher (star) is to provide the instructional pedagogy and practices for each student in the room. Teachers have personalities and ways that they teach best. Yet, we ask teachers to be able to change and adapt to the unique needs of every student in the classroom at all times. So the million dollar question is; how do we find the Goldilocks zone for all students?
Finding the Goldilocks zone requires us to first define exactly what the zone is . For scientist the Goldilocks Zone is a distance from the star that is habitability by humans and a place that water can exist. This is the same with students; developing essential learning targets for each unit that are written in student friendly terms. These learning targets should be developed from the content curriculum and decided on by the collaboration team and vertical alignment. In 7th grade math the team may decide as a whole that every student needs to master scientific notation and make this a learning target. If this collaboration team also meets with 8th and 9th grade math teams they will either determine this is an appropriate learning target or is not necessarily a requirement for 7th graders have mastered to have future success. From there the team can decide if it should be a requirement so that all students are on that zone. Goldilocks zone does not limit extra things, for instance extensions in the classroom to challenge students, but discusses the bare minimum that must be there. That is the role of defining essential standards and learning targets.
Regular Formative Assessments
Scientist have to run several tests on each planet they may feel is in the Goldilocks zone to determine if it meets all of the criteria. In teaching, students should be exposed to regular formative assessments to gauge their understanding and to test where they are at throughout the year.
Specific Research Based Interventions
When a student is failing to meet the grade level standards then we know that we are not in their Goldilocks zone. Therefore, the teacher must adjust and provide appropriate interventions to meet those needs of each student. The regular formative assessments should provide information on exactly what needs are being missed. From that data, the teacher then must look into research and evidence based interventions that work best. Scientist don’t start throwing out random solutions to a problem without having exhausted best practices first.
Ask for Help
The last piece of advise is to not be afraid to ask for help. If you are a new teacher or a teacher who has been doing this for 30 years there is no shame in asking for help if you are struggling to find a student’s Goldilocks zone. There are large teams of scientists working to find inhabitable planets in space, not just one scientist. When asking for help it doesn’t even have to be within your building or your content area. One of the best things about the internet is how it has grown every educators “Personal Learning Network” or PLN. Twitter is a great place to search hashtags or look for educational gurus and search their works. I know I have learned so much through my digital interactions. Whatever can help me reach every child is worth doing.
Good teaching practices are all around us. Resources are available to teachers who want to continue to be a life long learner and to reach all students. Every students’ Goldilocks zone can be and should be found.