In the last #cyberPD chat, one question was about ah-ha moments, and I had one this weekend.
Since the tail end of May I've been spending at least 30 minutes each morning running through physical-therapy exercises, part of life after knee surgery. In the middle of some lunge or squat or who knows what, I had this eureka observation: My physical therapist was acutely tuning in to my zone of proximal development. The ZPD was also a ZPT!
Simply regaining control of my left quadriceps was the first step, one that proved surprisingly hard to manage at first. The therapist resorted to electric stimulation and dry needling to jolt my quads. Once I could reliably engage those muscles on my own, variations on lifting just my leg's weight became the regimen's next order, as well as trying to bend the joint closer and closer to 90 degrees. When those tasks moved within reach, adding repetitions or weight bumped them a little farther out again. Thera-Bands, too, proved ingenious torture. Squatting, lunging, and wall sits came next. Now, I'm continuing those same exercises but with controlled twists or one leg at a time, testing my reconstructed ligament a bit more each day. In this case, teaching to the test (namely, a safe return to sport) feels decidedly okay.
I've been working in Lev Vygotsky's sweet spot through most of this experience, I realized. Neither bored, nor frustrated. I'm being challenged and stretched even as I'm experiencing enough success to stay motivated.
And then I plunged into Chapter Five in DIY Literacy, titled "Just for You: Tailoring Teaching to Meet Students' Needs." See the connection? DIY tools like demonstration notebooks, micro-progressions, teaching charts and bookmarks are all about locating this zone for each reader and writer. (For the record, it's a moving target!) Two statements on page 72 encapsulate this idea for me: "When we find ways to differentiate our teaching that conserve our energy, we are able to do more than just deliver our lessons... By giving students the tools they need, the instructor is helping the students to differentiate for themselves." My physical therapist has been doing this for me (thank you!), and I'm re-committing to doing this for my students.