Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

2nd Pathway-Instructional Tolerance

I absolutely HATE the name of the 2nd pathway:

Tolerance, as defined by Wikipedia is “Tolerance or toleration is a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.”

As defined by Wiktionary, the first definition is the ability to endure pain or hardship; endurance. The second definition is similar to Wikipedia’s.

However, if you compare the definitions to ours (found on our website here), I’m not seeing where “tolerance” is the best choice of naming that kind of support.

Instructional Tolerance: Supports a learning environment where active, engaged learners routinely choose from a variety of learning spaces, collaborative and individual activities, and technology tools, including their own personal devices; values students having opportunities to learn best practices essential to entering contemporary learning and work environments and enables students to sustain an open mindset and skillset in the use of evolving technology tools.

Our definition talks about learning environment.  In my ideal learning environment, I am not tolerated–I am accepted, honored, pushed, supported, questioned, defended, and lots of other things–but I hope simply being tolerated is not one of them.

In our definition, we talk about choice, collaboration, open mindsets and valuing students. That, to me, doesn’t say tolerance. How are we valuing someone if we simply tolerate them?

But, beyond the fact I think it’s misnamed, I certainly buy into our definition, especially the open mindset and active, engaged learners.

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5 thoughts on “2nd Pathway-Instructional Tolerance

  1. Paula,

    I believe that the use of tolerance as in engineering is relevant to this pathway .. where variability is okay within certain limits that sustain a responsive community of learners. For example, if a teacher wants kids to all be seated and listening during teacher talk or at their tables to write and allows for no potential variance from being seated, then there’s no room for kids to choose to stand or even work on the floor when they need to. Tolerance could mean, in this context, reprogramming ourselves to allow others the freedom to vary. In engineering, every screw doesn’t have to be perfectly identical to still be fine to use.

    This pathway is a twist on the engineering design principle, I think. At least that’s the way I’ve contextualized it when talking with educators. For me, it’s not about saying “I’ll tolerate you, but I might not like what you do or who you are.” It’s about saying, “As a teacher, I believing offering a variance range in a variety of ways from seating to tool use, to project choices, to BYOD to who you work with – or not- ensures that more kids find pathways to learning success.” For me, it’s about creating opportunities for kids to have a bandwidth of choices and learning how to negotiate what they need when they need it within some boundaries that communities need to sustain functionality.

    I think the biggest challenge we have as parents and educators is figuring out how much of a bandwidth of variability can exist in a learning space or our home before it potentially becomes counterproductive. My bandwidth was much lower when I started teaching because of my fear of losing control. It widened considerably as I learned that children can move, talk, experiment, choose and the community not only still functions but learns from and through variance in what individuals need and want to do to learn.

    Words are laden with meaning from the context of our own experiences and those we know from others. Words spelled the same but with multiple meanings (ahh, homonyms) can lead to real misconceptions. This is a great example because to simply tolerate a situation or person doesn’t imply a positive perspective. But, when an educator understands and embraces that a range of variability makes sense in learning that feels a lot better to me than having no bandwidth of variability at all as still exists in some teaching places.

    Thanks for writing about these and reflecting on what each means to you. From my observations and interactions this week, it seems as if people are engaging in some healthy conversation, and consideration of topics that elicit deeper discussion than how kids did on the most recent tests. And, as with all of our work – everything is a draft that can be further developed and revised.

    • Pam, I absolutely agree it’s about variance and opportunities and choice and bandwidth and boundaries and ambiguity, in some ways. And, as you said, tolerance has different connotations depending on your life experiences and can be seen as “not positive.”. Trying to use tolerance as a positive thing in a world where way too many people have been marginalized is just wrong, in my mind.

      As educators, we should try to find the most descriptive language so that parents, teachers and our wigglers and walkers and pen clicker/pencil tappers, fiddlers and all kinds of learners can feel honored for who they are, not tolerated for how they act.

      I welcome collective conversations and revisions to these definitions based on collaborative work under your leadership, as always.

  2. @Paula- Thanks for sharing your processing of these pathways. I’m with you when it comes to how important it is that the language we use means exactly what we intend it to mean. Even incorporating the engineering concept, “tolerance” doesn’t quite sound like it fully captures the essence of this concept. Look forward to continuing to find that language with you.

    On a different note, I seem to remember a draft version of this post ending with you seeking feedback on future posts related to these pathways. I’m wondering if it might be interesting to take the posts from the “opposite” direction- instead of starting w/the definitions & then giving examples, walk us through a way that you or someone you know has incorporated one of these ideas into practice.

    For example, your last post about comfort & choice focused on the concrete ways you have been incorporating opportunities for students to make choices about when, where, and how they learn. It made for a really nice read. I think the more we can put our ideas into those kinds of “concrete” stories & examples, the more likely it is for us to come to some shared understanding of what they mean.

    As always, enjoyed your post, your writing, and the opportunity to learn w/you.

    • Yeah, Tony, I decided to take out the “OK, I’m bored….” But I certainly appreciate you circling back to respond!

      Tomorrow’s, on number 3, does a bit of what you suggest. Thanks for the recommendation.

      I actually started this blog so I would push myself to be more structured and describe, at least 3 times a week, something that occurs in my classroom or school. I’m just waiting for school to start and to begin working with kids! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Championing Learners | Amplifying Minds

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