An Interesting Perspective: Left of Center

Howdy Bloggers,

Welcome back to the second installment of An interesting Perspective. This week we will be discussing the idea of teaching in the margins, and the importance behind this concept.

Image result for tree farmImage result for rainforest

Take a look at the pictures above. What are their similarities? What are their differences? Which one would you enjoy being in more? Which feels more engaging? Which feels more exciting?

These questions and ideas are applicable to a classroom, just as they are applicable to the pictures themselves. Students will enjoy an atmosphere that goes above and beyond the norm. So many teachers stress about covering all the material and forget to dive deeper into the content that presents itself. But why don’t teachers dive into that content?

The best teaching occurs in the moment. Whether it be a slew of hurricanes, a solar eclipse, or a newfound creepy crawly in the room, their implementation within the classroom can provide a new and interesting way for students to look at and apply the content they are learning to the “real world.”

Going beyond the norm (also known as the center) is when you start to get into the margin. The margin is an area where things are more diverse, and you never truly know what lies around the corner. This is another reason why teaching in the margins is difficult. You never know where the discussion or activity will lead, and that uncertainty can be somewhat intimidating, especially to new teachers. With this said, it is essential that teachers take a step outside their comfort zone to give their students the best chance at mastering the material.

Advantages of teaching in the margins:

  • Better understanding of material
  • Allow for more fluid discussion and questions
  • Reinforces the material in a way that is more relatable to students
  • Enhance students’ interpersonal skills
  • Allow for personal and academic exploration
  • Promotes curiosity

Image result for student field course

Below is a brief list of some marginal teaching examples:

  • Observing a natural phenomenon (i.e. Solar Eclipse)
  • Making a model cell
  • Constructing a three dimensional Biome
  • Having a class-wide competition
  • Documenting the processes that the creepy crawly in the corner of the room undergoes

Margins vs. Teachable Moments


  • Spontaneous or planned
  • Explorable
  • Creative
  • Content driven

Teachable Moments

  • Spontaneous
  • One-time occurrence
  • Classroom catalyst

However, to have these margins, there must be a center. As stated previously, the center is often what is considered the “norm.” This may be general instruction such as lecture or discussion. Without this center, there would be no margin. This is because in order to have a margin, there needs to be a center, otherwise a margin cannot exist.

Finding that balance between being in the center and venturing out into the margins is what distinguishes an exemplary teacher from one in the middle of the pack. 


  1. Hayley,
    The ending thought about balance is so critical. You can’t have margins without a center. I thought the household wiring image was important because it showcased how the things they were learning are applicable to their lives in the future. It gives the students real, relatable practice.

  2. I love the reoccurring title you keep with your blogs to showcase their interrelation as well as your approaches towards teaching. I like that you included the two photos similar to our in class discussion since it was a clear and interesting way to make connections to what the “margins” really are. I liked the household wiring experiment you included since it is practical, relatable, and sparks interest in students.We actually both ended our blogs with the same ending thought. The balance between the margins and the center is what will make student learning optimal in the classroom so as we discuss margins, it is always important to never completely leave our the “center”. Good job on your blog!

  3. Dillon,
    Sorry for the confusion! It would have probably been better for me to move the differentiating factors of margins and teachable moments to an earlier section in the post.
    Creating a balance between the center and the margins is absolutely essential. Being able to find that balance may not always easy, but it is necessary!

  4. Naomi,
    Yes, I agree! There won’t just be one standard ratio of marginal to central teaching. It will be dependent on many factors, including available resources and relevance to the topic at hand. Some topics may be much more marginal, while others may be more central. The balance will be different for each and every lesson, but it is critical that teachers be able to adapt and adjust to that changing balance.

  5. I’m glad you clarified what you defined as a teachable moment and what is in the margins, Billy. The earlier parts made them sound similar, but you made it clear of their differences! I love that you emphasized the importance of creating a balance between the center and the margins, since many would think going into the margins as much as possible is the only way to teach or to even never go into the center. I love your examples and also your reasons of why the margins are so important! Nice work!

  6. Billy,
    I loved your description of having a balance between the margins and the center-focused classroom. I think something that is really important is finding the correct balance, and the correct balance may be more margins and less curriculum-centered. Just because you have more margins for one unit doesn’t mean it isn’t balanced–it’s just in need of a different amount of margin teaching! Also, I loved your examples for margin teaching. All good thoughts; good job!!

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