The Road Less Traveled: Teaching in the Margins


What does teaching in the margins mean? To really understand the concept of teaching in the margins, you’ve got to learn a few things first;

  • Margins only exist in comparison to the center.
  • Margins are found where the outside world meets the center
  • Margins are where the truly engaging, thought provoking, life changing, learning can happen

How do you get to the margins?

You follow your students. Students are REALLY good at getting to the margins. They know what they are curious about. They are embedded in the outside world. Have an open conversation and let them pull you out of the center. Take currents events and link them to the content. Is there some strange weather event happening? Is there some recent discovery that excites you or your students? EVERYTHING IS SCIENCE. Make it your lesson.

This is a TEDx Talk from someone who I really believe understands teaching in the margins.

“Kids get to study things that they are passionate about instead of telling them things they have to learn every single day. This really gives kids ownership of their learning, and makes it very relevant to them” -Kayla Delzer

Everyone is passionate about something. When you have open conversations with your students, you can learn their passions and engage them in the learning process.

Teachable Moments vs. Teaching in the Margins

It’s easy to confuse the two. Here’s the biggest difference;

Teaching in the margins is a long term strategy. Teaching in the margins is often planned although it can be flexible.

Teachable moments can often happen while in the margins but they can happen in the center as well. Teachable moments are short term moments in time where a lesson can be learned. You can’t plan for teachable moments. When they happen, you’ve got to seize the opportunity.









When you spend year after year teaching the same material the same way, you WILL get bored, and the kids will notice. Boredom is infectious, but so is excitement. Teaching in the margins and taking a step out of your comfort zone will invigorate your teaching and bring the energy back to the classroom. Be flexible.

Get excited about leaving the center

Jump with both feet. Get a good running start. Don’t be afraid of making a bit of a splash on your way to the margins



  1. Peter, I would like to start by saying I love the last thing you said on your blog! “Jump with both feet. Get a good running start. Don’t be afraid of making a bit of a splash on your way to the margins” this just makes me feel like I should dive right into the margins. Also, I believe that some teachers are too worried to leave the center and explore the margins. Your explanation of the margins is spot on. As a teacher how do you think you will teach in the margins and how do you think your students will react? Also, how will you show other teachers or the principal that teaching in the margins creates an explosion of learning?

  2. Hello Peter,
    Some of the points you make in this blog remind me of my favorite quote: “You can either be comfortable or courageous, but not both.” This quote is very important to me because I have been an introvert all my life and teaching is how I get out of my comfort zone and become courageous. It is not easy and teaching in the margins is for sure getting out of one’s comfort zone! I think that student lead classrooms are the best. Before I took this classroom, I had no idea of how to engage students. I taught religion for two years and would lecture. You could see the students were bored and not engaged. That was one of the criticisms the teacher I worked with gave me. I thought at the time that she was being unfair; now I know that she did have a point and how to engage my learners. One of my ideas for high school is having the students come up with questions at the beginning of the unit about what they want to learn. They write these questions down in their notebook, we answer them as a class throughout the process, and they jot down notes or pictures in their notebooks. How does that sound to you? Do you have any ideas? I like how well you describe what it is like teaching in the margins and your analogies. I agree with you that teaching in the margins could be hard at first, but is worth it in the end. The only thing I would maybe add to your blog is lesson plans or more examples of teaching in the margins. I like how you space out your sections and apply headings. I made the mistake of not applying headings to my last blog. Great post!
    Delaina 🙂

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