Teaching in the Margins: What Is It?

Think about the term “margin”. It’s the part of a written source where the text stops and the blank space of the page starts, right? Well, what if I told you margins can also be involved in the classroom? And no, I don’t mean in the textbooks used. I mean they’re used as a strategy for exemplary teaching. How you may ask? Well, allow me to elaborate.

When you think of the margins of a book, what makes them the margins? The text in the middle of the page, of course. Just like in a book, teaching in the margins requires there to be teaching in the text, as well. Teaching in the core text refers to the teaching practices that come to mind when you think of a classroom. This includes written tests, homework, lectures, etc.

However, teaching in the margins is a more complicated task. This requires going beyond the core teaching strategies and filling up that blank space with new and creative ideas. This might mean taking your class outside to a riverbank and exploring how life grows. It might mean doing an experiment where nobody knows what will happen in the end, because that is how true science works.

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This YouTube video explains what the margins are and shows examples of what teaching in the margins might involve.

Teaching in the margins is not easy. It requires critical thinking and planning and a whole lot of extra desire to make your class a wonderful experience for your children. It is important to remember, however, that teaching in the margins is different from teachable moments.

Teaching in the margins involves planning. It is a well thought out process that is still your teaching strategy. A teachable lesson, however, is one that comes up unexpectedly. Maybe your class pet hamster starts having babies in the middle of the lecture. You could turn this into a teachable moment by bringing your students over to observe and explaining the process of life and how the offspring will grow. Teachable moments involve making the most of a pop up situation.

This YouTube video explains helps to shed some light on teachable moments. While it is aimed at young children, it can also be applied to your high school classroom.

In my future classroom, I hope to make “going to the margins” a priority in my classroom. I want to be a memorable teacher, not for giving kids a class that they dread, but for making learning special and unique. And in my opinion, one of the only ways to make learning an experience as such is to go to the margins. I believe that all teachers should educate themselves in teaching in the margins and involve that in their classrooms.

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1 Comment

  1. Great post Emma!

    I thought your comments about being a memorable teacher by making your classroom unique and special, and certainly not a dread. I was just wondering if you had any particular teachers from your life that you would model your classroom after, or borrow aspects of their classroom?

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