Marching To The Margins

Audio Transcript

What does it mean to “Teach in the Margins?”

“Teaching in the Margins” recognizes that harmony is not found in a homogeneous society, but rather, is found within that beautiful chaos found naturally in the margins of the world. As educators when we set up shop in these dynamic environments, we find it is host to a much more enriching form of education. The margins make us question the norms around us while appreciating the uniqueness we find lying at the periphery.

How is that any different than “Teachable Moments?”

So-called “Teachable Moments” reinforce the hierarchal dynamic of Teacher over Student. Instead, when we teach in the margins we recall that learning is lifelong and that we may learn just as much as our students.

As we uncover the collaboration inherently facilitated while teaching in the margins, we’ll further develop meaningful relationships with students.

Where can we find the margins in our own classroom?

“…the richness in activity, meaning, and responsiveness occuring in the margins may not be detected easily. Observers must delve into the margins to sense the full value of these diverse places.”

Dr. Ann MacKenzie

The margins we find in nature can be much more evident than those margins we find in our classroom. When you are searching for margins within your classroom, look for…

  • Diversity of Ideas
  • Interest in the Unknown
  • Genuine Enjoyment in the Material
Nadya Mason speaking at TED on the importance of risk-taking and curiosity.

A good example of “Teaching in the Margins”

Glenda McGregor and Martin Mills relay their qualitative research here regarding the value of experience gained from working at “alternative education sites.” Many of the surveyed educators expressed concern for the effects of mainstream education on the wellbeing of students — as well as the wellbeing of the educators themselves. These sites are clearly in the margins and provide meaningful insight into our students and ourselves.

And finally…

Once again, I feel we could all learn a valuable lesson in inquiry and awe from Calvin.

Michael Mischler


  1. Hey Anthony!
    I appreciate your comments about the blog layout because I’m really proud of it. With regard to your constructive criticism; I totally understand where you’re coming from — and after reading the other blog posts I can see that mine feels a bit light in comparison. I hadn’t thought to use the list as anything more than that, but I feel like it could be a good separator for subsections of ideas. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Hey Steven,
    I really value the notes you left for me on this blog! Like you said — fostering curiosity is key! In order to do this in the classroom, I plan to include flexible, inquiry-based assignments with most lessons. Additionally, I think I’ll always bring things back to the center at the end of each unit in order to recap with students what we discovered together.

  3. Hey Grace,
    I appreciate the compliments on my post layout as I feel a clean and engaging layout is a great way to keep the reader involved. I plan on taking this thought process into the development of my teaching materials — as I feel boring materials can only lead to bored students. I don’t know if I have a worded response to students who say they can “just google it” off the top of my head — but I definitely agree with how important it is to show students the value of acquiring knowledge themselves.

  4. Hey Ellie,
    Thanks so much for your supportive comments! I always loved the show “How It’s Made” as a kid, so I’ve thought about how to adapt that format into a lesson plan — perhaps with the option for the students to make a video. I think additionally it is important to teach students about how limited many of the resources used to make electronics are — and how the production of these electronics can lead to civil rights issues.

  5. Hey Michael,

    I like the layout of your blog it really grabs the attention of the viewer. Unfortunately, for constructive criticism, I have to say that it seems that you make points on teaching in the margins but do not really provide enough support to articulate those points. I felt that you may have moved on from statements a bit too early in explaining them and wanted to be genuine. Overall, I think the post lacked examples of teaching in the margins, and while the TED talk was good to include, it discussed more about the benefits of teaching in the margins rather than showing us teaching in the margins. So my question would be how will you teach in the margins in your future earth science classes?

  6. Following up with my reply I think a question I have for you would be how do you think we could promote curiosity in the classroom while still allowing for structured learning?

  7. Hey Michael!
    I really enjoyed reading your post about margins. It helped me understand what it really means to be in the “margins” of teaching. I think it’s important as teachers that we encourage our students to enter into the margins of learning and away from the central control that can dominate the learning experience. I think that using the student’s curiosity is a great entryway into allowing our students to expand their knowledge.

  8. Hi Michael!
    First, I really love the layout of your post. All of the colored boxes made it really easy to read and brought the reader’s attention to the key points and ideas. I also thought that the TED talk was informative- I liked her distinction between discovering things for yourself and looking them up on the Internet. I think so many students don’t see the value in learning things for themselves because they can “just Google it”. What might you say to students who say that?

  9. Hi Michael!

    I appreciated how you included what to look for when trying to teach in the margins. I also really enjoyed your ted talk, I thought it was an interesting supplement to the rest of your post. I do think it could be a really interesting inquiry project to explore smartphones and how they work; students could look into things like how they’re made, what they’re made with, ect. You could even connect exploring technology to your enjoyment of setting up a new keyboard. Do you have any thoughts on how to expand this idea?

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