The first thing that jumped out at me was the statement that we have to work with the kids at their level. Teddy Roosevelt once said "do what you can, with what you have, where you are". I think about that a lot in teaching. They bring up blaming the teacher before-well, I definitely can't do that next year, since their former teacher was....me! :)
I have to admit-I'm not sure I ever learned about Vygotsky. If I did, the memory of that is long gone. But I was happy to be reacquainted with his theories again because it gave me a lot to think about. How am I going to use these concepts to help drive my instruction? I already think I'm pretty good at differentiating, but I definitely could be better. Especially when it comes to workstations. I don't think I pay enough attention to guided instruction. When I do a whole group lesson, we move on to more independent work, I think I kind of skip that step.
One thing that was reassuring is the social aspect they bring up about learning. I definitely include times when the kids turn to a partner and discuss or work in groups. We discuss a theme in ethics every day that way-they turn to a partner and then come back and share with the group. I'm teaching summer school now and have a variety of kids from different classrooms and it amazes me how they are so used to just sitting at their desks doing worksheets, reading passages. I'm not judging anyone else, but I can't teach that way and certainly these kids aren't learning that way because they are there for reinforcement of their skills.
Anyway, definitely a lot of food for thought!