Albert Einstein is recorded to have said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
This is exactly what our educational system does. We expect pupils to achieve things that they clearly do not have the ability to. I am a firm believer in setting up pupils to succeed and not to fail. What benefit is it to you, the teacher, if your pupils fail more than succeed? I am reminded of a picture I saw recently. In it, an examiner lined up a monkey, an elephant, a dog and a gold fish. Then he said, “for a fair selection, everyone has to take this same exam: please climb that tree!” I laughed as I grasped the hidden meaning of the picture.
Let’s face it, not all children are the same. Every child is unique and every child matters. Not all children will show the same levels of concentration or achieve at exactly the same level throughout an academic year. This is further heightened if a child has some level of disability that hinders their progress in learning.
Children are born with an innate ability to learn. However we must face up to the fact that there are some children who have Special educational needs and disabilities that affect their ability to learn. Effective teachers must look out for these group of children, understand their needs and reach out to meet those needs. The underlying aims for such a teacher must be to overcome learning barriers by responding to the learning needs of the children and set suitable learning challenges.
In other to do this successfully, the teacher must
- Take an interest in the pupil’s interests
- Notice when pupils are feeling low
- Give support, when needed
- Encourage effort and independence
- Talk and listen to pupils and take account of what they say
- Inspire confidence and trust
- Have positive expectations
This is the starting point. As a teacher does the above and identifies the specific need, there must be a clear strategy for the provision of need extra or different help as required.