Friday, 12 February 2016

Having said so much about 7-year-old Raman and his challenges in reading, I feel it is important to share this episode that happened during remedial class this week. It reiterates my view that learning is not at all about reading & writing.

Raman was given this worksheet that you see below.

The instruction had to be read out to him by his teacher and explained to him in Tamil.

 Then Raman proceeded to work on it independently. The first row was a cone, so he drew a hut having a conical roof, a cone ice cream & a birthday cake with a cone shaped icing (though to us it looks like a paper boat). Once he came to the second row, he gave it a lot of thought. The first figure was very easy for him. Then after a while he drew the second & the third.

He asked his teacher to take a guess. She said that the first one looked like a ring! He said,” No ma’am. It is a bid laddu with one kismis (dry grape) & one cashew nut!!

The second one was quite tricky! Teacher guessed that it was a bottle filled with pebbles! His answer was that it was a glass hundi (piggy bank) with round coins!

The last one of course was easy. He said that it was a police man’s paunch!

Originality, spontaneity, imagination & creativity of a child with so much potential!

This is an outstanding example of right brained thinking that children are so good at. Looking at things from different perspectives & making unusual & quite often hilarious connections is second nature to them.

It is my sincere hope that over emphasis on academics does not destroy their natural curiosity and spontaneity.
Yesterday after a long time, I sat to do remediation for one of our younger students, Raman aged 7 years. Raman is a charming, smart young boy diagnosed with LD- dyslexia along with severe ADHD. He joined our remedial pullout program.

He was reading sentences at the first grade level. After reading the word list at the top of the page, Raman started yawning. Eyes began to water. He became restless and fidgety within the first few minutes. He began answering every question posed by the other teachers to their respective children. He kept turning this way and that way, his attention on every other thing except the printed word. He was so distracted that even letter identification became a problem. By the time we finished, he was totally exhausted in spite of the two toilet breaks taken in between. This entire episode lasted for all of 10 minutes.

Over the years this behavior has fascinated me. A child with so much prior knowledge & an active mind struggling to decode the printed word. The frustration & fatigue the child faces can be very demotivating. This can easily develop in to a reading block and lead to severe learning resistance later or during the school years.

My challenge as a remedial teacher has been to see that the child remains motivated & develops a positive attitude towards reading. He has to develop self-confidence and believe in himself that he can. My definition of teaching would be: facilitating learning & helping the child achieve his potential. Keeping this in mind, my approach would have to be -Here is a child with immense potential, unlimited curiosity, eagerness and enthusiasm to know & understand the world. How do I teach him so that he will make/ enjoy learning a life long journey?

Teaching should always be about the child and not about either the teacher or the syllabus.