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Are teachers the problem when a child does not learn?

         After 30 years of tutoring special education children, I have decided that all academic problems are mine, not the students. Thus, I analyzed what has already been provided in detail to determine what does and does not work. For example, children have different learning styles that are not rigid, but flexible. Each of us may be good at a tactile sport but not efficient at a sport requiring gross motor skills. Or a student may read silently better than aloud, yet prefer to read aloud to younger siblings. Another child may draw a concept better than listening to a teacher's lecture. Learning by both visual and auditory processing may be best for others, who do not prefer writing. Tactile learners can use both visual and auditory means for success.
         I was talking with a student about his needs who listened attentively, yet was not making progress. I switched to a visual approach, placing my directions on 3 x 5 cards taped to his folders, on his desk, and the shift was remarkable! He needed a visual, not a verbal approach to learn. According to the Orton-Gillingham approach, our students learn best from the VAK (Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic-Tactile) system. When these learning preferences are presented together, well integrated, and repeated in a variety of academic lessons, learning occurs and is remembered.
          Spontaneously, a student who thinks he learns best visually, can be reminded of a skill that is verbal and be encouraged to integrate that process with a tactile movement into a new series of tasks. Increasing awareness of our strengths widens the range of abilities one can bring to the learning environment. A teacher who is curious, asking her students to think through the steps to a problem, rather than teaching a subject, may engender a creative child.
          Actually, the more we learn about brain plasticity, the more teachers realize, there is no child who cannot learn. As teachers we need to explore alternative ways to teach. When low functioning children with different levels of learning disabilities ranging from retardation or the autism spectrum learn to speak, read, write, and do math, then a professional who only teaches the learning disabled may wish to observe one of those classrooms to witness the progress that is made. Some children just need more scaffolding, high-structured repetition over a longer period of time to learn, which is not often given in a regular classroom curriculum. There are educational classroom activities to support repetitive learning that integrate the VAK approach besides homework pages.
          I also involve the parents in providing flash cards, computer programs or an iPAD with academic games for follow-up practice, explaining that the three-prong approach helps working memory to transfer to long-term memory for later recall. Teaching strategies to children, parents and other teachers is a long-term goal for each of us to reach our highest learning potential.
Connie W.

Woodbridge tutors