Teaching Robert 3

There is a danger of imposing our ways of teaching on the student without understanding what the student already knows and how he/she knows it.  This might result in the “object” of our educational efforts to loose what he/she had known  before we started to push our knowledge on him/her and  not grasping our “ways” of doing things.  For instance, there are few approaches to teaching a child to subtract large numbers with regrouping.  One is to just go one step at a time as needed.  To take one out of tens place and change it into ten ones and so on.  The other is to analyze the whole minuend and do all the regrouping at once before subtraction.  This is what my son attempted to do while working with me.  Except I didn’t grasp that fact and consequently I tried to stop him every time he was trying to do just that. I “made” him to subtract the way I was teaching him.   Since he couldn’t explain to me what was his method he ended up confused and I had much harder job of teaching him “my way” than I would have if I understood his approach.

Those problems are, in my opinion, very frequent.  They do not apply exclusively to children with special needs.  They are frequent in education of typical children and result in reduced performance on tests and maybe later in life.  It is an imperative that teachers realize that what children know and how they know it might affect the results of teaching.

Those problems, however, have much more serious consequences in education of children with special needs as it is much harder to understand what the students know already and HOW they know it.

This post refers to my latest observations.  Observations I made not only of Robert’s difficulties in learning, but also of my arrogant attitudes toward teaching. These attitudes  do not give “an object” of my endeavors any credit for thinking independently.  And consequently they lead to learned helplessness.  The child stops trusting his own thinking and continues to look for clues in the environment. And those clues might be very misleading.

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