Supporting Learning Is Not Cheating
We all have unique ways of learning, most often referred to as style. We have preferences for how we take in new information and how we relay that information to others. Sometimes a student’s struggle in a traditional school setting is a matter of style. Most students are flexible and can work and learn in a variety of styles. But it may be difficult to impossible to work in a style that is not the student’s natural style when under stress of any kind or because of a physical limitation.
It’s important that the child’s teacher understand the student’s unique style, build on the strengths of this style, and begin to stretch the student’s style when he/she is ready. Everyone has a unique way of gaining and processing information. Our brains have unique connections, memories and experiences that affect how we add new information. So how we do that is different for everyone. Some people have a lot of flexibility; no matter how information is presented to them, they find it easy to store it and retrieve it for others. Some lack that flexibility. There are many reasons that we lack flexibility and the reasons are unimportant. What is important is that we listen when a child tells us what they need. Some children need to talk things out. Some children need to run around in circles while they listen to you. Some children spend a lot of time thinking or writing.
If your child needed glasses to see the board to read, you would not hesitate to get the glasses. But if your child needed someone to help them write down their ideas, because it’s difficult for them to write and hold onto that idea at the same time, would that seem like cheating to you? However, that is exactly what should be done. It isn’t any different than wearing glasses to see the board. All of the assistance we give a student helps them achieve at a higher level, working harder than they would without it. Without the assistance, they give up and actually put forth less effort. Maybe the question we should be asking ourselves is, are we cheating them if we don’t help them?
I have found over the years that children are very clear about what their learning needs are. They demonstrate by moving when you read to them or asking you to be quiet while they’re concentrating or breaking pencils when trying to do a worksheet that’s too hard. They communicate in the ways that they know, to get adults to pay attention to what they need. We need to find a way to help them get their needs met. They desperately want to learn. They want to do what the adults around them want them to do. They want to grow up and do the things that you do. You only have to listen and pay attention.