Providing a Solid Grip

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          During recent conversations with my student teachers, they expressed concerns about children in their classrooms who seem lost and clueless about what is happening in reading, math, and other subjects.  They are genuinely concerned about their little charges.  You will find these struggling little children in almost every classroom in the US.  Many of these children have not been given a solid grasp of concepts and the confident feeling that they can be successful.  With the exception of children who have true learning difficulties, most of these children are in this predicament because of the lack of individual support.  The issues that create this scenario for a child could include:  the child couldn’t learn from or adapt to the teaching style of her teacher(s); her major basic needs are not being met at home or school; a lack of positive role models or encouragement; and unrealistic expectations for the child’s ability or age.  Many teachers forget how truly lost a child can be without the solid grasp of academic content and a grasp that she can be successful.  I remember once telling a small reading group in my kindergarten classroom that the letter ‘A’ says /a/.  One little girl looked at me with great concern and said, “I didn’t hear it say anything!”   
We all know what it is like to be ‘lost’ during a discussion, a book, a movie, or an explanation.  This is much like the feeling a child has when you are discussing concepts the child does not understand.  We teachers need to make sure the child has a firm grasp on concepts to keep her from falling into the trap of mentally ‘checking out’ or adopting the feeling that she cannot understand or be successful.  I was so impressed with one of my candidates the other day when I was visiting her classroom.  She sat down with one of her first grade children.  I overheard her say to the little boy, “Looking at what is on this paper, tell me what you understand about this.  That way I can help you with what is confusing you.  What do you know about it?”  The child began to explain a few things, but it was evident that he was behind in the class discussion.  By the time the student teacher was finished working with him, he acted so confident and dove into the task at hand. I’m sure he will need additional support, but I was so proud of the student teacher helping him know that he had some knowledge and that he could learn anything else he needed to know.  That is exactly what I mean when I say we need to make sure the child has a solid grasp on things to keep the child from falling.  Many children are on classroom monkey bars and struggling to maintain their grasp.  Let’s do all we can to help provide the grasp that will keep them from falling.

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3 responses

  1. John,

    That young teacher hit a home run. I remember so much of my experiences in early elementary grades. To this day, I can remember each of the teachers who were able to reach all of the students and me. Our charge is to figure out how to encourage more interaction like what you observed.

    1. Thanks, Gavin. It really is true and I get impatient watching these little kids falling through the cracks at such an early age.

  2. Michelle Martucci | Reply

    Thank you for this very insightful insight! I agree that the students today need many supports for success!

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