I listened to Marie Rippel as she talked about teaching struggling learners. Now, none of my children have been classified as struggling learners – they are probably somewhere around average. However, there have been small areas that we have struggled in or certain concepts that were more difficult for them. There were times when I thought we were NEVER going to understand a concept. There have been times I have wanted to throw my hands up in frustration. We always eventually had a breakthrough but I nearly had a breakdown getting there.
So, I thought I could always use tips for when a concept is difficult and we’re trying so hard to have a light bulb moment of understanding but we’re just not getting it.
Marie tapped a song for us. She didn’t tell us what that song was. She just tapped along. We were supposed to guess the song. Well, I had no idea what that song could possibly be. She let us guess and very few people were able to guess the song correctly. She told us what the song was and then she tapped it again, allowing us to hear the rhythm after we already knew what the song would be. It was easy to sing along in your head after you knew what you were listening to.
Then she compared this to us teaching our children. As the parent we know the big picture; we know where we’re going with a concept and we know what the end result should be. It seems so easy for us to understand the topic and we don’t see why our child is struggling. But our children do not have the big picture background like we do. They are trying to learn piece-by-piece and some of those pieces might fit together more easily than others. Other pieces seem more difficult to fit into the puzzle of learning. When you are working on those hard pieces, remember that you have the big picture and your child is just learning little by little and they need some hand holding and help along the way.
I think I’ve just had a huge paradigm shift in my teaching approach. I never thought about the fact that I have the background and context that my children do not have yet. This explains why some concepts that seem so apparent and simple to me, are so very difficult for them. This was such a wonderful reminder to give them some grace, be patient, and try a new approach to help them see what I’m trying to teach them.