I got 1 confused pupil and 1 baffled teacher.
They say you never forget your first class. This is true. My first class was a group of 5-year-olds – a gorgeous and curious bunch – I could not have wished for a nicer introduction to the teaching world.
But… sometimes there are bigger lessons to learn. This is a true story – but names have been changed because the child is probably a grandfather by now (I’ve been doing this too long!)
Bob was a dog. He was a child physically but mentally he was a dog. He liked to run around on all fours, chew toys and… bark. If he just did the first two, he’s just being five. He wanted to nap in a dog basket. He wanted to sniff and lick things.
Okay, I’ve always been able to think outside the box, so pretty soon all maths was related to bones, cats, tins of dog food, dog blankets… I had this covered. Excuse the pun.
Bob the dog learned to count, add and subtract to 20. This was the national curriculum target at the time.
Unfortunately, the curriculum also required Bob to mentally subtract 9 by subtracting 10 and then adding 1. Bob could subtract 9 by just subtracting 9 – but the other methodology was a target he was to achieve.
With all the other children busy with their number tasks, I sat with Bob in the dog basket for 45 minutes going through every possible different strategy I could think of – using resources, picture representations, physical activity… the list went on. No matter what I did, Bob just did not get that concept.
Eventually there was nothing left to try. So, I told him not to worry about it, he just wasn’t ready for that way of doing things yet.
As he crawled away to his chew toy, Bob shook his head and said, “It’s just too hard for a dog!”
The real lesson I learned was often the simplest explanation and route is the best – but if you have another way to find the right answer, for the love of God, take it.
I love working with young children. I always have and probably always will. It was this that attracted me to teaching in the first place. Yes, I help teachers (along with other professionals) change careers if their chosen path no longer makes them happy – but as all those who currently serve or have served in education know, it’s a privilege to help young minds grow and develop. It’s never a reason why career-changers choose to move on.
Stop over-complicating issues and find the right answer in a way that works for you.
And if you cannot find the answer yourself, book my “Why am I stuck?” insights session and discover how to move forward on the right path.
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