IntroductionSlow learners are those who have some small problems in learning. There are so many issues and problems as to how these children are what they are, based on real-world observations and feedback from so many school teachers. The first of these pertains to the parents who do a very unhealthy job of comparing their child with his or her siblings or with even children of neighbours. This happens as a routine and the child becomes demoralised; the "am not ok, you are ok" life position takes over. The child develops an inferiority complex from which there is no return. This is exactly what should not happen, but it happens.
The second problem arises because of some physical deformity, like lack of hearing. This is another big issue. The third problem arises when the child gets fixated on something when he is just ten years old; in one of the families intimately known to us, a smart and good-looking boy was constantly fed with " you are bound to become an actor" message by his teachers when the boy was just over nine years old. Today, when he is nearing twelve years of age, the same teachers are having a torrid time with this student who always talks about his becoming a film hero. He is particularly very slow in Mathematics; it has become a big problem. He is of course seen as a creative child, who comes up with street-smart ideas, not even imagined by most of his classmates. These are some of the problems associated with slow learners in schools.
Be that as it may, based on interactions with so many teachers of the Tamil Nadu State Board Schools(both Government and private), it turns out that the art of helping slow-learners to perform in schools requires a) Dedication and commitment to listen to slow-learners b) Ability to develop personal rapport c) Ability to motivate the child through unconventional methods d) Give them the small pockets of love and happiness and e) Constantly reviewing progress with parents.
Dedication and Commitment to listen to slow-learnersWith rare exceptions, slow learners are attention seekers. They suffer from attention-seeking syndrome. They are children who want to be heard and need personal attention. Reprimanding children and strongly warning them to behave properly is as important as listening to the slow learners. This was repeatedly pointed out by many teachers. Some teachers have involved parents of slow learners in the process.
Secondly, the teacher requires patience and a lot of dedication and commitment. In one Coimbatore-based private school, it was a pleasure to see the teacher spend a full afternoon with the child, a girl who was twelve years old. Her problem was that her father was a habitual drunkard. Her mother would be beaten by the father in her presence. The teacher initially tried counselling. When that failed, she spotted an opportunity for the father to pursue the painting work of lorries at Salem, some one hundred and sixty kilometres from Coimbatore city. Today, the father who is rarely able to meet his child drinks far less. He is somewhat responsible and begs the teacher to care for the child.
The teacher would involve her in cutting vegetables and doing a bit of gardening. She would report the entire story to me in the evening. She would ask her child about the subject she liked and would teach her to the extent possible. She made the child listen to music, and also enjoy herself. Hence, apart from learning, the entire effort of the teacher was to make things interesting for the child.
This opportunity had different dimensions. The child would narrate all her experiences to her mother who was already coached on how to keep on encouraging the child. Her performance improved gradually when she experienced the love and affection of her father. It was a great learning experience for the teacher.
Ability to develop a personal rapportWhen the teacher narrated her experiences, it became obvious that the special efforts made to develop a personal rapport with the child and the mother helped a great deal. The mother would work as a part-time cook in a local home of two senior citizens, had a good amount of monetary and moral support of this family as well. It happened that the husband of the school teacher was my colleague in the college. Hence, sharing her experiences helped me understand the dynamics involved. It is extremely important for the teacher concerned to understand the process involved in developing a personal rapport with the child and his or her family. Everything will depend on the situation and the process does take time.
Ability to motivate the child through unconventional methodsThe slow learner referred to in the introduction, is also a student who undergoes special tuition from my wife, who teaches Mathematics for senior students of the same school. My wife would first ask him about Rajnikant, the famous actor of the child. The student would spring up to the action, imitating the actor in some old movie. My wife would congratulate him, reminding him that he had permission to watch a portion of the movie if he studied well that day. He would be given the simplest of sums for the first ten minutes. The child will be patted on the back. The phrase "very good" will be used very often. Gradually, my wife would proceed to the more complex sums, encouraging the child even he does mistakes. Special care would be taken not to reprimand him. He would talk about his passion for acting quite often. My wife would immediately acknowledge that by saying that one day, he will be a great actor one day, if only he studied well today. Other teachers reprimanding him too much have been told to tone down such reprimanding and instead encourage him for whatever things he does right.
This is exactly what is called "positive strokes" in advanced behavioural sciences. The term "positive strokes" implicitly means making any human being very comfortable through caring, love and appreciation. Anyone who receives positive strokes would have psychological problems that can be easily solved if the particular person is handled properly and shown love and love and appreciation. In the case of slow learners, this process is very important as it involves a process of systematic appreciation.
Positive strokes are important for slow learners. These enable the children to have big hope and look forward to their studies with a lot of optimism. The special children also get to experience the motherly touch of any teacher who seeks to help them grow.
Give them small pockets of love and happinessOne has to just see the child's light- up very wide when my wife keeps on saying that he would be a great actor one day. However, she tempers her optimistic statements with gentle reminders that he should now study well for a bright future one day. From whatever evidence one gathers, it does seem that the boy is cut out to do the B.Sc (Visual Communication) course and follow his passion. Surely but surely, the child is also made to realize that his school education is as important as his passion and he should get a good grade in the school final CBSE examination in his tenth and twelfth standard examinations.
The child is a classic example of what small pockets of love and happiness can do. He longs to be told that he is good and that is passion is good; it is just that his distraction should be within limits. This is now being ensured through positive intervention.
Constantly reviewing progress with parentsIn each of the two case-studies discussed above, feedback on the progress of the particular students was given to the parents; they were taken into confidence. In the second case, the mother is a teacher in the same school. It is just that too many lady teachers were praising him every day and commenting that he would be a film star. Since they had overdone this, the child had sought of thought that he was going to be just that in future and lost concentration in studies. Now that some improvements are seen and he is doing better, the chances of his making further progress with the active involvement of his mother are seen. This is exactly what is required in every case of slow learners. Since the parents also play a vital role, it is but essential that the parents will have to be informed and taken into confidence at every stage.
ConclusionSlow learners are also intelligent. They are also resourceful. When these children are properly nurtured, they can also perform well in school. Some possibilities of making it happen have been discussed above. The possibilities are only indicative but not exhaustive. Teachers should play an active role in the process of helping self-learners to perform better in schools.
The main problem in our schooling is ignoring the differences in the capabilities of the students. In a group, if a person is very fast in learning and another guy is slow in learning there will be an imbalance in the whole group. If the teacher can teach the group keeping the slow learner in mind, it will be good. But fast learner's will get bored and get diverted. That is why the teachers should identify the slow learners in a class and they should be made into a group and a separate mentor should be made responsible for them. He has to keep constant contact with these students and understand what are their needs and teaching them in that way will make them good learners.
Generally, our government distributes free books to backward students but never see whether they are really using those books and reading them. Giving books alone will never solve the problem. One should monitor them and see that they will read and understand these books. Monitoring is very important.
Interaction between the teachers and parents is very important. This will give a chance to the teachers to know more about the student and also help parents in understanding the drawbacks of their children and then can work on those areas so that their kid will also come up fast.
In schools, we will have different sections for the same class. If the teachers can take a little interest and see that al;l slow learners will come in one section and monitor that section more closely and mentoring them will make them compete with fast learners. These days teachers in government schools are also being paid good salaries. So I think the have to spend a little more time on these aspects so that all students will get benefitted.