“I think Malcolm has a learning disability,” said second grade teacher Barbara one day in my office. “He can’t seem to get 25 – 16. I have taught him six different ways to do it. He just can’t get it. I think we should get him tested.”
“Well, sounds like maybe you’re right. Give it a week and then set up a meeting with his parents. I’d like to be there. I’m curious.”
Three days later Barbara was back in my office with a big smile on her face. “He did it! He got 25 – 16.”
“Wow, terrific. Seventh time’s the charm. What did you do right?”
“I asked him. I asked him to tell me how he saw the problem, and as he was telling me, he solved it. I said, ‘Wow, you just discovered a way of solving that problem I never thought of. I am going to call it the Malcolm Method.'”
Good teachers know it’s their job to understand the learning styles of their students, and to challenge them appropriately. But when their teaching doesn’t “work,” and they get frustrated, standard procedure in American schooling includes having a child “evaluated” by a professional learning specialist.
Yet, while teachers know how limited their knowledge is, they should also know that “experts” are even more limited–actually the most ignorant of all. Someone who has only spent a couple of hours with a child in his office hasn’t seen the student in action in the classroom and hasn’t observed the action-research that a good teacher has been doing in her efforts to discover a student’s learning style.
All too often teachers and parents forget that their greatest resource in understanding a child is right in front of them: the child’s genius–his inner teacher, advisor and guide.
Barbara’s experience is a reminder to all that STEP ONE in any strategy is to look to the child’s genius first before bringing in an “expert” and diagnosing. The world’s leading authority on what kinds of challenges a child needs for the optimization of his education, is the child’s genius. Notice, engage, love and believe in the child’s genius.
If you don’t know how a child thinks, the first step is to ask him.