Omatas Talent Show June 2015

Creating enquiring minds,

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I am struck constantly by the profound, yet simple, statement made by Dr Derek Jackson when I heard him speaking to parents at a meeting. His simple adage was, “If they can, they must.” It was great advice at the time and now that I am assisting children with learning difficulties I see that it is more than great advice, it is seminal. How quickly this can turn into learned helplessness.

When we do too much for our children we allow them to do too little for themselves. It is so easy to get into the trap of tying shoe laces or making their breakfast or choosing their clothes. It is easy to do too much because we are rushed and it is easier to do it ourselves, because we’re tired of asking them to …(clean-up, wash-up, do their project) …, because they have learning challenges so we assist them more than we would normally, etc.

How we encourage independence in our classroom

Two of our underlying ‘teaching’ disciplines at OMATAS are based on Feuerstein’s Mediated Learning and the role of Maria Montessori’s directress. Both support this simple principle in similar ways. Both are focused on preparing the environment for learning rather than just teaching information. Both are in favour of the child experiencing the learning first hand rather than just hearing about it. Both are in favour of the child developing their cognitive skills as active learners rather than passively taking in information to remember for a test.

When we leave them alone to learn

No one in their right mind would ever suggest children be left alone so that they may educate themselves. But we need people who are active thinkers. Passive learning is when teaching happens, active learning is when learning happens. If we must teach then we must also know when to stop teaching so that the children can start learning. So what could children be like if we stepped back a bit more?

    And more …

The process through which we children become capable and competent is hard for parents because it requires us to let go and allow them to fail. But failure shouldn’t be something that is judged through red pen marks and low test scores, failure is only a stepping stone to success.

In the book “Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential” Carol Dweck talks about having a growth mindset. Being able to see our successes and failures as a result of what we do and not who we are. This is an important concept when it comes to children with learning difficulties. Teachers and parents should be ‘preparing the environment’ so that learning is inevitable. Montessori’s ‘control of error’ is a great principle to allow children to learn from their mistakes on their own rather than being told they are wrong. Equally, Feuerstein’s mediated learning says that we must place ourselves between the task and the child so that they can understand and perform the task independently.

So, are we doing too much?

If they can, they must