I have had the opportunity to teach struggling readers in grades 1 – 3 for the last 8 years in a public school setting. We are a Title 1 school and have a fairly large percentage of students that come from poverty and generational poverty. Because of that, I see students who struggle with reading and learning in general. I believe that much of that struggle is the result of parents who were not taught the skills needed to be successful with learning and so they are not able to teach them to their children.
With that said, I believe that all children can learn. I also believe that all children want to learn. However, some lack the skills that they need to learn. These students often try much harder than those who seem to have learning come naturally to them - but not with the same results. A close look at a child who succeeds easily will usually reveal learning skills that they have been taught from the time they were small. Again, I believe that all children can learn – but that all need to be taught the skills to do so.
So what skills does a child need to be able to learn? One of the main skills that I believe a child needs is the ability to problem solve. A lot of students that struggle have very low problem solving skills. They have not been shown or been taught a good model of how to solve problems in their homes. Drugs, alcohol, violence, etc., are often the avoidance of problem solving – and that is all that some of these students know. Teaching a child to solve problems creates the ability to handle frustration and instills self confidence in a child – both of which are critical for learning. Give your child the opportunity to solve problems. Show them what it looks like and let them practice solving their own often.
When a student becomes frustrated, the ability to keep trying is priceless. To give up is to stop learning. Teach a child the skills they need to keep trying, even when frustrated. Instill in them the belief that they can do hard things – through example and by giving them hard things to do. "I can do hard things" should be a motto in your home and at school.
Finally, the ability to be flexible is a critical skill. Flexibility and the ability to change plans when something doesn't work out is a priceless skill to teach a student – not only for learning, but for life. Life does not always go as planned. As a matter of fact, no day usually goes as planned. Point that out on a daily basis to your child. Talk them through situations that are not going as planned and help them to see what happens when plans need to be changed quickly. Explicitly teach them the steps they can take when plans change. This teaches them adaptability and confidence.
Remember, every child can learn. Every child wants to learn. Teach children the skills they need to learn.
Cheryl is a full-time teacher at a Title 1 school in the Emmett School District in Emmett, Idaho