This week I read an article which actually made perfect sense to me – just not for the exact reason stated in the article. The reason it made so much sense was explained by one sentence – “I didn’t know how to learn”. The article was about a student with Autism who ended up being homeschooled because they couldn’t cope in an actual school.
We are told that different people learn in different ways – some of us learn best by doing, others learn best by reading, etc. What happens when the student has to learn how to cope with the equipment or methods you use to teach them before they get on with learning what you are teaching them??? What happens if their way of thinking is absolutely nothing like you are used to??? Good luck.
Anybody who knows me will tell you that my brain doesn’t quite compute things in the same way as other people. They will also tell you that I can ask the strangest questions when I am interested in a subject. (On the flip side to that they might also send you to me if you have run out of ideas to solve a problem. My ability to think sideways usually results in suggestions which nobody else will think of.)
This may sound strange to you but I managed to teach myself a lot at school – I have different coping strategies for things like reading textbook-sized print, navigating strange staircases, lighting conditions which make my life difficult, etc, which you would probably do automatically.
However, the really interesting thing is my version of “Logic”. When I was younger my Dad taught me how to program a computer so it could do simple sums. One line I remember is “If…then…” – as in – “If 5 + 5 equals 10 then show 10”.
Well – you have heard of the “if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it must be a duck” idea??? My brain doesn’t usually work like that – it has to actually look like a duck!!!
Here is an example – my brain tells me that blue flashing lights mean there is an emergency services vehicle in the vicinity. It also tells me that small orange flashing lights are vehicle indicator lights. So far so good – that works for eleven months of the year. Get to the middle of November and that goes out of the window – entire houses have been known to turn into vehicles (even the fountain in Leicester’s Town Hall Square has turned into the site of a major pileup of Emergency Service vehicles). Let’s just say that you can have flashing Christmas lights – just not colours which I associate with traffic.
My way of identifying humans can also be interesting – especially when it comes to remembering names. Some of them are simple – like an Australian man called Alan gets turned into “Australian Alan”. Others are either connected with objects or places. Another of my friends recently got filed in my brain under “Map”. Their first name starts with A and their surname starts with B – “A to B” is not only another name for a route but it also has the same amount of syllables as their first name of Anthony.
I actually count myself lucky that I have got such bad sight as I think literally seeing things differently to other people (especially when I haven’t got my glasses on) makes it easier for me to metaphorically see things differently as well. Just don’t try to get me to think in the same way as everyone else – it makes my brain hurt too much.
We should embrace different ways of learning. However, we should also be prepared to alter our teaching methods to suit our students. You can give me a book to read, let me do something myself – even if you don’t think I will succeed at it (driving a double decker bus definitely told me that I was never not going to be a danger if left in charge of the steering wheel and pedals of any kind of motorised vehicle) – or let me ask the kind of questions which help me learn.
The saying that “Every day is a school day” is true – however, there is no need to make learning as difficult as some of us found our time in compulsory education.
And – no – I wasn’t joking when I said about driving a Double decker bus. It was at an open day for my local bus company several years ago.