The Need for Sublety

One of the things I have noticed in dealing with human beings in general is that you get what you want a whole lot more often if you make the persons you are dealing with think think that what you want is their idea.  You have to help them without making it look like they need the help.

The convincing part is trickey in high school.  Some of the kids that are in need of the most help will ask because they know they need it but some of them, particularly boys, it seems to me, won’t ask.  So how do you help?

I work with a senior who cannot read, and recently I have noticed that he does a lot of listening.  If he is unsure of what he is doing and I am helping someone else, he will seat himself near enough to hear our conversation and will then do what he can on his own.  This thrills me because, at the beginning of the school year, he wasn’t going to do anything for anybody (or so it seemed).

Yesterday the kids were factoring in math using a tic-tac-toe grid, something I had never seen before.  I could show them my way, of course, but consistency is better.  Know who explained the method to me?  The boy who can’t read!  It breaks my heart that he has such a problem recognizing individual letters when they appear as variables, but he is quite competent in math.

Today I was working with two other boys who need one-on-one help every step of the way.  I don’t think they can read well either, but today we were working on math.  The boy who can’t read encouraged them to use their printed multiplication tables and it became a sort of game, seeing who could find a divisor for factoring more quickly.  I think the interchange helped all three boys: two with their math and the one with his self esteem.

I don’t know why it is that written language is a mystery to some people, but I do know that it is.  Finding a way around that is part of what exceptional education is about, and I am thankful that I am involved so that I can see such things unfold.   



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