Different Strokes

It’s dinned into our heads right from when we begin learning about teaching that each child is different, that we need to teach in a way that addresses the potential of the individual child. But somewhere along the line the sensitivity towards individual children gives way to a method that lumps all pupils in our class into a homogeneous mass, and our teaching begins to be dictated by some imaginary law of averages. Sooner or later, children who fall on either extreme get less and less instruction that satisfies their needs and sometimes, stop learning altogether.

Instinctively, we know that every child has a different way of learning, and there may be some that are more different than others. After all, this is what makes teaching interesting year after year, through the monotony of the same lessons, the same tests. Many of us may have watched the film ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and wondered about our own classrooms, about how many Ishaans we were missing, lost as we are in our daily routines. Difference is expressed in a variety of ways, and recognising that difference is certainly a challenge for teachers, particularly those who must deal with a class of 60 or more students, all individuals in their own right.

The lead article in this issue deals with the idea that we each have different ways of understanding the world, and our ability to apply these different codes of understanding too varies. So how does a teacher address all these styles of learning, of making sense, and yet do a good job of delivering the content of a lesson? How can we tailor a lesson in five (or ten) different ways so that it reaches those who think and assimilate differently? And is it even possible? We certainly don’t have the answers, but it’s important that we keep asking the question so that we don’t lose sight of it. So that when we encounter a blank stare or a questioning look, we know that it’s not lack of intelligence that prevents understanding, but it’s the need to find an explanation that makes sense through a different pathway.

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