Do you remember when you were stuck at school and you didn’t know what to do next? What did you do? It seems such a long time ago for me and there is something telling me that I would put my hand up. The point is that I can’t actually remember doing that. I think that in reality I would just write anything. Anything was better than nothing.
So what does your child do when they are stuck at school?
Have you ever asked them? If you have then do they actually tell you what they do?
The point that I am making is that being stuck affects different people in different ways. Some people will not handle it well, whereas some may see it as part of the learning process. Those who see it as part of the learning process may even quote ‘neural pathways’. I would guess that most children do not know about this or understand what it is. This is another area for discussion and is digressing from the point that I wish to discuss.
The following is based on my experience of seeing when children are stuck and talking to them about it. My experience is based around the subject that I teach – mathematics. I am very lucky to be able to teach mathematics and for children to openly express how they feel about the subject and what they do when they are stuck.
Some children will put their hand up in class. The reasons for this may be to answer a question, to ask a question or to ask for help. Some children will not under any circumstances put their hand up in class. Reasons can be that they don’t want the attention, classmates may mimic or make fun of them or they just don’t want to advertise to the whole class that they cannot do the work.
For many children putting their hand up in class is a clear indication that they are stupid and that they cannot understand the work. When I have been teaching I have got to know my pupils and I know who will not ask for help so I would always ask how they were doing with the work and I would look at their books. There are of course time constraints on how much help I could give to individuals but I would do my best.
I have actually met pupils who will not put their hand up in an exam hall even when it is only for a pencil because they think that they will be seen by others and labelled as stupid. This did really shock me!
Does your child ask a friend for help? Pupils told me that they would rather ask a friend for help than a teacher. This is actually a positive step and can benefit both pupils.
Will your child go to see their teacher for help in their own time such as after school? Teachers are under increasing pressure and may not be available because of meetings or clubs.
Some children will ask their parents for help, but my experience of this is that it is quite a rare thing to happen. I remember my father trying to help me with long division and I remember him becoming very irritated with me and angry that I didn’t understand what he was doing.
Another point to mention is the child who is so good at maths and gets the top grades. Imagine this child when they actually find something that they cannot do. They are not used to being stuck and they will adopt a coping strategy. How many times have I heard, “The work is too easy. I can’t be bothered.” Very able children are good at disguising when they have difficulties.
Ok, so I have mentioned a few possibilities for what your child could do when they are stuck. The bottom line is, “Do they get unstuck?” This is all about understanding and if you read a previous blog of mine I mention Instrumental and Relational Understanding. What happens if your child does not get the understanding that is needed? How do you know? Do you wait for test results? What can you do to help? The most common opinion that I have heard from parents is that maths is so different these days and not how it was when I was at school.
Many parents are turning to tutors for help. The advantage is that when I tutor a child I can find out where the gaps are in understanding and help them. Often a lack of understanding stems from confidence and my aim is to build this up. I will adopt a ‘can do’ attitude through successes. Another reason for a lack of understanding could be a loss of concentration in class. This could be because of a short attention span, thinking about what to have for lunch or any of the multitude of emotional reasons. Absence is also a reason for a lack of understanding because vital work may have been missed.
My job as a tutor is forensic. I find topics that need to be improved on. Sometimes it is necessary to go right back to the beginning because that is where to problem could start from.
If you would like to benefit from my online maths tutoring then please do contact me. You have everything to gain.