‘Many will start fast but only a few will finish strong’.
A child is like a blank canvas. As they grow, the canvas becomes colorful with learning. Every child is born with an intellectual level that develops with time. And each child has its own pace. There is actually nothing like a fast or a slow learner. It’s our perception that categorizes kids on basis of their learning pace. Once this is understood that there is no such gap the matter would be automatically solved. It’s all about perception and judgment. There is nothing like being a slow learner, the term itself denies the chances of development in a child.
When we differentiate kids on the basis of their learning ability we are actually devoiding them the opportunity to discover their strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes let the child guide you. Like an infant is unable to speak yet he /she conveys to the mother that they need milk and they even decide the quantity according to their hunger. You simply can’t force-feed. And if you do, you know the outcome. Similarly, when a child is learning he/she is exploring and discovering new aspects.
Every child is receptive. But that doesn’t mean that the child who is learning fast is more intelligent, maybe the other one whom we address as a slow learner is interested to gather more knowledge, or maybe that topic isn’t of his/her interest. Rather than asking a child to improve his pace of learning we should concentrate on the reason for slow learning and try to find out his/her areas of interest and development.
The problem lies in the divide:
Actually, the problem is first we ourselves categorize kids through grades, marks, percentages ranks, etc., dividing them and creating a rift and then we try and find solutions to bridge the gap. A child just learns. It’s we who tell them whether they are fast or slow learners. Gaining knowledge isn’t a race where a child needs to reach first. It’s a procedure where the ultimate goal is to attain knowledge in a rightful way. You cannot make a cheetah, a rabbit, a frog, a fish; a dog and a snail participate in the same race because they are not meant to compete with each other. Two different kids will learn two different things in two different ways at two different paces.
Like wet mud, a child needs proper molding to shape them perfectly. It requires patience, commitment, and most importantly time. Kids who take their own pace to learn to deserve patience. More than certificates they need encouragement and appreciation. Motivate them not to give up and let them try repeatedly.
- Keep their assignments short so that they don’t lose interest in it.
- Don’t keep long unattainable goals for them.
- Be available for them whenever they need you. Your accessibility is extremely important.
- Never despise or demean them. Don’t reprimand them in public, point out their mistakes in private otherwise it would lower their confidence and shatter the hopes of any improvement. Creating emotional security for kids is extremely important.
- Repetition and revision work for them. Use creativity to teach them. Learning through audiovisual can also be of great help.
- Try to eliminate distractions so that they can focus on what is being taught.
What's the way forward?
Teachers need to alter their teaching methodology for such kids. They need to develop a bond with such students so that they develop trust and confide in them. There is always a reason for underperformance and it needs to be figured out. A child should be comfortable enough to express his/her comfort or discomfort while learning. All children have a limited attention span so make sure you try to keep their attention intact but don’t force them to concentrate too much. They should be seated in the front row of the class to keep them alert and engaged. Give them extra attention, don’t neglect or avoid their queries. Keep instructions simple and understandable for them. Remember what you call a slow learner is different from a reluctant learner. So as long as they are listening to you, it’s working.
Creating a healthy and conducive environment for a child to improve his pace is of utmost importance. Create an environment for a collaborative approach amongst kids. Pair them up wisely. Peer support plays a very important role. Appreciating them on their smallest of achievements helps kids take another step towards improvement. Kids labeled as slow learners are very sensitive and self-conscious as they are prompted every time about their weakness in comparison with the so-called quick learners. So it’s important to build their confidence and make them believe in themselves through positivity and support. Every child is unique and excels in life accordingly.
It’s rightly said, ‘Every child is an uncut diamond, precious and rare’ so it’s all about sculpting them in the right way.