Empathy Must Be Accorded to the Child  Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

empathy must be accorded to the child, that teacher helps child master words in ways that are most congruent to the child, that teacher must 'step into the child's shoes' (i.e. go down to his level) in order to help him best, that the child must be made to feel that he can succeed, and that progression of knowledge must proceed from lower to progressively more challenging levels

Teaching students who have learning disabilities is done as all teaching is done in the form of an assessment. Understanding that students with learning disabilities have difficulties spelling and reading a large number of commonly used words due to their being irregular, and thus avoiding them (Robinson, 2005), may help us conduct our assessment better and know how to better help these students within the format of the class assessment delineated by McMillan (). In this way, assessment are used for learning not for torture ( Scherer, 2009)

Robinson (2005) urges the care that we must practice in order to make sure that words are comfortable and easy to use for the learning disabled child. It seems to me that underlying the writings of McMillan and Robinson is the philosophy of self-efficacy which is providing the student with the notion that he/she can achieve and be successful from his own aims -- and this is evidenced by teacher's confidence in him and by his past successes -- which leads the student on to expectations of better outcomes and continued success. The reverse of this is the learned helplessness exemplified by the John in Robinson's (2005) excerpt and best described by Seligman (1995) as the situation where the individual learns to see that "when events are uncontrollable, the organism learns that its behavior and outcomes are independent, and that this learning produces the motivational, cognitive, and emotional effects of uncontrollability" (p.15).

John, in other words was humiliated by his teachers. He began to see his impasse in reading and writing as uncontrollable events. Seeing his behavior (endeavor to read) and outcome (impossibility in achieving) as independent entities -- his endeavor did not achieve results -- soon led to atrophy of motivation in reading and acceptance of his situation as was. All human try to save themselves from painful and undesirable situations, particularly those that they see they may not be able to control. John -- and many students with learning difficulties- are no different. They see themselves as too stupid to try (Gordon, n.d.). It needs a special teacher to help them and this teacher needs to assist them "through their areas and channels of strengths" (Rief & Heimburge, 2006, p.37) . According to Seligman, "When a child is doing poorly at school, it is all too easy for his teachers, parents, and others to conclude falsely that he is untalented or even stupid. The child may be depressed and learned helpless and this behavior may be preventing him from fulfilling his potential" (32). The child with learning difficulties, who is inadequately understood by his teacher, is impeded by three hindrances -- cognitive, motivational, and emotional (Gordon, n.d.). He or she may be helped by spelling techniques, a.k.a the style recommended by Robison, but as long as the child is not encouraged to feel that he/she can succeed and master the reading and writing at his own pace in his own style from his own efforts, all strategies may fail (Willis, 2004). The motivational deficit hinders the child form wanting to learn. The cognitive deficit is the learned conditioned response where the child reasons he cannot succeed, and the emotional deficit is lowered self-esteem and confidence (as exemplified by John) where the child gets stuck in his ways.

The national report by the Commission on Reading describes this student as "listless and inattentive and sometimes disruptive. They do not complete work. They give up quickly when faced with a task that is difficult for them. They become anxious when they must read aloud or take a test. A good summary description is that they act as though they were helpless to do better" (http://www.turned-offchild.com/articles/Learned%20Helplessness%20and%20School%20Failure%20-%20Part%201.pdf ). The report further states that this sense of helplessness is subtly affected by parents' and teachers' behavior, but is not completely understood (ibid.).

Helping the student progress from easier to more difficult worlds showing him how they are applicable to him and easy to master may prevent the 'John' that is exemplified by Robinson who detested reading and instead produce a student who is motivated of his own self to correct errors immediately upon finding a writing or spelling task and proceed further.

The teacher's perspective of the student is inordinately important here. This is specifically so since the teacher cannot be behind the student all the time. John's difficulties with reading and his consequent embarrassment in school is an example of how teachers can aggravate the problem by humiliating the child and failing to inadequately sympathize with him. It is not only practical correctives that could have helped her but more crucial and helpful would have been an understanding approach of the teacher who, rather than castigate John for having failed to complete homework questions could have attempted to 'be in his shoes' and, recognizing the foreignness of reading, endeavored to make that foreignness less intimidating for John. As businessman, John is successful but his writing and reading is still challenging for him today as well as time-consuming.

Robinson (2005), therefore, gives us practical advice too about how to help the lingering child, but it seems to me that his most insightful and important advice is that that is articulated in John's own words: " I only wish my teachers had not given up on me when I was young because they were the key to my success, I could not fix my reading problems" (296). Students really want to learn. Teachers have to treat every learning task as a diagnostic opportunity ( Killen, 2005).

Robinson' recommendation are to focus in on internal reinforcement as opposed to external reinforcement where the teacher show the child how he/she can master the words from the child's own efforts rather then from efforts external to her. Robinson's insights accord with the general drift of McMillan's writings where although the general format of the classroom structure comes from the teacher (via-a-vis assessment and classroom regulation and monitoring), McMillan also realizes than the teacher has to involve the child for the structure to succeed.

Studies on learned helplessness in students with learning disabilities show that these learning disabilities are often exacerbated by situations such as grouping students with similar disabilities under an inadequately skilled teacher, lack of early identification of, and sympathy with, learning difficulties, a lack of reward for progress, external force rather than emphasis on student's self-ability, and a belief in static intelligence (Arnold, n.d.). All of this contradicts the essence of Robinson (2005) where he indicates that it needs a caring skilled professional to help the student, that this can best be done by sympathy and trust in the child, and by continual emphasis on child's ability to succeed. Generally, therefore, as theoretical concept, teacher's perspective of child integrates with self-efficacy and the two underlie attempts to instruct the child with learning disabilities.

The sympathetic teacher can more genuinely and ably employ Robinson's recommendation of identifying and secluding potentially problematic words and showing the child how to recognize these or treading around them before proceeding further.

Spelling techniques can be used in combination with these such s: underlining sections of words that student is unsure how to spell; linking unfamiliar words with familiar ones; helping students search for known words inside unfamiliar words; thinking of words that have the same letter sounds; and writing the word in various ways in order to help student select the correct…

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