90% of the world is right-handed; therefore, it makes sense that the world is tailored for right-handers. It is also conceivable why school supplies are readily accessible for right-handed students. The general assumption when teaching is students are right-handed, but what happens when a left-handed student arrives?
It is not surprising that when left-handed students arrive, educators are forced out of their comfort zones and scramble to find left-handed scissors, teach left-handed pencil grips, and are generally forced to make the appropriate adjustments to ensure the left-handed student is placed in the best position to succeed.
Growing up with three siblings, I observed two of my left-handed siblings forced to conform to a world of right-handed people. In hindsight, society’s responsibility was to be cognizant and make accommodations of left-handed people’s inclusivity in a right-handed world, not my siblings.
Coincidently, education has tailored learning into one method that isolates different learners, but what about the small percentage of students who think differently?
When Covid-19 arrived, the world was left with no choice but to surrender. Education was halted for weeks until the realization was the pandemic was not going away quickly. Education had to adjust, much like the educator that makes the proper adjustments for the left-handed student.
It is no secret, educators have known that school is not a one size fits all approach hence the trends of movement, discussions, and collaboration. While these methods were improvements, there remained a set of students who struggled in the classroom. Undoubtedly the pandemic brought many tragedies, and Covid-19 may have ushered in an era where different learners thrive with in-person learning.
Consider Student A, the introvert. This student always shows up to class, completes assignments but hides in the sea of students hoping never to be called upon, and rarely speaks when collaborating on assignments. While Student A knows the content, Student A’s grades do not reflect Student A’s true potential because Student A is not an extrovert.
However, because of remote learning, Student A completes all asynchronous assignments without any help, and while Student A remains on mute the entire lesson, Student A participates in lessons through the chat feature. Remote learning has been a positive experience that enables Student A to thrive.
On the other hand, Student B was less enthusiastic about school before Covid-19. Student B was a frequent visitor to the water fountain and was a consistent centerpiece for student conflict. Student B was below grade level, avoided assignments at all cost, and refused help to avoid being perceived as “stupid” by peers. Student B was absent from class in the early stages of remote learning or refused to display the camera. The teacher was able to help Student B in breakout rooms in one-on-one virtual settings. This approach was best for Student B as the pressure from peers was nonexistent. Since Covid-19, student B has made significant progress.
Post Covid-19, most thinkers will resume education as usual, but what about the different thinkers?
Make no mistake about it, all learners are essential, but education cannot abandon the different learners. Society assumes everyone is right-handed, and in the same vein, education assumes every student processes the same, and when students do not master content based upon thinking assumptions, students are often forgotten or discarded.
Reflect for a moment; at some point; we have all been different thinkers. For me, it was throughout my elementary, middle, and high school years as I struggled with math. I needed my math teachers to realize I did not approach math like 90% of my classmates and needed someone to show me a different approach that was conducive to my thinking style.
I did not conceptualize numbers as most of my peers; therefore, I did not approach math like my peers. I was not inferior; I just thought differently than my peers.
When school resumes, thoughtful consideration to accommodate all learners is essential.
Educators have created innovative ideas to reach all students during these challenging times. When school returns to “normal,” education cannot afford to discard practices and accommodations that enabled the success of all students.
How to Accommodate All Students Post Covid-19
1. When teaching in-person, incorporate technology or methods that enable the quieter students to engage other than orally.
2. Provide space even if online for the “avoider” to receive support without fear of labeling,
3. Aside from IEP modifications, provide special education students with more opportunities and options that enable success.
4. Provide multiple strategies that enable all learning pathways. Give students options of different methods to approach learning.
Remote learning has had a positive experience for some students. By combining previous successful methods with the newly discovered remote learning methods, education can be a successful experience for all students. It would be a disservice to throw away successful remote learning aspects that have been effective for the “few.”
Different learning styles strengthen the learning experience for all students. We cannot throw away the successful teaching practices learned during the pandemic. Education must embrace and accommodate different thinkers because our future is dependent on the success of all students.