Not all children learn in the same way. Sometimes a really special teacher finds the method that reaches a child and it isn't at all what most schools deem as the "tried and true method". These are actual stories from or about actual teachers (public, private, or homeschoolers) that will warm your heart.
DEALING OUT AN EDUCATION
Shelley* had had a tough time in school. Everything was hard: learning to read, learning to add, learning history. Shelley had several learning disabilities and often it seemed even to her as if information flitted right out her brain as fast as she could take it in. But Renee* was not in the habit of giving up and was not about to start with Shelley. It took weeks of meeting for remedial work and conversations that seemed forced before Renee discovered that Shelley liked to play cards. And Shelley was not particular about the game. Here was a child who could play any game and remember the rules, and Renee saw it as a jumping off point. So Renee spent about a $30 on card games. They played cribbage and poker to teach Shelley math. Renee found a deck with words for faces instead of the typical diamonds, spades, clubs, and hearts, which reinforced Shelley's reading. Renee even found a card game that covered U.S. history and another that offered science. Tests would later prove to Renee that she'd found the answer, but she knew long before that. She knew the day Shelley raced into the Special Ed building a full ten minutes before the bell rang and declared, "All weekend, all I could think about was the next time I'd get to come in. Learning with you is fun!" Renee said she couldn't stop grinning for a week.
BACKWARDS PIANO LESSONS
James* wasn't really sure why he'd begged his mother for more piano lessons. The first try had been an unmitigated disaster. The teacher had been very strict and lessons very unsatisfying since the teacher insisted he should be able to read music before playing. Dyslexia had made reading a staff a challenge and the teacher could offer nothing in the way of help on that issue, since she was "merely a music teacher, not a miracle worker". James' mother explained this situation to the store clerk and he said he thought he had a teacher that would be "perfect" for James. James entered the lesson feeling skeptical while his mother tried only to remind him gently that it had been his idea. Then he met the teacher -- Libby*. She smiled at him, but he couldn't make himself smile back. His mother had asked what method she used and she only replied, "A little of this, a little of that." When his mother asked what to purchase, the woman said, "I'll let you know after our first lesson." James felt a little stunned when she walked him into the lesson room without a book.
James remembers that the piano was a Yamaha electric, and that Libby switched it on and apologized that it wasn't a "real" piano. He had felt similar about the difference between electric and accoustic. When she offered James the stool, he couldn't believe his luck -- he was actually allowed to touch the piano! She sat down in the chair next to him and asked if he'd ever tried picking out a tune. Of course he had, at home, privately. He played a couple of tunes nervously and she only beamed at him. Then she played a little Mozart tune, -- the melody in "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", showing James as she went. She patiently led him through it as he tried to copy. In a short time he was playing with both hands! The lesson flew by and it was over before James could even believe it. He'd wanted it to last much, much longer. When Libby went out to talk to his mother and select a book for him, he again felt nervous, but she told him not to worry. "Music isn't about reading -- it's about the sound," she said as she picked out a lesson book and notation paper. "For now, you need only find the joy you have in the sound and the rest will come."
James says he has never forgotten that statement. He did learn to read the notation, even without realizing it had happened. He learned plenty of other things too -- theory, posture, latin terminology, and rhythm, yet to this day he doesn't specifically recall her teaching those things. It was when he became a teacher himself that he understood she'd taught him by looking at the problem backward -- encouraging him to write the music first so that his own melodies could get on paper. When he was done he could read it, of course. His eyes learned to find the patterns just as he had with regular reading, though it had been a bit like learning the words before the phonics. But then to a dyslexic, backwards can seem perfectly normal.
Compromising in Education without Compromising on Education
Phil* was excelling in math in third grade and every time they played acalled Around The World he would win. That frustrated the other children - so the teacher started having the game on the days Phil attended the gifted program. Which in turn made Phil sad because he never got a chance to play.
The teacher found a great solution: the class went back to play the game when Phil was present, and they would play two rounds: one with Phil participating, and the second one with him sitting out (so another kid got a chance to win). Everybody was happy.
Sounds like no big deal - but to Phil it was. His family loved it that the teacher took his feelings, and the classmates' feelings seriously and thought about a way to make her students happy.
*these names have been changed at the request of the individuals involved