We all have certain understandings that just don’t make it through the filters of life. For some it is basic mathematics. For some a second but necessary language. Or composing with a sense of order in the roll out of thoughts. Or in editing a document. Or holding a pencil. Or learning a keyboard.
For me there are odd pieces that I struggle with. ‘Effect versus affect.’ When to use ‘fewer’; when to use ‘less’. Or the real meaning of heat. Mom used to say “Don’t touch the stove; it’s hot.” And somehow I lost the variable that how long one stayed in contact with the flame also mattered. Of course in the information age a good search engine and a little practice make specific info much more accessible than it had ever been before. Even English as a second language might be learned in school via Rosetta Stone and good headphones.
But there are some topics that need more elaborate structures to help the student get passed his difficulties. In a way the need for what I call remediation can cover quite a large range of topics, but usually the student needs help with something specific. At Marist College for example I joined with 6 other professors to create an ongoing writing lab to work one on one with students in a quiet environment. It was very successful and a boon to student learning various aspects of writing skill needed to facilitate college work. In most cases there was something specific that needed to be addressed. In the process of discussing what we were setting out to do, we also learned a wider range of teaching techniques from each other. I remember one Professor who used only light pencil checks in the margins, to convey that there was something that needed editing and in that way helped the more advanced students move toward recognizing a miscue and amending it themselves.
On Elementary and Secondary levels the approach can use some revamping. For one thing there is a certain stigma about being in the lowest reading group and leaving a class while others remain. This disturbs the flow of the lesson for the class and the individual. And the frustration that students feel when confronting some of their most difficult stumbling blocks isn’t fun and needs a compassionate helper.
Modular scheduling which offers flexibility is critical to the solution. We don’t really need five days of English, five days of social studies, etc. And once we give this up, we can make use of a computer generated scheduling system to individualize instruction integrating remediation in areas set up for the task with a specialized tutor.
I have a friend who was a music teacher. He said he never met anyone who couldn’t learn to match tones and thus to sing, once he learned to hear. My mom said she never tutored anyone who didn’t learn to read, even one who hadn’t been in school in a long time and grew up abroad. What a difference it made in his life he reported years later. He thought he was too old to learn how.
It isn’t cheap to utilize remedial reading pros. However, some student teachers can help and education majors as part of their search for an ideal grade level to begin at, can too, and it may make all the difference in student futures.
We could use more part and full time teaching positions. Staff reductions to save money has affected our schools adversely; many newly qualified teachers, including some of my finest students, cannot find jobs of any kind in education.
There is also the need for building structures with small places that can be devoted to one on one tutoring in a pleasant, open environment with good lighting and maybe some sliding partitions for easy conversion to slightly larger small group sessions.
They could be used for topics like available college scholarships scheduled for interested seniors and many other topics.
There’s also the role of computers and computer education, (which last I heard isn’t even a subject in most secondary schools,) though I imagine we wouldn’t call it remediation. Maybe we can think of it simply as ‘assistance.’