The Point

The Point dan skognes motivation blogger speaker teacher trainer coach educator

Have you ever tried to make your point to someone and get that blank look from them in return? You know the deer in the headlights look? Of course you have; especially if you have kids or have taught school…or you are married. LOL. Getting your point across is tricky because it depends a lot on the receiver being “tuned in” to what you are trying to say. It also gets tricky because it is incumbent on you to deliver a message that they CAN receive.

Once when I was teaching a class of 3rd graders I had an encounter that drives home this issue. It was a math lesson. Need I say more?  LOL. It seems most of the world is challenged with math. I know I struggled with it as a kid. I will admit I am pretty good with basic math now, but only because I memorized my tables and I have had many years of practice.

On this particular day, we had explained a problem on the board. We have been going over this concept for a week, so this was review. We handed out the tests and told them to start. One child sat there staring at the paper. I went over to him and asked him if he understood the assignment. He nodded yes, so I encouraged him to get busy. A few minutes passed and he is still sitting there…like in a daze. I went over and asked him if he felt OK. He did…so I encouraged him to get to work. When he turned his paper in, he made a 30.

Now, in his defense, the class did not do particularly well on the test, so we re-taught it and had the kids who DID get the concept come to the board and explain how THEY did it. After retaking the test, most improved, but not so much our little friend. He got a 40 this time.

It turns out he can’t read…at least not at 3rd grade level. This would have been good for us to know, right? When we started doing math problems he would get stuck on words, but did not want to admit he could not read. Wow. My co-teacher and I just shook our heads. How did this kid get promoted to the 3rd grade? He can’t read, write, or do basic math. He is not a bad kid; just the opposite. He is one of the sweetest kids you can imagine. He is just slow because of his lack of reading skills and his comprehension suffers as a result. Why has he not been diagnosed with a learning disability before now?

We shall see how it is handled by those who make the decisions. My personal opinion is he should stay in 3rd grade and be given special assistance one on one and in smaller groups with special attention to reading and comprehension. Time will tell how that one plays out. I hope we don’t just promote him to make our numbers look better.

Just this week I went to a coffee shop to get a cup of coffee. It cost $2.87. I gave the high school girl $3 and then reached in my pocket to see what change I had. I had a couple of pennies to get rid of, so I handed them to her. She gave me that deer in the headlight look. She stared at the cash drawer a moment…then reached in and gave me a nickel back. I said, “I think you still owe me a dime.” Her manager happened to be observing and said, “She is still working on doing math in her head.” OK…but why do you put someone who can’t do simple math on a cash register? Why do teachers keep promoting kids who can’t read, can’t write, and can’t do simple math?

Maybe my point is pointless, as I feel like I am trying to change the course of the Titanic by waving at it. I do hope that parents and educators get this point however: If we expect our children to grow up into responsible adults, they have to know the 3Rs at the very least. The more we can get them to read on their own the better off they will be. The more we can get them engaged in class the more they will learn. The more practice they do outside of school, the better prepared they will be to move on to the next grade. Homework may be the best thing for them rather than having them zoned out on their XBOX or roaming the streets with their buddies.

If parents and educators don’t wake up, join up, and help kids grow up, we are going to have a bunch of kids who are dropouts, in trouble with the law, and doing things they have no business doing….like experimenting with drinking, drugs, sex, vandalism, etc. The parents and educators both have a responsibility to do their part. I hope and pray we do for the sake of the kids and our own sanity. Shalom!

Dan Skognes

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