As a remedial teacher I have often been asked what the difference between remedial lessons and extra lessons are. There is a stigma, sadly still attached, to remedial education where parents are nervous to approach it in fear that it means there is a “problem” with their child. Parents will rather send their children to far too many extra lessons, overloading their child with copious amounts of work, instead of first seeking remedial help.
Trying to find a definition of Remedial Education is a challenging feat. Many believe it has something to do with “fixing” a child. Whatever is wrong with the child is fixed in remedial education. Unfortunately children, and adults alike, are not like cars that breakdown and can be “fixed” by a mechanic. We are far more complicated than that. We also live in a society where parents and teachers use a grade system to measure a child’s intelligence or competency. As such, we start to compare children who have learning barriers, with the academic children in the same grade, and find them lacking.
While it is true that we need to educate our children to have competency in all areas of their 12 years of schooling, it is just as true that each child has their own area of intelligence. One child might be artistically brilliant and struggle with maths, while another is top in the maths class and hates history lessons. Some children may even shine outside of school, in sports clubs for example, while at school it is a daily battle to concentrate. No two children are the same. So why then do we expect them to be?
Whatever area your child excels in, or enjoys (maths, art, soccer, cooking, etc) should be praised. We tend to focus on the areas in their life where they do not shine. At all times, as parents and teachers, we need to be calling out and encouraging the strengths in children. Their weaknesses can be overcome, can be improved, can be fixed. However, what sets them apart, and what will most likely always make them happy, is their areas of strength. So before we get into the nitty gritty of remedial lessons, we need to focus our praise onto these well deserving children.
So now, the crux of the matter: the fundamental difference between remedial lessons, and “extra” lessons is the point at which the lessons start. Let me explain using a simple example”
Johnny has difficulties with his grade 4 maths. He is adding correctly, however his subtraction is far slower and full of mistakes.
At extra lessons, Johnny will be given countless grade 4 subtraction sums and will practice them, learning the method of subtraction through practice and will eventually learn to do this with a certain amount of ease.
In comparison, at remedial lessons, Johnny will start with the simplest sums, such as 3-1=2, and slowly work his way up to grade 4 level maths sums. While starting at scratch may seem a time consuming it has three major benefits:
It boosts Johnny’s confidence as he should be able to answer these easy sums with ease. In class he may not be experiencing this ease in grade 4 subtraction, so he will enjoy the feeling of getting the answers right. This immediately grows Johnny’s self confidence, and his enjoyment of maths.
Starting from scratch will help the tutor to be able to clearly find the trigger issue underlying Johnny’s subtraction problem. It may be as simple as the fact that he has never grown out of using his fingers to help subtract, which meant bigger sums were enormously difficult, granted he only has 10 fingers. The key issue, however, may be as challenging as a disgraphia problem – these sorts of issues tend to be overlooked by tutors who are not skilled in remedial education.
In the event that a learning difficulty is discovered by the tutor, such as disgraphia, the remedial tutor is equipped not only to identify the symptoms, but also to adjust their teaching in a manner that can overcome the specific difficulty in the best way possible.
Not all students who require remedial education have the “big, bad, and ugly” learning difficulties. Your child does not need to have a severe dyslexia, tourettes, ADHD, or any other difficulty to benefit from remedial lessons. In fact, if your child does not have challenging learning difficulties then their “remediation” period will be faster and last longer, than it would take in normal extra lessons.
Think of it like this, your brain works like a clock made up of many cogs. These cogs turn effortlessly if they are all functioning correctly. Imagine the smallest cog stops working. The entire system fails and you cannot use the clock any more. However, if the clock is closely examined, every area tested, the clock technician may be able to find the malfunctioning cog and correct the error. Once it is fixed, the clocks works effortlessly.
This is true for remedial lessons. Once the underlying issue is found, and helped, it will have a ripple effect on all the areas that it effects. Let us look at Johnny again.
In extra lessons he practices and learns how to use certain methods and get the answer correct. He may not necessarily understand why it works like that, but he knows that if he follows a certain method he will get the correct outcome. Four years later, when Johnny is learning about algebra and has to deal with variables in his sums, the old trusty methods will fail him. His “cog” will simply no longer turn smoothly and once again he will hate, and subsequently struggle with subtraction.
If Johnny goes to remedial lessons and learns about what subtraction actually is, not only how to subtract, then when Algebra rears its nasty head, he will be equipped with the academic and cognitive ability necessary to analyse variables in a subtraction equation.
In closing, possible the most necessary truth about remedial education, and lessons, is that there is no quick fix. Sometimes, there simply is no fix at all. As each child is different, it may take longer than expected for the tutor to find the underlying error and address it. It is essential that each child is given time and space, as well as good education, to learn. Forcing your child to attend as many extra lessons, or remedial lessons, that you can possibly fit in one week is of no benefit to their learning process.
Repetition does not always bring revelation. Remember that your child is still a child. Their brain is still growing, and they desperately need a childhood. Support them and provide for their every need as best you can, but do not put unfair and unnecessary expectation on them.