I recently read a post about a certain “Iya Olodo” on my ex lecturer’s wall. It was about a woman who made it a duty to nurture “dullards”, embracing the rather disappointing name that later came with such a rare act of kindness and understanding. I don’t want to believe that trained academic instructors are alien to the fact that we indeed have students who are slow at learning; and that this trait does not in any way prove that such students are unintelligent. Of course, we live in a society where many find themselves in professions they ordinarily would never get into, but for the sake of living and making ends meet.
I have a story too. Being a student, I was never regarded as a dullard but I know the pressure I felt whenever we were being tested in the classroom, just so I would not be considered as one. It was never about learning to deeply understand what was being taught. Instead, many of us learn to impress the instructor when it was time for assessments. There was a constant struggle to remain in the good books of my teachers and you could only achieve this by being one of the seemingly brightest students in the class. Now, I know better.
What qualifies a child as a Slow Learner?
Are all “dullards” really dull? Or do they simply learn slowly? The expression Slow Learners did not just come to exist on its own. Educational psychologists describe a slow learner as an individual who does not assimilate as fast average students do. The description is very clear. No one needs to process this before realizing that those who seem to not understand their teachers or parents at the first attempt in learning something new are not, and should not be seen as dullards. They are simply slow learners and here are some facts we may not have known before now.
A backward pupil (slow learner) may have gotten the trait through heredity. Yes, that’s true. They may also have become what they are as a result of environmental factors such as the standard of the community they live in, feeding habits, playgroup and so on. But this is not all. The emotional status of a child may contribute greatly to their academic performance, especially when the source is their home.
So how then can we stop stigmatizing slow learners, knowing that they can also learn like other children?
As Academic instructors, the first step is to identify such students in your classroom, get them to seat in positions where you can have facial contact with them as you deliver your lessons. You can also repeat explanations, helping them understand that you are keen on improving their knowledge and not in the classroom to get paid. It is sometimes a great task. As a matter of fact, frustration may set in. This is where you introduce remedial classes (evening school) to them. Inform their parents about their learning capabilities, and how important an extra session with their wards can augment their knowledge.
Parents are no saints on this too. In place of putting your child through corporal punishments because they have failed in school, counsel them, encourage them, get them private teachers, learn their weaknesses and help them grow out of it. Educating a child does not end in the classroom, your relationship with them, their welfare and other factors should be positive at every turn. Slow learners learn too, but they learn slowly. Help them!
Don’t go yet, you may want to know a thing or two about Social-emotional learning.