S2 Ep 30: Failure is Just Another ‘F’ Word. A conversation on cultivating successful learning, believing in the learner, and the real meaning of a Fixed and Growth Mindset.
10:18PM Mar 28, 2022
Shelli Ann Garland
Hello, and welcome to A Dash of SaLT. I'm Dr. Shelli Ann and I'm so glad you're here. Whether you stumbled upon this podcast by accident, or you're here because the subject drew you in welcome. SaLT is an acronym for society in learning today. This podcast was created as an outlet for inviting fresh discussions on sociology and learning theories that impact your world. Each episode includes a wide range of themes that focus on society in everyday learning, whether formal or informal, so let's get stuck in shall we.
Welcome to A Dash of SaLT. Today I'm joined by Lois Latchford. Lois has dyslexia and dyslexia came to light for her at the age of 39, when she faced teaching her seven year old non reading son Nicholas, examining her reading failure caused her to really adapt and change lessons for her own son. And the results were dramatic. We're going to talk a little bit about that here in a bit. Lois qualified as a reading specialist to use her non traditional background, multi continental experience and passion to assist other failing students. Her teaching and learning has equipped her with a unique skillset and perspective. And as a teacher, she considers herself a literacy problem solver. She has a new book out, it's called reversed a memoir. It's her first book, and in this story, she details her dyslexia, and the journey of her son's dramatic failure in first grade, she tells of the twists and turns that promoted her passion in her son's dramatic academic turnaround. And in 2018, he received his PhD. So we're going to talk a little bit more about that together. So welcome, Lois, I'm so excited to have you on my podcast today.
Thank you, Shelli Ann I'm delighted to be here and share my story and journey with you.
Great, so I gave just that little bit of info on you. And what I'd like you to do now is tell us a little bit more about yourself and your non traditional background, and that multi continental experience that I mentioned, and these types of things that have formed your education, teaching style and mindset.
I'm old now. So I went to school in the 1960s. I learned to read words through Dick and Jane series. I couldn't comprehend. No one picked up on it. No one helped me. No one appeared to care because that little girl's just not very smart. You know, she works hard. She's a good kid. But she just can't do it. It took me a long time to learn to read and comprehend effectively and content was critical in that. But I it took me years it took me till I was in my 20s and 30s before I could pick up a book and read it independently. Even though I had this background of failure, the school we went to only went to 10th grade at the time, and my older sister then went on to another high school further away to do years 11 and 12. And she's about three months into the year and she says to my mother, mum Lois has got to come here now. And I was in ninth grade. My mother pushed against all of the community are why are you sending your girls there? Why do your girls need to be educated? Do you think they're better than us? Lowers isn't very smart anyway, and all of that to say, Lois, you're going to school and all she said was my girls are going to be educated. The alternative was working on the farm. And the future is only farming, which is manual labour. Hard, hard work. So I went to this next school locker District High School and it changed my life. And from there I was able to go to college and I did physical education and taught for a while. And that was really the background and then I met my husband we were both in London. Both had similar backgrounds except he's the top of the class and I struggle without ever knowing I was dyslexic. I I just knew, no matter how much work I put in, I was only ever getting average results. So we married and had these kids, we've got three boys, the first boy goes to school and he's fine. He's got incredible language picks things up at the speed of light. The second son, Nicholas is the absolute opposite. And Nicholas had ear infections from the ages of eight to 18 months. And no one said there's a problem here. So when he goes to school, he's afraid. And to get him to school on day one, we had to take a stick, I gave him a stick insect. And I said, Take this to your teacher, she'll like this. And she didn't even see him. And he's been quiet. He's got really slow with language. And I speak to the teacher on day six, and I said, How's he going, he throws a hands up and says, Well, I don't know how I'm going to teach you, you know, he's so far behind, and all the rest of the class settling in or doing well. And he's just hopeless. And how I wished I had removed that boy from school on that day. And I know why I didn't. And it's because the younger brother was two at the time. And I knew working with Nicholas talk one on one. But the other problem would have happened. This is a really tough one, that I would have had him at home and may not have made the gains that I wanted, and school would have said, it's because you did it. So he's in the classroom. He's wetting his pants, he's biting his fingernails, he's learning absolutely nothing. And at the end of the year, you know, you go through testing, and the testing reveals, he can read 10 words, he's got no strength, and he's got a low IQ. And that's when you know, when you've got this piece of paper saying that expectations drop immediately. He's got no social skills. And I what I didn't know was that he was isolated in the classroom, and in the playground, and at lunchtime. That's where the story really starts. devastated. How do you get out of that?
One of the things that that really catches my attention when you're talking Lois is that you use the word failure, use the word failure for yourself. And then you use the word failure for Nicklaus. And that is such a in your face, harsh word to hear, it really draws people back when they hear the word failure. But I honestly think it's not so much the word failure, that is an issue, but it's, it's what do you do with it from there? And I think that's, you know, something that I'd like to talk a little bit more about is that, you know, when somebody does hear something about failure, or, you know, failure to thrive or failure to do this, people take that as, oh, well, if you failed, then there's no, there's no succeeding from there. And, and I think that's a frustration that teachers have. And I think that's the frustration that parents have with teachers. Because I feel like when you said the teacher throws her hands up, and she says, I can't do anything with Nicolas, you know, why do we give up? Why? What is that sort of that gives give up scenario? And how can we get past that?
That's a really good question. Because, you know, we are at a high income school. We, you know, we're three kilometres from the university. So you can imagine the clientele, most of the parents who've got PhDs, and if they haven't, they're gaining them. 39 different languages have spoken in the school. So why did they give up? Because he did not meet the bar of expectations of normal six year old and his language skills were slow. And we judge people on their ability to speak, whether we know it or not. And if you can't speak, you're dumb. Didn't we have that for Helen Keller, deaf and dumb. And that there's a carry over from that without recognising. There's a different brain here. And we have to reimagine. Yeah. And you know, and then okay, I'll talk about the teacher a little bit, too. The teacher was old. She had her mother who had Alzheimer's, calling her up day and night. The teacher's patience was on a fuse. But what I find really difficult even today, is that not one person to noon, that school ever picked up the phone and said, allow us this problem. That tears at me. And they never said, what's happening with this child socially isolated? Is it? They never said That's unacceptable. Yeah, no, that's, that's really I find that difficult today.
Yeah, I think far too often there's a communication breakdown between schools and and students and, and again, they end up being put in categories, you know, and then they just get left there. And they go from that category from one year to another one class to another, without ever, you know, where's the communication between home and family? And, and it's one thing, I think that a lot of, you know, myself and my colleagues have had discussions on this in the past, like, you know, that homeschool communication is so vital and so important. But I think when you get into public schools, and then to even private schools, the question becomes, whose responsibility is it? Is it the teacher to contact the parents? Is it the teacher to tell the, you know, the administrators and administrators to contact the parents, and I think that, that, that communication breakdown, is key to why this ends up happening. And then students, you know, they don't have the capability to thrive, you know, because they're stuck in those categories. And there's, there's not a team mentality.
What you said was absolutely perfect, because that's what I could see happening to Nicolas. exactly that, you know, he's in a category, and he's going to go through the school system, and he's going to be the lowest child, throughout his life in the school system, because we've got him in this category. And I'm going to add something here. He's a white male, Father, with a PhD, we are at the pinnacle of where the support should be, where the support night not should be, where the support is, I at the time was a stay at home mother. I had a young guy had the three boys, but you can't get any more supportive than that. And they've, they failed us. So when you have more lies, the chances of getting out of that is very small. So
you and like you said, the, you know, the only reason why you knew what was going on with Nicholas after those first few days of school was not because the teacher came to you and said, Hey, this is kind of happening with Nicholas, it's because you went to her and said, How was Nicholas doing? And again, it's that communication failure, if we're going to use that harsh word there is that, you know, that becomes a problem. And is it always the parents responsibility? Because sometimes the parents don't know, you know, that you may, Nicklaus may come home to you. And, you know, you may ask him, How are you doing in school? And he's fine. You know, like, if you're not getting that communication from your student, or they don't know any different. And you don't ask, it's the teachers responsibility to say, why is my student not thriving? Why is my why is this particular student struggling? You know, and going and asking the parent, and I think that lack of communication is very frustrating.
You've hit the nail on the head, because Nicholas did not have the language to say, I'm humiliated in the classroom. I can't do the work. And all I saw of Nicholas was a white face that truly a white face, how he wasn't in tears, is beyond me.
What was your son's official diagnosis? And and, you know, and when was that? And how did it impact him when it happened?
1994 December 1994, specific learning disability. That's all know, strengths, low IQ. And all of these things add up to condemn him to say he can't learn. And there's very little we can do. And I'm really sorry for you. And the diagnostician said, you and your husband are both smart. You've got to accept that he's not as smart as you based on one test. So how did we get out of it? Good question. Right, the next year, he goes into grade two B, and he's going to repeat grade two. We know that right at the beginning of the year, so we'll have the same teacher but my husband had studied leaving Oxford, England. Now he did his PhD in Oxford. So he's going back to his alma mater, and we're going to England for the six months. We arrived in England in July. They immediately go on six weeks holiday, you know, summer break. So our A Nicholas refuses to work with me during when all the brothers are home in the store, it can't work. So now our time is down to four months. So I go prepared, and I take the series of books that's going to teach them to decode, called Success for All. And they were an abject failure. And here's me getting no better than my first than his first grade teacher. And my mother in law was with us. And she said, allow us put away what's not working, and make learning fun. So I now have a blank slate. And I went back to when was I successful in school. And I was successful. I went physical education, we did anatomy, the first time through, the professor stood out front of the class and talked about things on the board and I got lost and I failed. Then when I repeated it, that Professor brought a bone in. And he named everything and he pointed, and it was a like a light went on in my brain up, and I can do it. So what I did with Nicholas was started to write simple poems. I used a short vowel sound, and I thought, a bargain mug and rug. So poem around that. And instead of asking him to read it, I read it to him. And immediately what happened was that he's relaxed. And he could laugh. We could find the rhyming words together, we're working together. And we did repeat, repetition, repetition, repetition, fun and games, then he illustrated it. And it was so much fun. And I kept going, writing, writing, writing every day, a new poll, because there's no internet. You know, this is 9095, no internet, no access to much what this what I did. Doblo comes up. So we're getting through these letters, who comes up, as in cookbook and book. And I wrote a poem about Captain James Cook, the last of the great explorers. And I just wrote, you know, Captain Cook had a notion, there's a gap in the map in the great big ocean, he took a look without help of any book, hoping to find a quiet little look. So it's a really simple poem with really big ideas. And I just repeated it repeatedly. We went to the British, I think, the Science Centre. And at the last exhibit, there's this whole array of globes. And I said, Look, Nicholas, there's a gap in the map. There's no Australia. And I could see at that same light turn on in Nicholas's brain. And he said to me, and who came before Captain Cook, and I said, that's easy, Nicholas, that's Christopher Columbus. And he said, and Who Came Before Columbus. Now, I know, that question does not come from a child with the low IQ. And I needed to see that. And it was enlightening. And believe it or not, the guy that came before Columbus was Ptolemy. And he was in Alexandria in 242 50. AD. And he drew the world's first map. And can we find Ptolemies map? So we go back into Oxford, we go to the Bodleian Library gift shop and say, Where would we find a Ptolemy bap? The lady leans down behind the counter, picks up a book and says, This is a book of Ptolemy maps that has just been published. That'll be five pound, please. And there's Nicolas drooling over the maps that Ptolemy had done. So we're imagining in his brain, we're getting that all we're giving you a reason to learn the letters and sounds and why they're so important. It's so powerful. And then we came to decoding. One lady spoke to me when I was in Oxford, and she gave me the series of books called hear it, say it, say it do it to teach kids to decode. It took me with Nicholas eight weeks to go through the short vowel and consonant digraphs th s agency H. And it took him another eight weeks to go through short vowel and consonant blends. What I'm learning is how important these consonant blends and digraphs are, that the kids get them right at the beginning, and you're doing it meticulously hands on activities, and engaging the kids. He was learning at a snail's pace, decoding his brain in thinking is that like a 12 year old And I could tell you at the end of that four months, I would say Nicholas was not reading. But he had a love of learning. And he knew how to decode many words now that he didn't before we returned to Australia. Nicholas goes back to school, repeats grade two, he's got a wonderful teacher. I made the diagnostician who done the testing in the end in 1994. And I say, you know, we just had this fantastic time. Nicholas has seen so much you know, and his loved one is like this, that neon. And she says to me, I've spoken to the reading teacher, and he's gone backwards. And in fact, he's the worst child, I've seen 20 years of teaching. So I leave because when someone says something like that, to me, I just blank, I just shut off. I can't think. So I go home, think about it. And I start thinking about all the learning that Nicolas had done. I go back to her office and say, Well, if he is the worst child, you've seen in 20 years of teaching, don't expect him to learn like everybody else. And that was my driver. You know, she gave me some power. That very afternoon in your love. This is a teacher educator. Nicholas comes home with 10 sight words to learn not 20. He came home with the word sore. And the teacher had given him the same two sentences to learn. And she had given every other child in her care. No pictures, word saw. I saw a Nicholas read. I saw a cat. No, he said, and then he went back and he said I was a cat. No, no. I said, add a cat. And I asked her to get and just handed me the paper. And it took me a while to work out what was going on. Because the real sentence was I saw a cat climb up a tree. But he didn't read to the end. He stops. And this is what it's like a running record. You're deciding why did the child stop? Why did they go back? Why did they say no? So that was my thinking. And then I worked out why what's going on? What's the problem? The word saw has multiple meanings. Nicholas, and on the kids on the autism spectrum, developmental delay, only see the concrete. The teacher has only provided the abstract meaning of the word saw problem number one. Problem number two, has Nicholas ever seen a cat climb up a tree? Was that an important thing in his life? Why didn't the teacher say Nicholas, tell me what you saw when you were in England? You know, what colleges did you go to? Did you see Captain Cooks original maps? Did you see a Gutenberg Bible? All she had to do is ask that sentence, the combination of the worst child I've seen in 20 years of teaching and I saw a cat climb up a tree, put a fire in my belly.
Yeah. And those are examples of that fixed mindset that many, many, you know educators have that fixed mindset that you can't you know that your that a child can't succeed if they've been given some sort of diagnosis, and again, it's categorising them. One question I had for you Lois was when, when he was seven years old when Nicholas was seven years old. Did you ever imagine based on what you were being told, did you ever imagine that he could or would it ever achieve a PhD like his father?
No, no, never. I knew, I knew he could think. And I could see his thinking was different. But Never did I see him. You're not achieving at that level. And someone you know, I do a podcast called when learning is trauma. And one of the experts on that said, Have you ever thought that part of the reason he has been so successful is because his failure was so dramatic? Right? I never, never thought
and I think that's that goes back to that word. Again, it's such a harsh and in your face word failure, but it's not so much the word but what you do with it. And that is that that's where that growth in that fixed mindset comes in. And, you know, this is something that sort of captured your own struggles. When Nicklaus started going through these struggles, it captured your own struggles. And, you know, so how did this book How did Nicholas's story become your dyslexic story? How did that come into play?
Ah, well, I I learned You know, I'm doing a lot of reading a lot of reading and after Nicholas, you know, I thought, there's the teaching of reading is far more involved in teaching decoding. And that's interesting. If I had been given the books on decoding First, I would have said, This is all I have to do to teach reading. I just have to teach him to decoding to decode. But because I did the whole the poetry thing first, it was the poetry that captures his imagination. It was the poetry that made him want to learn. And the letters and sounds became important for both the decoding and but this thinking business. You know, Nicholas had this mine that just blew me away. And as a seven year old child, we went down to see the Mary Rose. Now, do you know what the Mary Rose is?
Yeah, yeah, the ship the Mary Rose. Yeah, that was Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, that sunk in 1517. And in 1995, it had just been pulled out. And we go down to visit these ships. And the Mary Rose is there. And it's what is it? It's a pieces of timber. Underwater, because it's got to stay in the conditions or it's going to deteriorate. Nikolas stood in front of that exhibit for about 10 minutes, doesn't say a word. He just looks and hears me thinking, what's going on in his mind. This is not normal behaviour for a seven year old is what I thought. It just blew me away. And that happened on a number of occasions, Nicholas's interest in learning. amazed me. And there was a TV show on about a place that we had seen Bolton Abbey, and it took us into the writing through the scripts, and the monks, and its destruction, and then to the Gutenberg Bible. And Nicholas was just overwhelmed by all of this history, and he just sucked it all up. So you know, all of that story is that there's much more involved in teaching than just teaching decoding, kids want to know why they're learning, they need a purpose for learning. And that goes back to how we learn, not literacy. And the two have to connect. And that's what I did for Nicholas. Yeah. Okay, now you're asking another question. The other thing that happened was that I'm reading a lot about dyslexia and learning disabilities, and learning that abstract words cause problems for these kids, because they don't create a picture. And then I start thinking about me, why can I read words and not comprehend what's going on, so that I can't make sense of this stuff. That sends me back to the books as well. I can blow my trumpet. Now. I had an academic paper published in the reading teacher, that in November, with Professor Tim Brzezinski on pronoun resolution. A lot of people just write it off. What happens is kids read words, without recognising what they have to do as a reader. And I have this very simple book, called a Ha said Stork, and it's Aha said Stork, he picked up the egg. But the egg Would not it would not break. And then the next page is a double page spread of an elephant stamping on it. Now the double page, Lion bit. Chimp hit it, hippopotamus rolled on it, and I get to the end of the book when I'm teaching. And I said to these kids, what's the it and they said to me, three, eight year old so they're in third grade. It It is nothing. If there's three words, and four words on a page, and you cannot tell me what the it is, you can't comprehend. So that sent me on a whole search of what else is involved in literacy and learning abstract words. I create a picture for every abstract words, every abstract word. I look at things like speech language, about the power the struggle kids have with the past tense words, like saw and was and We're how a word like W era is something that we ignore how it has meaning and how they muddle it up with we are or were or, or war or something else. And they really don't have meaning for that. Although every child knows the meaning of that word, they use it in the oral language. So you've got to connect the oral language with their written language, I have a lot of fun. I use, I use a lot of hands on materials to teach my kids, I show them how the written language works. Language is complicated, because one word often has multiple meanings. And this happens right at the beginning of learning to read. I went on to become the district reading spec specialist in Lubbock, Texas. My first student was a 13 year old boy spent four years in a phonics only reading programme and came out non reading and able to read a sentence flat out decoding the words. And I said to them, that I think I know what the problem is. It's more than just decoding. So I teach him over the summer. And then I get employed by the school district to teach him and then these other kids come along, all in the same position. One of the very first things I did with my students in the end was ask them to give me a sentence with the word to, and I just write T on the paper. And I say, what is it? And I'll say to and now give me a sentence with it. The regular sentences, I have two hands. Now give me a sentence with the word FLR. A dog has four legs, any child who's been in school for three or four or five years and cannot tell a difference between to and to who will not read. It's a language challenge, as much as the decoding problem, because readings gotta make sense. Do I say I'm passionate?
Yeah, you absolutely do sound passionate. And yeah, um, anyway, it makes me think about, again, a friend and colleague of mine, Mags Flood, and we are very passionate about Universal Design for Learning. And this is all one of the things that you keep talking about is that, you know, if you if it as a teacher, if you cater to the student, now, in some countries, and in some places they call, they say you have to differentiate for the student who needs the extra help, or do you have to differentiate like you had said that your, you know, the Nicholas was given earlier, 10 words, were not the other students were given 20 They're differentiating down to Nicklaus. But if you plan your, your, your lessons so that you're working with that differentiation, or you're integrating that differentiation into the plan for all students, you like you were just saying that you do. So one student may be able to understand to look at two, two and two, and be able to have that comprehension where another student doesn't. But if you are integrating visuals, or your intricate, integrating song, or poem, or things for the other student, you're not differentiating down to that student, you're actually talking about inclusion. And I know that that's something that you're also very passionate about is inclusion. And that's where that that idea of universal design comes in. And we need to stop differentiating for the student that has the problem and start integrating for all the students to learn together in their own creative ways. So if you're implementing video, you're implementing audio or learning of, you know, poems or activities, that all students are going to pick up what they need to pick up in their own special way, but they're doing it together, inclusively.
Why don't we do it? We make assumptions about reading of words. If a child reads the words, they have the meaning. That's the biggest problem. And it's to understand how complicated these written this written word is, for those who struggled the most. You know, we're still teaching to the 50th percentile. We want to teach to the kids who are the lowest and understand how they learn. And everybody, everybody gains.
Yep. Because everybody's gonna learn it.
And we say, Oh, we saw the light go on with that kid. Well, why did the light go on? Why did it go on with that one or not that one? What did we do that made the light go on for that kid? I mean, most of reading happens by mistake. When you teach the kids down the bottom, like I have specialised in. If you make the mistake, the child doesn't learn to read.
Yeah, it's not the child's fault. Yes, it's not the child's failure.
Yeah, yeah, there's very few who have so many problems.
There is actually on those of us who are responsible for teaching. Yes, exactly. And, you know, I taught I said earlier, we were going to kind of introduce the idea of growth and fixed mindset. Carol Dweck has a great saying that she says, you know, the, the growth mindset is the idea of not now. They're sure it's not, you can't, it's not yet. And it's one of the things that she says a lot. And, you know, she studies human motivation. It's, you know, human relationships and social relationships are something that's I'm very passionate about, and, but she studies human motivation. And she studies why people succeed or why they don't, and what's within our control, again, to foster success, because we are the ones that are responsible for as educators for the failure of others. And that growth mindset does, describes that way of viewing challenges and setbacks. And you know, people who have the growth mindset, or have a growth mindset believe that even if they struggle with certain skills, their abilities aren't really set in stone, Oh, you're always going to be a failure, you're never going to get past level, whatever level that you're at. But growth, people with the growth mindset think that, you know, with work, their skills can improve over time. So not yet, but keep working at it right? And so why, in your idea, I'm going to ask you, why do you believe that mindset is so powerful when it comes to literacy and teaching?
Because we so quickly write children off? They can't do it? They can't do it. We don't look at what we're learning what the teaching is. What's in front of them. And ah, you know, we talked about Kimya.
Yes, one of the previous episodes, that's what Lois is referring to now, if you haven't listened to a previous episode with Kimya Nuru Dennis, go back into my episodes. And listen, this is what Lois is referring to.
She talks about culture. When you've got children sitting in front of you who can't learn it. What materials are we teaching? Is it like Nicolas? Are we doing, you know, cat climbing up a tree when the child has never seen a cat climbing up a tree? I'm teaching this eight year old boy. He's stuck in a programme. The books are white, the middle class and are female. And he has no interest. Sorry, has no interest in it. Can you? Can the child see themselves in that book? What did I do? I picked up the book of Richard Wright in the library card. Do you know it? It's an old one. Now. It's a pitcher. But it's way above his level. Doesn't matter. The child can connect and we start talking about it and I rewrote the story. I could have done a better job. We wrote the story. And you get through it. And Richard Wright cannot go to the library because he was born in 19, early 1900s. He can't go to the library because he's black. Can you go to the library, I can go to the library, blah, blah, blah. The next day, the boy comes back to me and he says My mummy knew about Richard Wright. And my granddaddy knew about Richard, why was it so important? Because everything else we've been teaching him about letters and sounds is irrelevant. You can't make any connections. What's he doing when he leaves your classroom? Is he thinking about it? Or is it think God's that oh, that's over? Or is he coming back and say, Ah, this is important. This has got power. And you know, and another story, one of my other students? I mean, she's we're living in Lubbock, Texas, and you know, Lubbock, Texas, it looks like this table. And they're learning. They're learning oh a word. Now what are the yo a words goat coat? What connection can a child it doesn't matter that colour make to these things? Why don't they remember them? Because they are isolated? They are revelant AniMagic unimaginable facts. And the child cannot make any connections. I do a lot of reading. And I've read the book why by Mariola via recently and they look at MRIs in the brain and how the brain functions. And he said you know what we do in the brain with these MRIs is we take a slice and take a picture. That picture is liked Taking a picture of the ocean instead of recognising that brain waves propagate in the in the brain in unimaginable ways. And that's what happened with Nicholas. You know, when we tap into all of these things like the Richard Wright, and give kids things that they they want to eat? It's like a plate of food, isn't it? What do you hate? Brussels sprouts? Now? That's your dinner? That's it? How am I going to eat it?
Instead of what else we got to do? Okay, we do have to have the brussel sprouts. What are we going to put on top of it? What are we going to spread out? What else can we do to get that kid to say this is worth my while, and then we change the brainwaves. The first thing we have to do with our kids that are struggling, is looking at how we're seeing them. Because if we see them as failures, as they just have to eat this stuff here in front of them, they just have to digest those words of deadly. What else do I have to do? changes the conversation? What else is going wrong with the teaching process? Why can't they remember it? You know, is it because I've never experienced? What's the emotion going on in the lesson that I am doing today? Am I kids happy and laughing? Or are they thank God that I reckon I do a lesson one of my first lesson. I call it a box lesson, I actually did it for Nicholas and send it to school. It's an it's a shoe box. And I look at the words called shouldn't wood. And I say, what could be in this box? What should be in? And what would you like to find in it? And then I've got three options for them to make a decision. So what I'm hearing if the child makes what should be in it, and they give me something, whether it's a shoe box, so watch robot, there's only one answer. It must be a shoe box. If they don't give me that I'm getting there thinking, Why have they not given me the correct answer of should code is you know, you're thinking and what is another you're thinking, then they open it up. And inside, there are more boxes and with the same questions and a bottle of juice that's wrapped in bubble wrap. And the first thing that says is beware. There's a letter under this note, which would be wise to read before you make a decision. So you open the letter, and the letter is from zoo from the zoo. And it says that the elephants paid into this bottle. And it's and that they sent it to the zoo. People send it to me and it's now what could be in the bottle. It could be elephant P. Mike children have to think but what happens is when children have come to me and they've failed for many years in school, the first thing I'm doing is having my students laugh. Relaxing. If something different, this lesson is going to be okay. And then they walk away. I've got a bottle of I got a bottle of elephant pee. Isn't that fun? And that's the starting point of working with kids who have struggled for so long. My second lessons got to be just as good. But that first lesson is critical.
We should be inclusive in our designs for learning for all students. And you know, one of the things that I think that really popped into my head when you were talking there was this idea that we need to start asking our students more questions. You know, like, if they're not getting something, why are we not asking them? Do you know what meatballs are on a spaghetti? In in many, many countries, you have a very international group of students, you're, you know, pretty much in any country I think that you live in now, you're going to have foreign nationals in your classrooms, where were things that might seem relevant to our culture, as you were talking earlier, aren't relevant to their culture. And so if they're not comprehending, maybe stop and ask them. Do you know what a beach ball is? Do you know, you know, you know, what, what is this? You know, and asking a student more questions rather than just assuming there's a problem.
And creating an experience. If it's possible to create an experience, particularly for younger children, then you've got that common, the common experience. Now you understand what I'm talking about, otherwise, children, children just sit there and like I did in school, you know, you don't know how to say, I don't understand that. This doesn't make sense to me. So that's really good for you to say, we have to ask more questions.
Yeah, yeah. And I think that we have to make lessons that are more. I don't know if creative is the right word, but you need, you need more props and lessons, you know, if you're going to tell a story about the, like, somebody's hair, and somebody's going to get their first haircut, you know, provide, you know, some props for the children, you know, scissors, and, you know, some various textures that may come with different skin tones, or hair types, or, you know, things like that. People from different cultures, and that come from different areas. And, you know, depending on where you're from, you know, your, your hair may be very different, you know, the texture of your hair may be very different, or the colour of your skin or, or things like that, and creating those props as part of literacy. And as part of learning to read and as part of lessons will really help children. It's a tangible way to teach words on a page. And I think that's really important. And I think it's something that has become very lost in the structure and the organisation of how learning should happen, especially with young people is that it has to come from a book, No, it doesn't. words come to life on the page, through tangible, you know, learning moments, you know, things that we have, that that we can use, it isn't always just about trying to decipher what, to, too and two means on a page. Or was wasn't or could, would and should.
Two incidences that really brought this home to me. Nicholas is at the end of first grade. You know, he's failed throughout the year, he comes home to me one day, and he's really excited. He's got to tell me some things. And he really told the story of the giant turn up to me verbatim. Why? Because they were acting it out. So he could see it. He could recall it. And you know, it was just he's learned nothing. So we have to change the teaching, and you change the teaching, what have you got, you've got this kid with phenomenal memory. And with my first student in Lubbock, he taught me, you've got to turn the books into place. And it turns words from something that happens on the page that seems to be irrelevant to something that is powerful. Ah, that's what it says, This is what I meant to do. And it's a stepping stone to your imagination. And we have to do more stepping stones, and it takes more steps.
And you remind me something about like, when I was in high school, I remember reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and one of our you know, goals to get to was it once you finish reading To Kill a Mockingbird? Then we'll watch the movie, right? And now thinking back on it, I think for a lot of people, it would have been better to do it in reverse, because not only do you get the context context from a movie, and people might say no, because then a student wouldn't be you know, they wouldn't be inclined to read it. But yes, they would. Because then you could talk about what were the contradictions between what was seen in the movie, and what was was read on the page, or, you know, how, you know, you could talk about cinematic differences, there's all different types of things that you could talk about things that were missing, or contexts that may or may have been different. And now you're asking students just thinking about their critical analytical skills, you know, by by taking and looking at, well, let's keep an eye out for the differences between the movie, but it would help them really have a good understanding, especially again, those who need something more than just reading words on page, they would be more inclined to read what's on the page, especially one if they're looking for something, you know, let's look for the differences. And then also, they have an understanding of what the words on the page meant, because they saw it being acted out in front of them.
Yeah, I totally agree. I watch Pride and Prejudice. Now, I couldn't read that book. You know, that was my reading level at the time. I couldn't read that book in 1995. And the six part series came out in England, and we every every man and his dog was glued to it to Mr. Darcy. Uh huh. get halfway through the book. I can read it. You've got the background knowledge, you've got the language, you've got the story structure. You as a reader still have to go back and read every single word. You've got more support? Yes. I realise that as I read descriptions really threw me. conversation was fine. I could get the story to record but descriptions. The words just overwhelmed me and they lost me. So What you're saying is really important. And Anna Green Gables is one that I saw the movie, then I just couldn't put the book down. But I needed the context because the words that were just coming out of that little girl's mouth just lost me. Yeah, no, it's far too slow too much description. So we have to, you have to do a lot more thinking than standardised. This is what we're going to do, right and realise what the reader is thinking what the child is thinking, our teaching has to be more child centred. And we need more knowledge on what goes wrong with language. And learning.
Yeah, and it has to be teaching has to be more active in the class, the classroom has got to be much more active than, you know, we have to get away from that. I've said this, I can't tell you how many times before about, you know, so no more of the sage on the stage. And you're standing up in front teaching your students and they're all sitting there like perfect little, you know, pegs in a in a seat, you know, you have to your classroom has got to be active, if you're going to expect all of your learners to be successful, and have, you know, differing ways of, of teaching them all at the same time. You know, it has to be live and active.
And you just said something, then, you know, the skill readers if they get up and acted out, really helped those who are struggling, because they see the written word in such they see it like a Rembrandt skill ray to see the written word like a stick figure. And if they act it out, you've engaged everyone.
Yep. Inclusive Classroom. Inclusive Classroom isn't just about disability, it isn't just about, you know, culture, colour or anything in an inclusive classroom also means engaging all learners to be successful. You're obviously very passionate about teaching. We've heard this. What advice do you have for parents whose children might be struggling in school?
Believe in your child, believe in the child, and know that they can be taught to read. And it's the teaching that must change? I think I get a little bit disappointed with the narrative of what's going on. It's this system or that system or unit. And I I get out of those arguments because I can't be bothered. The teaching has to be child centred. What is the child learning and ask that every day? What are they learning? I my learning has not stopped since I wrote the book. In fact, it's exploded because of the journey that Nicolas took. Nicholas, it was such a negative journey at the beginning and we turned it round through accidents, a series of just in accidents that happened. And I've learned more about emotional well being and emotional learning. Our kids have to be happy in school, and the person's name is Dr. Mary Helen iMore. No Yang. And if you find her work, find out how important emotions are. So if your children are coming home in tears, they're not learning. We're in negative. And emotions. Positive emotions allow us to access memory. It's not an optional extra. They have to be happy, if they're going to learn. Read a lot to your children. read from books, particularly picture books, because they have got a wider range of language. And the vocabulary comes from that. But read it, act it out. Share it with the children. And when you see a child struggling, take time with that kid if you can. To see them more than just a failing child. Make sure they've got friends in the classroom. Make sure someone sits them with lunchtime because we actually damaged children significantly when we leave them isolated in the playground.
Absolutely, And can you sum up your teaching philosophy in a sentence?
It comes from Professor Kurt Dudley Marlin learning and learning problems dwell in activities and cultural practices and not in the heads of individuals.
I love that a perfect summation.
It has been a phenomenal conversation.
I know it really has a we didn't talk in depth about your book reversed a memoir, but I would highly suggest that it is it is available in many formats, not just in book format. It's also an author The audio format. It's an ebook format, and I will also have your information available for everybody that they can reach out and contact you via your website. If they're interested in finding out more about reversed a memoir, but do you have? Do you want to say anything a little bit about reversed a memoir, or any other book recommendations or contact information that you'd like to share with us?
Contact information is on my website, www at lowest Lich for.com. You'll find me Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. You grab a copy of my book, if your child is struggling, connect with me ask advice, share your story. I'd love to know how you're getting on.
I do want to ask you, what did Nicholas get his PhD in?
Nicholas received his PhD in applied mathematics from Oxford University.
Oxford University. Fantastic. And your other boys? I don't want to leave them out. How are they faring?
The eldest one works for National Instruments in Texas. And the youngest one is he's got a degree from the University of Albany. Eventually he's had more of a struggle. And he's doing a game design company now. And we hope that works very well for him.
Awesome. So any final words of wisdom or advice for our listeners before we say goodbye,
No. just believe in your child and know that they're capable of flying to the moon, they miss the moon, they land among the stars.
That's amazing. Lois, thank you so much, so so much for spending this time with me. And I know that our listeners are going to get so much from from this conversation and you have just such wonderful advice. And and again, thank you for spending this time with me. I appreciate it.
Thank you, Shelli Ann I've loved it
I hope that you've enjoyed this discussion on A Dash of SaLT, a space where you'll always find fresh and current discussions on society and learning today. Seasoned with just the right touch of experts and education and a dash of sociological imagination. Please be sure to like and share this episode. And don't forget to subscribe to A Dash of SaLT on PodBean so that you don't miss the next episode. Thanks so much and we'll chat again soon.