Rabbit Tracks: Practical advice for teachers, educators and parents who want to help kids

By Bob Smith
RHS Class of 1957

When I went to school in the forties and fifties, students were rated as smart, dumb and average.  Students were also judged to be well-behaved or unruly trouble-makers.
I think that all of these traits are inter-related and can be treated in what are considered “normal” kids.  I don’t think that my suggestions would be useful in treating kids with dyslexia, autism, ADHD, fetal alcohol syndrome or those children known as “drug babies.”
When I went to school, I was “hard of hearing” due to untreated ear infections.  Today, I would be called “aurally challenged.” I found that if I sat in the first or second row, I made much better grades than if I was seated in the back of the room
A lot of kids had sight problems but did not want to wear glasses because they didn’t want to be called “peepers” or “four-eyes.”
Even today, I imagine that kids who wear glasses are called names like “geek” or “nerd.”  I can’t imagine what they would call a student wearing hearing aids, but I don’t think that it would be nice.
Placing kids with hearing or sight problems in the back of the class leads to boredom on their part and that can lead to them being trouble-makers because they feel left out of what’s going on in the classroom.  If glasses and hearing aids are not viable choices, then those who have difficulty seeing or hearing should at least be placed in the front of the class.
My first suggestion is to have every student given periodic eye and hearing tests.  It might cost some money but it would produce higher grades than drilling kids for FCAT tests.  Teachers should also be on the lookout for kids squinting at the blackboard.
If a teacher has a troublemaker in a class, I would suggest that they speak to that person alone and ask them one simple question.  Ask them, “What would it take to get you on my side?”
They may come up with some legitimate ideas or maybe nothing at all, but it will put the ball in their court.
It might work or it might not work, but it is worth a try.

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