It took me six years and five attempts at my driving test to lean to drive. In fact humiliation of all humiliation my baby brother passed before I did, about a month after his seventeenth birthday. I wasn’t exactly what you would call a natural!
I mean, don’t get me wrong, I aced the theory test – twice in fact! The first one ran out before I passed the practical. I knew exactly how I was supposed to drive but my body wouldn’t comply. To make matters worse, I did insist on continuously driving on the wrong side of the road (which didn’t go down well with the first driving instructor who lasted only a very short time before he gave up on me). I didn’t, and still don’t, know my left from my right and that made things more than a little tricky.
Luckily, I was both stubborn and resilient. I decided that no one was going to tell me I couldn’t learn to drive and I persevered. But this time, I wasn’t leaving it in the hands of a driving instructor. I knew that somehow I had to learn which side of the road I should be driving on, but that I needed to do it in a way that would be safe and would give me time to think. So, I rode a push bike. For three whole years whilst I was at university I rode my bike everywhere, I still got confused about which side of the road I should be on but on a bike it was safer. I could stop when I needed to, put my bike and myself on the pavement and give myself time to think. Gradually over time, I had to think a bit less and then a bit less until it became almost natural to me which side of the road I should be on. And at that point, I braved the world of driving instructors again…
Sometimes our students test us. We work so hard planning our lessons, preparing learning opportunities for them and yet still they don’t seem to make progress. It’s frustrating because we’re at a loss of what else we can try that will make a difference. Sometimes (not always), but sometimes the answer is we need to do more of the same. We need to provide opportunities for repetition, we need to allow students time to practice those skills until they become natural to them. But most of all, we need to not give up. We need to believe that all of our students are capable of learning and we need to persevere. We need to persevere so that they can.
Of course, we need to do this for all students, not just those with SEN. But perhaps for those who don’t find it easy, for those to whom learning doesn’t come naturally, it matters all the more. The students who challenge us the most are often the ones that need us the most. So next time you feel like throwing your hands in the air and giving up, stop a moment and think, maybe you just need to persevere that little bit longer….