I’ve written about my son Nicholas before (read it here). He is now Dr. Nicholas Letchford, DPhil (Oxon) BSc (Hons) BEng (Hons) UTas.
But, he was once the “worst child seen in 20 years of teaching.” The school diagnostician branded him with this label…at seven years old.
Nicholas, now thirty, is a confident, delightful, knowledgeable man, and married to an equally wonderful woman, Lakshmi. He talks with passion about mathematics, engineering, and the challenges of the modern world.
It is only when I ask him about his early schooling education that he seems to shut down.
In 1994, first grader Nicholas’s learning hit rock bottom. He withdrew in class, a place where his teacher shouted at him. He stared into space, which earned him even more shouting, and by the end of the year, he could only read ten words. In hindsight, his teacher destroyed him.
Finally, there was a turning point. In 1995, my husband had study leave in Oxford. Our family joined in, leaving our home in Australia. I decided to teach Nicholas at home. Of course, my initial efforts at teaching regular phonics instruction ended in failure—abject failure. I was no different than his classroom teacher.
It was at this point—the turning point—when my mother-in-law said to me, “Lois, make learning fun.”
Her words caused me to re-evaluate what I was doing. I began writing poems; simple rhyming poetry which Nicholas and his grandmother then illustrated. My teaching transformed as we investigated simple poems, then expanding to follow more complex ideas, like the changing map of the world. He was beginning to make different connections while appreciating maps and world history. This became our inquiry project. By tapping into Nicholas’s curiosity, immersing him in language and learning, as well as providing meaningful experiences through seeing various museums, artefacts, and libraries, his love of learning grew.
I found a series of books which helped me teach him to decode words: Hear it, See it, Say it, Do it! by Mary Atkinson. The books were brilliant, and Nicholas and I were finally able to connect through the multi-sensory word games.
Nicholas and I enjoyed this learning—both in the short and, amazingly, the long term.
Yet, long-term—like today—still brings up painful memories. I recently asked Nicholas about his early learning experiences he dissolved into tears.
Twenty three years after his poor schooling, he still could not talk about the pain or the scars left from those years.
When I asked about his reading teacher, he responded with a quick, “I don’t remember her!”
“Nicholas,” I said, “You visited her four days a week, for 30 mins a day…for four years!”
“Ahh,” he said, searching for this memory. “Yes…she was a witch.”
Recalling his early learning from living in Oxford in 1995, Nicholas talked about a growing passion for learning, a lifetime love of mapping, and enjoying poetry. He remembered some of the poems, the fun he had illustrating, and thinking beyond the poetry. He even remembered that he wrote ingredients for a witches spell!
With this type of learning, he became emotionally involved, and this time in our lives determined the trajectory for his future.
So, when we have these young lives in our hands, we know what has to be completed in terms of learning. But how are we doing to do it? What memories are we creating today for our students to recall tomorrow?
Our website and ready-to-use resources bring to life the incredible stories of game changers from history – ordinary people who used their character strengths to help them achieve extraordinary things. Our site has been carefully designed to support learning and development on a whole-school basis, across the whole curriculum.
Speech Therapy support for schools and nurseries. We offer quality and bespoke services by prioritising training, assessment and effective therapy for children.
Community Brands comprises of market-leading education technology tools trusted by over 18,000 schools. Our solutions provide customers with benefits by reducing costs, offering staff more time to focus on their priorities, and working with leadership teams to achieve your goals.
Jigsaw supports teachers to champion children and young people designed as a whole-school approach programme with weekly lesson plans. Jigsaw provides all teaching resources, helping teachers confidently teach a well-being curriculum.
Is it Time to Play? provides high-quality planning, resources and training rooted in the core value of play-based learning. Specifically tailored to the unique needs of the Early Years (including Reception classes), Is it Time to Play? resources truly make “Play and Learning Fit”.
Brightcore Consultancy delivers comprehensive, reflective, and transformational training and consultancy support for education setting and related businesses in the fields of safeguarding, mental health, and wellbeing. Brightcore Consultancy is led by Lead Consultant Oliver Welsby who has extensive experience as a senior leader; both as DSL and a Senior Mental Health Lead, and who specialises in the development of effective mental health strategies and safeguarding practices within education settings, and regularly speaks at sector conferences on these topics. Oliver leads a team of expert associate consultants and trainers who have extensive knowledge and experience in both of these fields, along with individual specialisms to further support Education settings.
A-life provide interactive workshops Health & Wellbeing that take the workload off the teachers and engage children so they learn to develop healthy habits from a young age. We have taught over 1 million children through our school workshops that are engaging and accessible-for-all.__https://www.youtube.com/watch
Discovery RE® is an enquiry approach to Religious Education for Primary Schools which consistently delivers excellent learning outcomes. The programme is a comprehensive set of detailed medium-term planning for Religious Education from Nursery to Year 6 (for 3–11-year-olds).