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Teacher Training and Left handed Children
– Follow up and initial feedback review

We posted an article about this subject in March 2012 and received a huge response, with over 200 comments totalling some 30,000 words and hundreds of emails – this is certainly the biggest response to anything we have ever posted.

You can see the original article “Teacher Training and Left handed Children” here

This follow up article contains:

A lot of the responses we got were based on personal experience and certainly showed a huge lack of knowledge and ability to assist left-handed children among teachers.   This included responses from many teachers who felt they had not been given appropriate (or any) guidance in this area.   We were hoping to get more feedback on the actual guidance that IS given in different parts of the world and information from teacher training organisations about what they DO provide but that seems to be singularly lacking so far!

We have read through all of the comments and emails and contacted people for further information where necessary and the main conclusions we have drawn from this work   so far are (see the links at the bottom if you want to view the individual comments these conclusions are based on):

  • An awful lot of lefthanders have had problems at school and not been supported by their teachers.   This has ranged from punishments and actively forcing them to change hands to just apathy and lack of knowledge so the left-handed children are left to get on as best they can on their own. (see detailed comments on teacher and parent experiences)
  • There is a general perception that teachers are not given any training or guidance in how to help left-handed children and from the feedback we have received, no evidence from anywhere that such guidance exists.
  • A lot of people think that only if the teacher is left-handed will they have any idea of what is needed, and even that is not always true.   There were many suggestions that all teachers should be made to perform the basic tasks their students face left-handed themselves to understand the issues involved.
  • There is a general lack of any left-handed equipment in schools and, where it is available, no guidance in how to actually use it properly left-handed. (see detailed comments on left-handed equipment)
  • There is little guidance on writing for left-handed children and most have to find their own way. (see detailed comments on writing)
  • When children do start to get some support and guidance, it is usually because their parents have complained to the school and insisted that their child is not forcibly changed or can be allowed to use the left-handed equipment they have purchased themselves. (see detailed comments on being made to change hands)
  • We did have some comments where people were happy with the level of support they received and from teachers (left-handed themselves) who feel they DO give a good level of support.   However, this seems to be only exceptional individuals who have made a real effort to do something themselves rather than anything in the teaching and training systems.
  • We also got a couple of very surprising comments from people that thought teachers should NOT try to give any special help to left-handed children and they are better off just working out how to do things themselves and learning to use right-handed equipment. (see these and comment yourself here)

We thought you would find it interesting to see the actual comments people made so we have divided the best and most relevant contributions into different subject areas and published them on this site for you to review – see the links below.

We have been here before!

We are very sorry to say that none of this is new.   We have been campaigning to get some basic guidance for teachers included in training programmes for decades.   We had some success in the late 1990's and had reassurances in the UK that guidance on left-handed children WOULD be included in teacher training and a small piece on left-handedness was included in the National Literacy Strategy document – you can see the background and results of our campaign here.

But, sadly, it seems this never actually became part of real-world practice and has now faded out of use. A couple of teachers we spoke to who recently completed their training have told us they did not see anything specifically about left handed children and have not had any guidance since beginning teaching at schools. There seems to be an attitude of letting children get on with it and find their own way.

What do we do next?

We were hoping to get feedback from teachers and teacher training centres saying that there WAS guidance available and it was included in training for teachers.   If that was the case, we would just need to encourage more people to use what was already there.   In fact, what we are finding is that there is NOTHING available as guidance and advice for teachers regarding left-handed children and it is NOT part of the training teachers receive so that is a much bigger challenge!

We can try to tackle this at a number of different levels:

  • Parents of left-handed children being aware of the issues and guidance themselves and making sure the individual teachers looking after their own children are also made aware of it.
  • Sending information to individual teachers
  • Making head teachers aware of the information available and trying to get them to pass it on to teachers in their schools.
  • Encouraging Local Authority education departments and other school management bodies to include it in their requirements for schools under their control.
  • Asking teacher training facilities to include it in their curriculum for all new teachers.
  • Contacting government education departments responsible for teacher training and schools management to find out about current guidance regarding left-handed children and making them aware of our recommendations.
  • Presenting the ideas to national politicians and local government councillors and asking them to influence education providers to implement the available guidance.

This is clearly a huge and very time-consuming exercise that will need to be pursued over a long period to get any results.

Our planned approach

We will be very interested in your views on this and particularly interested to hear from people who have time or resources to campaign on this issue in their own local school, area or country.

Before starting to produce more guidance notes and approach education and training authorities again we think it would be very helpful to use parent power to find out if things are really as bad as they seem and what guidance IS already in place in schools.   We think the best plan of action will be:

  1. Produce a concise document setting out the issues and and including a short questionnaire that parents can take to their schools for their children's teacher or the school head to respond to.     This will ask what guidance they have available, how it is used and whether we can have copies of any documents.   We intend to have this available in plenty of time for the start of the new school term in September.
    Our document will be in English but we would appreciate any help from members in other countries who could translate it for us so we can make it available in as many languages as possible.
  2. We will encourage parents to download the document, present it to their schools and follow up to get answers then put those answers into a simple form on our website and attach and documents they have obtained.
  3. Send out a press release to raise awareness of this issue and make people aware of the questionnaire document.
  4. We will then collate all the feedback and decide on the best course of action from there, whch will definitely include producing a guidance document and updated video that can be used by teachers.

Please add your thoughts as comments on this page or use our contact form to send a message direct to Keith.

Comments on teacher training and left-handed children

Teacher experiences and lack of guidance
Positive comments on teachers and lefthandedness
Views that teachers should NOT provide special guidance for left-handers

Writing left-handed

Equipment problems (scissors, desks, computers, other items)

Forced change of hand

Advice and guidance to help lefthanders

History of the LHC campaign to get guidance on left-handed children to teachers

 

 

 

 

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9 comments on “Teacher Training
  1. Dr Billy Levin says:

    There is a very high percentage of left handers who have inherited ADHD or ADD causing major problems with their behavior and/or learning. They are often neglected or treated incorrectly causing major problems. I have an article about this that I have written if you are interested.

  2. Terri says:

    When I was in grade 1 a teacher gave me a pair of left handed scissors. I asked for a right handed pair she told me “no you are left handed you use those”. When her back was turned I got up and got a right handed pair. When I got older I wanted to learn to play a guitar. My parents got me a right handed guitar for Christmas. I asked for a left handed one they said no that they wanted to play it too. So I had to learned to play right handed. Now I couldn’t play a left handed guitar to save my life.

  3. LeAnn says:

    My 9-year-old son who was extremely right-hand dominate in his infancy was taught by his older sister (a lefty) to color with her with the left hand. He has had a speech impediment that has now been corrected but cannot seem to overcome challenges with spelling and math. If you ask him to verbalize tan answer or how to set up a math problem, he can articulate it perfectly; when you ask him to write it down he seems to run into a roadblock. He eats, throws and holds a toys with his right hand as well as the controller for his video game, but when he needs to write – he still uses the left hand. I have been facing numerous parent-teacher sessions because he will not put forth the effort to complete his work and I’m at the end of my rope as to how to get the information that is in his head on paper. I’m considering forcible changing him to write with his right hand but don’t know how to go about it and if this will be successful. Any help you could provide me will be greatly appreciated.

  4. Eddie Payne says:

    Some excellent material here which I will share with my granddaughter’s school prior to her starting school this September.

  5. Sophie says:

    I guess the only kind of help I got in school with my left-handedness was the option to use left-handed scissors, which……. I can’t use. Because they’re awkward. I was always more comfortable using right handed scissors, and I was taught at a VERY young age to use a computer mouse right handed.

    Other than that I got no help, and I was rarely placed on the left side of a table. When I had the chance, I chose to be on the left. But that was in secondary school, or maybe even college.

    • Dave Walker says:

      Sophie, i am now retired, so didn’t go to school in the age of computers, but when i was working in a North East London college i asked the IT dept. if it was ok to change my computer to left handed, ie right click and on the left side of the desk, You wouldn’t believe the amount of problems this caused if a member of staff wanted something done or printed from a memory stick and wanted to show me what they wanted (i managed the print and repro room) i can use the mouse either way but find it more comfortable to right click left handed but right handers seem to have big problems with this

  6. Michelle says:

    I don’t remember a lot of my elementary schooling, so I can’t say if I had a hard time being a left-hander. However, I was in talented art for seven years, and I was always very frustrated that my art would end up getting smudged because I would drag my left hand over the page as I drew. There was no effort to help me fix this problem, and I know that no one ever taught me to try and write in a way that notebook spirals or my hand wouldn’t get in the way of my school work.

    When I attended college, I decided that I wanted to become a pastry chef, and so I attended culinary school. However, whenever we began decorating cakes when I was a senior student, I realized how difficult it was for me. I tried to explain to my chef that I was left handed, and therefore, could not properly comprehend the instructions he was giving me, and asked if he could show me how to do it left handed. I was told that he was right handed, and so, he could not. I should just “try to do it backwards, because left handed people do everything backwards, right?”

    Needless to say, I struggled a lot with cake decorating, and it would continue into my first professional baking job. One time, my boss asked me to write a message on a piece of chocolate, and I could not do it without it looking like chicken-scratch. I explained to him my problems from college, and he also could offer me no help, only telling me to “practice”.

    I didn’t even know that left handed tools were available to me until late 2010. I was in Disney World, and there was a little stand set up in Downtown Disney selling some left handed products. I could have exploded with emotions. My entire life could have been so much easier if there were tools and teachers readily available to me.

  7. Billie Kelpin says:

    As a left-handed person and classroom teacher, I have always wished to empower little left-handers and recently wrote a chldren’s story, “Lucky, the Left-Pawed Puppy” which is delightfully illustrated by children’s artist, Julie Parker, and narrated as a downloadable ebook. The website is presently (July 2012) running a video contest for readers of “Lucky…” ages 5-10 and features matching games, reading flashcards, and great learning activities for children of all ages. Lucky is also on Facebook as “Left Handed Hero” because that is exactly what he is. He saves the day precisely because he is left “handed”. Would love to see little left-handers response on Lucky’s site. Cheers! Billie
    Find out more about my Left Pawed Puppy book

  8. Robert Hurwitt says:

    When I was in elementary school (in the 1950’s) in the U.S., and it was time for handwriting (cursive) lessons, we left-handers were sent out to play on the playground because the teachers didn’t know how to teach us.

    After a career as a military pilot, I became a teacher and have taught elementary school, middle school, and now high school. When I taught elementary (10 – 11 year-old students), I made a special effort to help left-handed students (including giving them all the URL for the Anything Left Handed shop.

    I have to agree–nowhere in my teacher training was working with left-handed students ever mentioned, and in fourteen years of teaching, it has never been addressed in any way.

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