Anything Left-Handed > Being LH Home > Left handed children > Teacher Training > Forced Change

Teacher training – comments on our article
– Forced change of hands to write right-handed

We posted an article about Teacher Training and Left handed Children 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

and the follow up article with conclusions from the initial feedback here

We know left-handers were physically forced to change hands and write right-handed in the past but it seems it is still happening and natural left-handers are being “encouraged” in various ways to write right-handed.   This is not going to work and can cause various problems but some teachers still seem to think that pupils should change for their own convenience or for some perverted view of “correctness”.   The practice also seems to extend to eating, where some dinner ladies and supervisors insist on children eating right-handed.

  1. I am a recent business graduate and help a girl with her O-Level Studies in my neighbourhood during my time off from work. She’s an intelligent student, but like many teenagers of her age, she has some self-confidence issues which haunt her especially during exams and question and answer sessions. I was surprised (somewhat horrified) to find out that she was originally a left-hander but as a child she was forced to switch to her right hand due to obscure social and relegious beliefs of her parents. I’ve read about the adverse effects of such practices but could it be that her shyness in class and panic in exams could be a result of being forced to switch hands?
  2. When I was in third grade (approximately 1968) my teacher did not understand how left- handed people write and kept trying to tape my writing paper down with a right-handed slant (we were learning cursive – if that doesn’t date me …). And every time she would walk away or turn her back I would rip the paper and slant it the other way (to me the correct way) and continue writing. The way she had it taped, I would have had to write upside-down, no wonder so many left-handers look like they’re writing upside-down – they are. My brother is also left-handed. When he was learning to write he was attending a parochial (church based) grade school (probably early 1960′s) and they still believed at the time if you were left-handed there was something sinister” about being left-handed and it must be changed. So they forced him to switch to his right hand for his own good”. His hand writing is still some of the worse I have ever seen. Most of the time he prefers to print, he’s just not comfortable with cursive to this day. Thank the nuns for that.
  3. I can remember my third grade teacher, literally tying my left hand to the desk, so I would be forced to use my right hand, I also received the strap numerous times for just being left handed. It’s gotta be better in the school system these days.   Keep up the good work!
  4. I was constantly corrected using my cutlery. One teaching assistant would come and snatch the cutlery out of my hands and tell me to ‘hold them the right way’.
  5. When I was in the earliest grades, I was actually *punished* for trying to write with my left hand. I was forced to stand in the corner of the classroom, facing the wall, as if I had been naughty.
  6. The first teacher I had the misfortune to have at school told me I was ‘cack-handed’. She placed the pencil in my right hand and said I wasn’t to use my left hand again. In fact, if she found me using my left hand, she called me a disobedient little wretch and smacked my hands (imagine that happening today!!). She then said my written letters (block capitals) were appalling and untidy and I was called stupid. Thank heavens my mother found out.. She confronted this teacher and told her I was left handed and to try to make write with my right hand was totally un-natural. The teacher told her that if she didn’t want me to be normal then that was up to her. I wish I had heard my mother’s response to that.
  7. I was lucky that I never had a teacher who tried to change me. The only person who did that was my father who insisted I learn to write right handed. I did that, then went back to writing left handed and he gave up. I ignored his prediction that I’d only ever be able to get a job in a pickle factory because I was left handed.
  8. As a child my mum had to go in the primary school I was at to tell the dinner lady off. I was eating my pudding and was told to stop being silly and eat properly” this being right handed!
  9. Heather, who is 8, came home and told us she got in trouble for eating with the wrong hand”. When she told the teacher she couldn’t eat with the other hand, she was told she was being defiant and she got lunch detention. I called the school and spoke with the principal and was advised that Heather was intentionally hitting elbows with the (right handed) boy next to her. I realized the biggest issue is that they make the kids stand in ABC order and file into the seats (12 on a side) and sit down. When I go into a restaurant or crowded dinner table, I always look for the spot on the far left. The teacher and I came up with a solution. Heather is now allowed to either be the first or last one on the row so that she doesn’t hit anyone with her elbow.  Oh…and the right-handed boy did NOT get lunch detention.
  10. Forcing someone to write with their unnatural hand is barbaric! Some people who have been forced to write right-handed have developed a stutter later in life. King George VI was one.
  11. I am leftie. At first, when in primary school, my teacher attempted to change my by force and my mum didn’t oppose it. I started well but at the point of forcing me to use right, my brain literally switched. I would write letters in mirrored forms or just twist them. At the end of my first year, my teacher reported I was a dull child but when my report was carefully checked, they realised it was because I was forced to use right. They allowed me use my blessed left hand to write but then I lost a year as I was forced to repeat a class.
  12. From Uganda – I felt this was really a valuable thought to us Left handed ones especially our Children that suffer persecution, rejection and abuse during their early days of Education because of being Left handed. I was traumatized and beaten by school teachers when I was young because I had totally failed to adjust and was writing with my Left hand.

If you have anything to add, please leave a comment using the box below.

Links to the other pages of results from this project so far:

The original article “Teacher Training and Left handed Children”

Follow up article on initial feedback and comments

Detailed 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

 

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29 comments on “Forced Change
  1. Irish Cornaire says:

    Being left handed as a child is a period I wish I could forget,both my parents were right handed and when I used my left hand at the dinner table my father would whack my knuckles with the butter knife handle so hard it felt like he broke my fingers but wot is odd to me is that I and my daughters father were left handed but yet she turned out to be right handed,very odd.

  2. Fred says:

    I’m left-handed. It’s not quite true that I was “forced” to write and do everything else right-handed in primary school in mid-20th century, but the conditions placed on doing anything left-handed were hugely embarrassing and rather than endure it, I adapted. When I got to middle school, no one cared, so I un-adapted and went back to being left-handed. As a result, the only thing I “write” now is my signature and my hand printing with either hand is barely legible.

  3. Kelvin Potter says:

    I am left handed & now aged 63. When in primary school they tried to make me write right handed. I told my mother. She went up the school and told them in no uncertain terms to let me write left handed as I was left handed. I had no other problems from then on.

  4. Steve Miiller says:

    I can’t imagine forcing to switch is still being done. Are you sure this isn’t some individual teachers hang-up? I,m 64 and this was the norm in the 50’s when I started school. I didn’t know it until after I was much older and could write as good as bad lefty writers write, that my dad went over to the school , and flat out told them, Hell no you aren’t going to do anything but let him write like he wants to naturally! Of couse, if you would have known my Dad, they backed off. You see, his Mom was left handed and her and I were the only “lefties” in the immediate families, on both sides! (A little aside, my Grandma wrote lefthanded without the “hook”. It looked just like most right hand people write. I have never seen anyone do that since. And she, like most women back then, had beautiful handwriting.)

  5. Becca Aplan says:

    I am a natural-born lefty (and proud of it!), and when I was in the first grade, my teacher made me use my right hand to hold a scissor instead of my left. My mother found out and was furious because the teacher had no right to enforce such an archaic rule of righting with the right hand only. Besides, many problems can occur if a child is forced to write with his/her non-dominant hand. My mother told my teacher to never make me use my right hand instead of my left hand again. I was never bothered again.

  6. Dan says:

    I am a left handed right-brainer who was turned around in elementary school. I’ve always been fairly ambidextrous, so since I was able to use the right hand, they thought that must be correct and had no thought to why I was using my left one. I remember one girl in school who would tell on me” for using my left hand. This situation existed until I got to college where presumably everyone discovers themselves. I realized that anything that anyone taught me to do, I did right handed (that’s how they were teaching it of course) and anything I taught myself to do, I did left handed. At this point I found the courage to dump the past mistakes and accept my lefthandedness. I’m now a graphic artist and web designer, and don’t think that would ever happened if I were still struggling with my right hand. It wasn’t easy, though, with feelings of guilt and questions about whether I was just a wanabe south paw, but finally realized that this was something tearing at me my entire life and I just needed to accept what nature had been trying to tell me for so long.

  7. Ed says:

    I was in public school until the 7th grade, when I moved to a different state and started attending Catholic school. During my public school years it was never an issue, but when I started attending Catholic school my teacher, a nun, had an attitude about left handers but didn’t try to force us to use our right hands. I was excused from that because my penmanship was good at that time. When my daughter was little, she bragged that she knew which one was her right hand. I asked how she knew it was her right hand and she replied ” because it’s the hand that I write with”.

  8. Mrs. Davis says:

    I have a parent of a first grader of mine who is concerned that her child may be left handed, but has been taught to write right handed (not forced intentionally, just that was the hand that was always handed the pencil to write). I don’t have enough knowledge on this subject and need help. Is it too late for me to have her switch hands (we are in the second month of first grade and she is 6 years old) since she has had 2 years of muscle development and use with this hand? Or should I see how she does using her left hand? And advice or push in the right direction would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance

  9. Catherine dakin says:

    My son (nearly 8), is mostly right-handed, but eats with his knife and fork the left-handed way. I have recently found out that they are forcing him to eat the ‘correct’ way at school meal times. I was shocked and outraged, but they claim that it is for his own good…. Do you have any evidence of this being harmful to a child (in the same way that forcing a change in writing handedness can be)? He complains of tiredness and headaches, and has started developing a stammer and tics. He is also highly uncoordinated and regularly spills food down clothes when eating this way. I want to force the school to stop, so need some supporting evidence. Please help!

    • Keith says:

      The symptoms you mention ARE similar to those that can arise from changing writing hand and while I have not seen any research or evidence about changing eating hands I guess it comes to the same thing. It may also just be that he is stressed from being pressurised by his teachers and that is causing the problems rather than anything to do with “brain function”. I would definitely advise letting him eat whichever way seems natural to him. It will be very interesting to see if his symptoms go away when he is allowed to go back to eating his natural way.

  10. Nick says:

    Hi,

    I have heard this week, 3rd October 2013, that my godson, aged 4 and attending his first school has been told by his teacher that he had to change his pen to his right hand! He is a natural leftie with hands and feet. I am fuming and hoping that his mum is going to put the perverbial rocket up someone!

  11. Austin Vanderpool says:

    I’m left handed. I vaguely remember being a child, like before kindergarten, everyone thought that I was going to be ambidextrous. But in all actually, I was left handed, but whenever I went to my grandmothers house she would make me use a pencil in my right hand. So when I was at home, I had freedom, but I was confused on which hand to use. I would sometimes use my left and sometimes my right. It eventually got to the point where I only used my right hand for writing because of my grandmother’s continual “correction” My hand writing was very nasty with my right hand. Not to mention that the things she didnt monitor, like throwing a ball, I would naturally do with my left hand, so by the time I was in middle school, I had developed this breed of mixed handedness. I would get in trouble alot, and they would make me write lines. But I would always have to start over because my handwriting was awful. About the time I was 11 or 12 (sixth grade) I took a look at my habits and realized I did most things better with my left hand, and figured with some practice (because I used my right hand so long) that I might write better that way too. I have been ever since and it feels so much more natural. Not to mention since I started using my left hand they reversed the diagnosis on my adhd (which one of my doctors thought was caused by my unnatural mixed handedness anyway)

  12. kevin peyton says:

    I am left handed, the Nun’s could not make me into a right handed person ( after 8 months ). The Nun’s told my Mother ( 1955 ) that I would become a Disciple of the Devil ( Matt 40 ) if I did not become right handed. Does the Nun’s and Catholic Church still convert children into Right Handed people.

  13. grace says:

    I switched from left handed to right handed because I wanted to be right handed. It was my choice. No regrets. GLAD I did it!!!

  14. Nan58 says:

    I was born a leftie as was my father, however when I was quite young and before I began to write, much, I was about five I guess, I fell off a horse and broke my left arm. I no sooner got out of the cast than I broke the same arm again by doing a somersault in the front yard the day I got my arm out of the cast. After having my left arm immobilized twice in a row with the cast I had to learn to use my right arm and became right handed for the most part, but have always been told I do some things like a left handed person. Sometimes I will eat left handed. Sometimes I would write with my right hand then switch hands and erase with my left hand. I get confused about which side things go on. For example if I were to put on a pin (brooch) my mom would tell me I was putting it on the wrong side and that I was doing it like a leftie. To this day I still get confused and don’t know if I am doing it right or not. So the main reason I am posting all this is to find out if any others who were forced to switch hands for whatever reason, find that there have been issues where their brains still function as lefties even though they use their right hands all or most of the time.

  15. Brittany says:

    I found out 2 Weeks ago that I was left handed because I was taught to eat, write and do other tasks with my right hand but do everything else left handed my hand writting has always looked like chicken scratch and people have always asked me why I hold my fork like a shovel I also have other quirks resulting from being taught to use my right hand instead of my left like the fact that I could never get my right and left strait and I do many things backwards according to the rest of the world Like taking quizzes back to front or being trampled during line dances. I thought I was just clumsy and weird. Turns out I’m just left handed trying to do trying to do things right handed.

  16. Barb says:

    I was in school in the forties, a long time ago.I was made to stand at the blackboard with my left hand behind my back and write on the blackboard with my right. very demeaning.

  17. Yvonne says:

    All through my school days I had difficulty writing some letters & numbers the right way round, such as 3, 9, s, h & k. I was told this was bacause I was ‘cack’ handed. It was not until I was in my 30’s, when my son was assessed for dyslexia, did I discover I to have dyslexia.

  18. Diane says:

    I too went to an American Catholic school. In first grade, when Sister ( ) would give us writing lessons she continuously took the pencil out of my left hand and put it in my left. When it became apparant that wasn’t going to work, I regularly went home at the end the school day with welts on the back of my left hand from being hit with a wooden ruler. This was 1974. It also affected my grades as this was part of the cariculum. (I never did get one of those shiny stars on my paper even if the writing was perfect or the answers warranted an A. Our parish, due to lack of funding, had to close the 2nd through 6th grade. For those five years I went to a similar private school, but a Lutheran one. I did not experience the same stigma. When 7th grade came, I went back to my Catholic parish which was functioning through 12th. Although I did not get the same treatment, all of the desk tops were the curved design and they were all right handed. Not one left handed desk in the whole school. Needless to say, for 6 years I was always twisting my back in an odd way to write. I did have one sister who, even though she knew why I twisted in the opposite direction as everyone else, insisted that I keep my eyes on my own paper, as if I was cheating and looking at my neighbors paper. I started cracking my back in early highschool and still do to this day because of the strain it put on my back.

  19. Matt says:

    Yes I went to a American Roman Catholic grade school.. I was in the third grade and I was notice by the nun that I write left handed. She had me stay in while the other kids went out for recess. I was told by the nun that I will sin and will go to hell and be a persn controlled by the devil. She said in her class i would write right handed. Anytime she saw me doing left I was told quietly I was going to hell continue this through half year. I was at home and my dad knew I was leftie. He asked why I was writing right and I cried that the nun teacher made me do it and if I told you or mother I would send you mother and my family to hell. Anyway dad went to the nun’s house and that was end of this by the mother superior and the nun still messed with me for the rest of the year. I now do both right and left hand and the right is well losy however it is still there by this nun.

  20. GLADYS LAURA says:

    Hi!
    No way that left handed should be changed:my mother was and I always told her that she is a left handed.One day we went to this Doctor and wen she came out,she said:”You won”.The reason,what I always told her.
    I could mention every detail that I noticed of her being left handed,one is that she is always looking for which way is the left and which the rigth,she does this kind of funny thing,she snaps her fingers,so maybe something in her brain connects and then she decides the way.When she gets out of a place,which way she goes?left,starts her path,left foot,etc.She gets lost in places a lot.Now she is 80 and I keep telling her,do not get out of my sight.
    I am a true believer that if you change a left handed to be a right one,you change all their nervous system and other things too.So do not never ever dare to do it!Never!It changes the whole point of view of a Natural born Left Handed.Really,it is not a funny thing.

  21. Roger says:

    When I was learning to write in school I insisted on using my left hand–that was normal for me. I was so stubborn that the teachers called in my parents and told them that when I started to write with ink in grade 3 I would smudge everything. My father who was also a teacher asked if all Arabs were right handed as they write from right to left, but they don’t smudge the ink. I don’t either.

  22. Jake says:

    I was born in 82. I dont remember the first time i preferred writing and doin things leftie. I was never fOrced or even slightly encouraged to write with my right hand. Went ro achool in carolinas, connecticutt and florida. Infact, it wasnt that i realized i was lefthanded rather than actually having the feeling i was wrong when everyone around Me was different. At one point i wanted to switch but it was just too hard,irregular and downright odd. I love always getting a corner seat at any table…. It gets me out of having to sit inbetween the awkward righties, so our elbows dont’t duel. Its also been good for instilling in us our adaptability and ability to overcome and problem solve more efficiently. Not to mention there are so few of us that we are something special. HOWEVER, i Detest Barack Obama and EXTREMELY embarrassed he is a leftie. He writes so wierd too. My writing and the way i look writing is mirror image of a righty. Long live the lefties!

  23. Rick says:

    I remember when my first daughter was very young and she started using her left-hand to do things, like feed herself. We would visit her grandmother and immediately my daughter would use her left-hand. Her grandmother would make her switch and use her right-hand. I had to do a deployment and my then wife and daughters would stay with her mother. My oldest girl daughter’s grandmother still insisted on forcing her to use her right-hand to accomplish any task. To this day, she is “one of them”. I left it up to her and never found myself forcing her to use the other hand. Now, I kid her about being one of those “other people” and that I’m the only one in the family that is in my right-mind.

    • Jayne says:

      It isn’t too late for her to change back, in fact, she may benefit from it.

      Throughout my life, I’ve been clumsy. My handwriting was horrendous, legible but ugly, and arts and crafts were just embarrassing. I had trouble eating without being called “rude” for scraping the plate or being unable to twist my pasta correctly.

      When I was 17, however, all became clear when my family and I learned that I had in fact sustained a nerve injury at birth that went undiagnosed. I was really left handed-but the weakend arm was unusable for fine motor tasks so I switched to using my right hand in toddlerhood. The good news was this-since I was 17, my nerves had had time to heal a bit, and I had a chance to regain my original handedness.

      It’s slow and arduous. One must not use the right hand for any fine motor task unless 100% necessary. It takes 3 weeks for the hand to be on par with the right. After this time, the left hand will slowly improve to surpass it.

      I’m approaching Week Five. My left hand writing is slightly better than my right-your daughter’s hand will likely progress faster because she has no nerve damage. Either way, I’m seeing my font begin to develop style and character, and it feels way more natural.

  24. Nyarai says:

    I am left handed same as my brother who is three years yuonger than me. Funny thing is my parents did not make fuss when I used my left hand when i started to write and blessed was my first grade teacher who did not force me to use my right hand. Maybe she did and failed I can’t remember, but I do not feel traumatised at all. However I was forced to use my right hand when eating and cooking and greeting people. In our African culture we use our hands when eating and my parents forced me to because using the other hand is a sign of disrespect.I use my right hand to do as I was told but all else I use my left hand. When i am using cutlery to eat i switch the knife and fork and side plate so that they can be leftie friendly. Then my brother, he was forced by his teacher to write using his right hand and my parents were happy about the change and up to this day he writes with his right hand. The outcome of all this is the most terrible handwriting I have ever seen. He is a doctor but then he can get away with scribbling on prescriptions pads, a code only understood by those in the medical field, I joke with him. I really felt sad for him at first but then he is such a good artist with both his hands!

  25. Florrie says:

    I realise this must be an American term, but what exactly is “cursive”?

  26. Derick says:

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. It’s been a long time since my school days (I’m pushing 69!) but I cannot remember ever being forced/exhorted/’encouraged’ to write right-handed. In fact the only time I can remember my left-handedness ever being an issue was at grammar school, when we were learning calligraphy in art class. The teacher took my dip pen off me and issued another, with a left-oblique nib, designed for lefties. Positive discrimination rules!

    I’m fond of fountain pens, and have a few Lamy Safaris. One of the good things about the Safari is the fact that the nibs are easily changed. Lamy offer three italic nibs in their range – 1.1mm, 1.5mm and 1.9mm widths. But only in square-cut form. Not a problem! With some fine carborundum paper, and some 12000 grade Micro-Mesh polishing sticks for final smoothing, the nibs are easily changed to left-oblique, making them usable by under-writing (as opposed to hook) lefties like me. For non-italic work, I find the ordinary tipped nibs perfectly usable.

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