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Teacher training – comments on our article
– Teacher and parent experiences

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

This is a selection of the comments we received regarding teacher training and the level of support teachers offer their left-handed students.

  1. We didn't receive any specific training on how to teach left-handed children. During my teacher training course they advised us to use very similar techniques to teach both left and right handed children. Pencil grip was the same for both, as was letter formation. We were told to encourage children to hold the pencil in the hand they felt more comfortable with (we would test this by asking children to pick up objects at random to see which hand they used). In the case of left-handed children, we will sometimes turn the page at more of an angle to allow them more freedom of movement but generally, we just observe to see what comes naturally to the child and go from there.

    The children I teach are all in the very first stages of writing and so it's sometimes very difficult to determine when a child is struggling with pencil grip or when it's just a case of motor control and development! In my previous school, I had two left-handed children in my class. The boy struggled with holding a pencil but the girl had very good motor control. In this case, we just encouraged the boy to do some fine-motor activities – puzzles, modelling, sticking and cutting, to develop his control but we did not offer him any specific activities or techniques for left-handed children.

    To my knowledge (and for that of the staff who I have worked with) we use very generic techniques to teach both left and right handed children. However, I did go through my teacher training six years ago and it may have changed since, although I have never been offered a training day in this area. I think any advice or training in this area would benefit teachers and help them to understand and develop the children. I know I would be interested to learn more about left-handed methods and techniques.

  2. As a teacher trained and working in Virginia in the U.S., I have never seen any special accommodations or considerations made for left-handed students. The idea that classroom tools, including scissors, are universal” for use by all students is prevalent. I myself was completely unaware of the difference simple accommodations can make until my daughter, who has a very strong left-handed preference, was having trouble learning to form the alphabet and numbers in preparation for kindergarten this year. She quickly began to excel in these areas, however, when I did a bit of research to become a better teacher for her and bought her some left-handed scissors. I have helped make her teacher (a truly fantastic teacher with 30+ years experience!) aware of some strategies for helping left-handers be as successful as they can be!
  3. Teachers should be made aware that whatever the position of the writing book there is no right” way, only the comfortable way.
  4. Perhaps teachers especially EYFS should actually spend some time being left-handed to understand some of the problems these youngsters face.
  5. When my son whose now 10 years old started primary school 6 years ago, I had to purchase a left handed scissors for him to have in school as his teacher couldn’t answer me when I asked if they had left handed scissors available for him in class. His teacher who was newly qualified didn’t know that left handed children formed letters in a different direction to right handed pupils. I really felt she had no clue and was left feeling let down by her and the school.
  6. Teachers just need to be more aware- I don’t think they are prejudiced against left-handed children, I just think it’s ignorance of the issue that left handers face.
  7. I am a primary school teacher and my son is left handed. I did the PGCE 6 years ago and don’t recall being taught anything about teaching left-handed children. It would be very useful to have a national awareness day where schools could make a big effort to put some of the above advice into practice.
  8. Within the setting where I work we have six lefthanded children and after talking with other practitioners I realised NONE of them understood the need to provide resources that would aid left handers in their development e.g. scissors.
  9. I am currently studying towards a degree in Early Years and last year one module related to inclusion. As individuals, the class were asked to choose an area that they felt needed further investigation.   I chose lefthandedness but could find very little information on it and no conflicting views so had to abandon it and choose another area.   We really do need more information available in this area.
  10. I always use the term left-hand learner” when I train teachers. Teachers need to hear that it is not just a tendency to use a particular hand to write or cut. It truly is a brain process. Observing and adjusting the teaching style is needed. I cannot tell you the looks I get with teachers who feel that I am excusing my daughter’s learning needs. They are not excuses; they are legitimate brain based facts. Observe the natural tendencies and find a way to adapt your teaching style to suit.
  11. When I studied to teach back in the mid-1980s, the colleges and school districts were aware of the learning disabilities that develop in left-handed students due to them having to adjust to living in a right-handed world, rather than being accommodated. It’s a shame that there are any teachers out there at all who still believe that since all of the other kids can do something, a lefty should be able to do it, too.
  12. The only way to get a right hander to understand a lefty is to tie their right hand behind their back so they could experience being a left hander. I don’t think teachers, in all of their training, are taught how to deal with lefties
  13. The evolution of the No Child Left Behind” the USA so loves still leaves out the left handed child who needs teachers to be aware of this issue who can either supply the support to help these children or find someone who can help them.
  14. The saddest thing I found at school, some time ago, was that although I was provided with a left handed fountain pen it was almost forty years later that I learnt how to use it properly from a calligraphy book. From reading everyone else’s comments it is sad to see that there has been little progress. Perhaps teachers would benefit from some better guide lines especially in the early years of schooling
  15. I am appalled that educators don’t know much more about left-handed people and their talents than they did 40 years ago. Frankly, I survived as a lefty, managed to become highly educated, helped many students who lived outside the box as I did, and still I have to read these sorry letters that don’t understand the world of the left hander. We are more than a left pair of scissors or sitting on the end of the table.
  16. It is shocking to hear that the discrimination continues to this day. I was floored when my son came to me during the 2003/2004 school year and told me that his 23 year old teacher was trying to force him to switch. I would have thought that a teacher that young would have known better.
  17. I am teaching in South Korea where it is still considered wrong to write with the left hand. It’s very frustrating to see some of my children who are clearly left-handed being forced to write with the wrong hand, and their handwriting is terrible too! I’m hoping Westernization will bring about a good change with respect to this soon.
  18. It is obvious Universities in Australia are doing nothing very much to educate our Teachers for the left-hander. I myself am a trained primary teacher and can scarcely recall any reference to the left-handed child when I trained in the late 70′s. My third son is just finishing his Primary Teaching Degree and nothing much has changed. A speed course lasting a lecture or two clustering left-handedness in with other exceptional influences on students can hardly nurture an understanding of the isolation being left-handed can cause to the shy child. It may be only 10% of people to us right-handers but to a left-hander it’s 100% of their life.
  19. The parents *have* to be the advocates. My father went to the school and talked to the principal as well as the parish head and told them, if they tried to switch” me he would pull me from the school. Teachers didn’t help with things like scissors (still can’t use left-handed ones) but they did teach me to write without the overhand hook. The advocacy of my parents meant that I was able to adapt where needed and work with teachers where needed.
  20. I am a lefty School Psychologist in the United States with two lefty sons. I grew up in a time when very little attention was given to left handers in school, other than being identified as different and sometimes troublesome. I never had a pair of left-handed scissors and learned to cut right-handed. I work in a public school district, and I find that most teachers do not realize that scissors for lefties must be built differently, and that there is no such thing as scissors that interchangeable. I advocate for my sons and I am encouraged by any efforts made to recognize and accommodate lefties in a predominantly right-handed world.
  21. I am left-handed and my second grade teacher refused to help me learn cursive because I was left handed. I am now going into teaching early childhood (prek-4) and in the program I am in there is very little mention of how to help left handed children develop proper handwriting techniques. My father and younger sister are both left handed. My younger sister had the same second grade teacher as I did and she didn’t even bother asking for help. I agree there needs to be more attention paid to helping left-handed children because growing up there were no left-handed desks in classes and if there were the teachers were oblivious to it and gave them to right-handed students. There was no left-handed anything growing up.
  22. I am left handed, am a teaching assistant in a class of 30 with 7 left handers, tutored a left hander for a year and positively promote the use of left handed pencils, tilting the paper at the correct angle and sitting the children in such a way that they don’t bump their neighbour. We talk through the way to form letters and how to hold the pencil so as not to hook the hand. I feel I am on a one woman mission as although my colleagues pay lip service to the issue, only one (also a leftie) follow any of the advice given, even to the extent of denial that they have the left handed pencils I gave them! It is all like too much hard work in a busy classroom.
  23. My son had an incident at school with dress making shears only right handed pair available, so how did he cut his fabric when he's a lefty – answer with great difficulty. I have had to ask in every infant/junior class for my 2 sons to be moved as they have both been put on the wrong side of a right handed child. I really do think awareness is good, and all teachers should have reminders about how they can assist lefthanders.
  24. I am left handed and was a teacher, then a headteacher. I truly believe that right handed people do not understand the   difficulties faced by left handers.In my experience it is inevitable that children who are left handed are treated more sensitively by a left handed teacher. These days for many teachers it is lack of understanding, rather than malice.
  25. I contacted the University of Alberta Education department regarding the question of teaching teachers how to best serve left handed children.  They thought the question was interesting but had NO policy or proceedures for working with left handed kids.  The U of A is in Edmonton, Alberta Canada.
  26. Hello-my daughter is a lefty and at her school I do not believe there is one teacher who understands lefties. If there is they are too old because they were not given proper instruction in school in their time at lefties. So my child suffers. I wish there were a school for lefties only. But I have read research that indicates lefties are more adaptable than right handed people because they are more resourceful, and creative and great problem solvers. All the products I bought for her for school for lefties have been lost or stolen. I am fed up with the inexperience of these who claim to be educators.

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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20 comments on “Teaching Experiences
  1. Louise Wilson-Erb says:

    I am left handed and always assessed my Kindergarten class for young lefties. Based on my childhood experiences, I felt it my personal responsibility to teach left handed children how to write left handed easily. The Peterson Handwriting program has a simple set of instructions from how to hold the paper, hold the pencil, and finger exercises. My goal for 25 years was to provide a positive writing experience for the next generation of lefties.

  2. James Bates says:

    I am a senior and write upside down because my first teachers made me hold my paper at the same angle as the right handers. I have very good handwriting but my printing is horrible and people still make comments about how I hold my pen. I have through the years become ambidextrous in many of the things I had to do growing up. I don’t remember ever having a problem with scissors but there are many things around the farm that you really need to use your right hand to do properly. I still throw, write, kick and other things with my left but I am much stronger with my right hand.

  3. Melissa says:

    I am 32, growing up my mom always said she tried over and over to help me become right handed by putting objects in my right hand. Not to make me right handed, but she knew as a lefty… the world isnt as nice. This wasnt a right or wrong hand thing to my mom, it was a what would make my life easier.

    I thank her every day for this, because i am ambi now. My dominant hand is my left hand, i write, cut, and do everything left handed. Yet, I can use my right hand when needed.

    I write correctly, no smudges on the paper. No Cptn Hook writing style. She had me mirror a right handed person, and it worked SO well. She put my desk and someone elses facing each other. I hope this helps others in teaching, because it let me see the best and easiest way to write with out any issues =D

    Having a teacher-mom who saw the world through my eyes…was AMAZING. She also found a teacher who was left handed, who spent an hour with me in first and second grade after school teaching me the ways and tricks of how to live in the world. from math tricks, to spell, to seeing the world in a way i can adapt.

    this was back in 1985/1986. so sad the world has not become any better, but worse for us.

  4. Lois McLean says:

    I am a senior and am totally left handed. I was lucky to have a teacher in grade one that realized that I needed different directions for learning to print. She noticed that I had the paper the same slant as right hand students did and came to my desk and showed me the proper way to slant my paper to write properly. I am so thankful that she did as I don’t write backwards or crooking my hand. Although i have always had trouble with Scissors until the universal ones came out. I have never heard of a left handed pencil !? I always make my letters the same way as any righthand person does, perhaps because my paper was turned to slant the opposite way than righties. I was told in school that I had pretty good penmanship. My mother taught me to knit by my watching her straight on rather than watching over her shoulder. And I learned to do calligraphy with no problem using a regular calligraphy pen. My son is also left handed and I spoke with his teacher to enable him to slant his paper the proper way. She was very helpful to him also. He is 36 so this has been a few years ago. I think if you explain to teachers what you want for your children they will be ready to help.

  5. Birgit says:

    My mum was amazing. Even though a rightie…she practiced tying her shoe looking in a mirror so she could help me learn. She bought me left-handed scissors as soon as she found out they existed. She taught me how to cut my meat with my left hand. She advocated with teachers as necessary. Love that woman!!

    Now I have a right handed daughter, so I’m trying to teach her things “backwards”. LOL

  6. Claire Gendall says:

    I am going to print all of this out for my both of my son’s teachers!!
    I sent my son who is in grade 1 in with a left handed pencil and scissors. At the end of term 1 I asked my son if he enjoyed using his left handed pencil. He told me he wasnt allowed to use it!! I went into the class immediately and insisted he be allowed to use it.
    The teacher who has over 30 years experience had never seen a pecil like it before and thought it was a novelty pencil!
    A couple of weeks later she took me aside to say how pleased she was with my sons progress with his written work and how baffled she was with trying to sharpen it!!
    He is going on a handwriting course for 5 weeks starting next week and if they cant provide him with a left handed way to form letters then Im not going to take him again. Why dont teachers get any information about lefties or how to give them the help they need with simple things like letter formation??
    My other son is in Kindy and they are using soft pencil grips. His teacher is a leftie but says everything is geared for right handed people and it is very difficult to get any information. I am going to ask her to sign up to this site and have a very good read!!
    Its time for change in teacher training its long overdue!

    • Keith says:

      Hi Claire, thanks for sharing. I am afraid your experience is just all too common and I hope the information we have put together helps you and your children’s teachers. Watch out for the questionnaire to take to school coming soon.

  7. Mr E says:

    To be left handed is an advantage. We must show children that they are living in a right handed world so we must teach them to find out what make the diference in their life to improve

  8. Christine Sexton says:

    On my very first day at primary school (more than 40 years ago) the teacher tied my hand behind me using her scarf from around her neck because I was left handed. I was so frightened and scared that when my Mum came to collect me that day we had to go in and see the Headmistress and I had to show her what the teacher had done to me.
    Needlework was also hard to do as we had no left handed scissors and the teacher always showed the work from a right handed point of view.

  9. Bernie Stewart says:

    I am a 65 Y.O. man who is naturally left-handed. When I began school my teacher forced me to switch to my right hand. Matter of fact I can remember having to stay behind and work on manual dexterity using my right hand. I can remember having extra homework assignments specific to learning to do things with my right hand.

    I had a strong left-hand preference and later in life returned to writing and performing other tasks with my left hand. Strangely it felt liberating.

    I cannot believe such idiotic notions remain in the 21st century.

    I would encourage parents to strongly advocate for their left-handed children and to speak out for the things the minority needs at school and other aspects of their lives. Ignorance and apathy are at the core of the problem. Indeed it is discrimination.

  10. Duretha says:

    There were 10 children in our family; 3 lefties, 2 ambidexies, the rest righties. With the lefties and the ambies, my dad taught us to angle our paper in the same direction as our arm was…no challenge except that we still smeared our papers. Even so, this was the mid 50s and not much was known then. While doing this, he fought the schools to allow us to use our dominate hand. He, later taught how to cut meat and the proper way of cutting with scissors while showing why right handed scissors didn’t work for lefties. He did all this even though he was right handed. NOTE: for so many years I consistently dislocated my left thumb joint due to using improper scissors. Even today i show people why just changing the handlholds doesn’t work. We know so much more since the 1950s and yet, so many know so little when it comes to lefties. BTW: When teaching about this…I refer to it as being differently wired just as many other learning styles are such as visual, hands-on, tactile, audio etc. in addition to what is called learning disAbilities. These are just different methods for learning and managing the world.

  11. Jeanne says:

    My teachers never tried to make me write right-handed, however they did make me use scissors right-handed. My parents and my older brother are all rightys so consequently I was taught how to do a lot of things right-handed (i.e. cutting my meat, using the mouse on the computer, etc…) No one who was teaching me these things knew any better. No one was ever mean about it, and I actually had a couple of teachers who tried (and failed) to teach me proper left-handed writing. So I can’t say I had any learning disabilities as a result or an especially hard time in school. I just have awful handwriting (but then so do a lot of the rightys in my family.)

  12. Karin says:

    I am wondering how people teach writing in languages that write right to left…
    With a right hand that poses the same problems as left to right for lefthanders, maybe we can learn something from the Hebrew and Arabic teachers.

    On difficulties at school learning, I had a very good teacher early-on, she prevented a whole lot of problems for me later on.
    She even wanted to teach me lefthanded knitting.
    For me the mirror technique worked like a charm but I heard of others who did not get the hang of it…

  13. iris says:

    As a lefty who always had top-marks at school I really can’t relate learning difficulties to handedness. I am inclined to think these difficulties are basically the same in process for both right and left handed students.

    The only true handedness-related difficulty I acknowledge is regarding the use of work tools designed for the right-handed. So yes – more awareness to this issue is needed – but to otherwise associate general learning impairments to left-handedness itself is wrong and frankly offensive, in my opinion.

    • Cindy says:

      Iris, I would agree with you. I am a lefty. Four of my 5 brothers are lefties. Of the five of us there are varying degrees of left handiness. But one of my brothers simply turns the scissors upside down and uses them in his LEFT hand. I have always considered be a ‘lefty’ as being unique. I don’t consider it as a problem or a handicap or a learning disability. Yes, there are things that people have taught me how to do RIGHT handed, that I have then taught myself how to do LEFT handed. That’s not a problem. That’s a gift to be able to do something with both hands. It would be nice if tools, and cooking utensils for lefties were readily available for lefties. As a teacher there a some years when I don’t have any lefties in my class. Some years I might have one or two lefties. I always show them how to place their papers when we are working on cursive handwriting. I do talk about as a lefty how I write some of the letters a little differently. Since I teach 3rd grade my students already have determined their hand grip on the pencil. The majority of things in the world are made for right handed people, that is just the way it is. I think that is the way it always will be. Lefties need to realize that, adjust to it, fix their corner of the world the way they want it, and be a LEFTY.

      • Keith says:

        Thanks Cindy.
        I must comment on one very common misunderstanding –
        If you turn a pair of right handed scissors upside down, they are STILL RIGHT-HANDED SCISSORS! The top blade is on the right so you can’t see your cutting line if you hold them in your left hand and you are still pushing the blades APART with your natural squeezing motion so they don’t cut.
        To be LEFT-handed, scissors have to be made specially with the blades reversed so the LEFT blade always on top.
        See our video here:
        http://www.anythinglefthanded.co.uk/acatalog/scissors.html

        • iris says:

          But Mr Keith, I must say I too manage to cut with my left hand by using right-handed scissors in a sort of “reversed” position. If you try this position (I’ll describe it below) you will find they do cut well.
          Please note that although most of us usually describe this method as “upside-down” it is not really a matter of turning the scissors upside down, the key is to rotate the hand. It is the position of the hand itself that gets reversed and enables the cut.

          For me it works like this: I hold the scissors in my left-hand as one would normally do, but then I rotate the hand so that the thumb is no longer on top.
          A good way of trying this is to rotate the hand as I described and cut with the blades pointing either in the direction our body or to the right.
          I find that by cutting in this (admittedly awkward) position the blades don’t get pushed apart as they otherwise would.
          It is by no means ideal or comfortable, but it does work.

          • Keith says:

            Seems like pretty hard work to me, and though you may be able to squeeze the bladees together in that position you will still not be able to see your cutting line. Imagine the outcry in schools if ALL scissors were left-handed and the right-handed children had to cut like that!

      • iris says:

        It was the same with me, having to figure out the best way to use a right-handed tool by myself, and I find the process of finding an alternative way to use something kind of fun.
        But if the tool’s design doesn’t allow me to use it with my left hand then it’s no problem, I just train my right hand to use it and I feel equally accomplished when that is the case, because I managed to discipline my non-dominant hand to perform a task.
        I use the scissors like that too, on occasion, but I admit it’s an awkward position 😀

  14. Mrs Ann Barnstable says:

    When I was at school they did not try to change me to write right handed the only thing I had difficulty was when we had needlework and the teacher started me off and it was always from the right hand of course as I got older I realised I should have just turned the work the other way round but at 11 yers old I did not think of that do of course needlework has always been a nightmare.

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