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Don’t be Gauche

I’ve written a lot over this past year about being an immigrant’s daughter and how that has focused my view of the world.  It has influenced my view of teaching and learning in many ways.  I think about my father, aunt, and grandparents when I look at my students who have little English or who have a different outlook on life because of the influences of a culture different than the broad mish-mash we so incorrectly call the American melting pot.  Cultures do not all meld together to become one lovely multi-cheese fondue that we can dip our bread into and get the same taste and texture every time.  The U.S. is more like a paella, where each different type of seafood is distinct and separate but enhances the other.  Each culture has something wonderful and distinctive about it and students should be reminded that everyone in this country who is not native-American, came from somewhere else.  Students with strong ties to ‘the old country’ add value to this paella of a country by bringing their own flavors and textures.  In my internship, I noticed that one of my teachers is remarkably adept at including a cultural aspect to her lessons.  The other teacher told me that was her focus for professional development this year; including a cultural aspect.  It’s a great idea, but in some ways art teachers can focus on cultural diversity and completely overlook individual diversity.  I am working toward both.

In each art class, we have several students who are left-handed.  Since about one-in-ten people are lefties worldwide, that should not be a surprise to teachers.  Yes, in the ‘old days’, like when my father was in school, teachers often forced students to use their right hand—a conformity that created lifelong problems for some of them.  Still, even very good art teachers forget that all tools are not made for all people.  One teacher I met has only right-handed scissors in her class.  She says that the National Art Education Association recommended a particular type of scissors for everyone (right-handed scissors).  She has several assignments that require the use of scissors.  Some left-handed students are not partly ambidextrous left-handers like me and my sister.  We both learned to use scissors in our right hands as children because one cannot cut properly with right-handed scissors in one’s left hand.  One ends up bending and tearing the paper, which sets the students up for failure when all they need is the right tool for the job.

“Many tools and devices are designed to be comfortably used with the right hand. For example, (right-handed) scissors, a very common tool, are arranged so that the line being cut along can be seen by a right-handed user, but is obscured to a left-handed user. Furthermore, the handles are often molded in a way that is difficult for a left-hander to hold, and extensive use in such cases can lead to varying levels of discomfort. Most importantly, the scissoring or shearing action – how the blades work together (how they are attached at the pivot) – operates correctly for a right-hander, but a left-hander will tend to force the blades apart rather than shearing the target substance. So-called ambidextrous scissors do not help, since the cutting blades are still set right-handed.”  Wikipedia.org


There is a reason that left-handers have been considered awkward, ungraceful, and clumsy.  The very word gauche means left in French.  People who teach wood shop must surely know that lefties cannot use a table saw as easily as a right-hander and you just try using a skill saw as a lefty, it’s a miracle to survive the process with all your fingers intact.  Left-handed students who use right-handed tools in school are at a disadvantage.  Imagine writing comfortably during a test on those half-desks with the attached chair and arm-rest on the right side if you are a lefty.  The teacher will think you are maneuvering to see the neighbor’s test instead of trying to be able write without an arm cramp.  Left-handed scissors are an easily acquired tool, readily available for addressing the needs of diverse students and left-handedness is an obvious and age-old diversity.  All a teacher need do is look at the students writing or drawing and they can easily see what modifications are needed.  I hope to be making those modifications in future as well as the ones for religious, cultural, and health reasons.  I am working toward learning about my students so that I will be able to make modifications in the classroom that give every student the best possible opportunities to succeed.

Quote retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scissors

~ by anitawesto on April 13, 2013.

art, ceramics, drawing & painting, sculpture, teaching