Unreal World

“But what is he going to do once he gets to the Real World?”

I had to smile at my fellow paraprofessional, thinking to myself that having been out in the big, bad Real World, I was doing my darndest to get back into academia.

One of our students has dysgraphia problems, and gets a scribe when there are a lot of answers to write down on assignments.

“Then he’ll do what other people do:  type things on the computer, talk to people, make recordings, or do what people used to do – dictate stuff for a secretary!”

This is a not uncommon reaction when a scribe is suggested for a student because of their tortuously slow handwriting speed, and/or because the penmanship is outright difficult to read.  People are afraid that giving a student a scribe to write down assignment answers is going to mollycoddle them.

But really, we have to ask ourselves just what is being assessed.  Is this a test for penmanship, or are we trying to help the student get information and concepts cemented into the brain, or checking their understanding of such?  Because if the handwriting process is so laborious, then our student of question will not progress far into the assignment.  They will also get very frustrated from the effort, and likely not finish the lesson, especially if this is a student with a prior history of academic difficulties.  Naturally, both of these factors do not improve the learning process.

To be clear, a scribe is someone who takes dictation, not someone who does the lesson for a student.  Giving a student a scribe is a good example of changing the environment to fit what a student needs, rather than forcing them into a mold they don’t well fit.  When done correctly, providing this kind of help does not enable them to be lazy, but rather enables them to be more productive.

When we have students who are not being compliant or on task, it’s good to ask ourselves what the actual task is that’s not getting done, and what the end result is that is actually needed in the educational process.