Individual Differences

This topic has been treated before, but since it was the one I had selected and worked on, will you bear with me, please?

We need but mention that a person is an individual and we know he or she is different from anyone else. An individual is one who exists as an entity. Is it not one of the wonders of God’s works that, among the millions of persons on the face of the earth, no two are alike? The word “differences” refers to the state or quality of being other or unlike. How well we know, then, that the above topic will not allow a teacher to “treat them all alike.”

The schools in this area do not have kindergarten classes. A child must be six years of age before January 1 if he is to be enrolled in September. The first days prove tiring to the beginner but if a child’s physical condition is good, it does not take him long to become adjusted to his day’s activity. He soon learns he is a full-time member of a classroom as well as a home.

Various characteristics reveal themselves during this adjustment and later. Some children have remarkable motor habits. This means skill in coordinating eye and hand movements, ability to focus the eyes well on printed lines, and to move the eyes from left to right. Others must be dealt with very cautiously because of difficulties in this respect. It is a revelation to a teacher who directs the hand of a child who is trying to make a certain letter or figure when she discovers that the hand of the child is rigid and wet with perspiration.

It is simple for children of school age to identify familiar animals, as cats, dogs, rabbits, etc. However, tracing broken-line sketches of these same animals serves to reveal differences in how adept a child is at coordinating visual and muscular activity. Sometimes improper coordination may be due to forcing a child to use the hand he does not naturally prefer; sometimes it is due to the need for an eye examination. Coloring the contours is another way to discover dissimilarities.

In a small child the attention span is limited. It is important for a teacher to have wellorganized lesson plans. This does not mean, however, that the plans should never be altered. A certain plan may stimulate interest one day and prove to be a failure the next. Older children also need variety in their assignments. They do much better work if the lessons are not monotonous.

Some pupils are able to follow directions with little difficulty when these are given clearly and simply. Others soon show by their facial expressions the distress they are experiencing. The latter is not only true of small children. Older children, too, often need clearcut instructions. Confusion reigns in the minds of children who do not grasp things readily. On the other hand, an instructor must be careful not to encourage inattention during assignment time. Day-dreaming is a sweet pastime for some.

Little children cannot be expected to adhere to any particular mode of expression or to speak fluently and grammatically. Nevertheless, there must be progress through the years. Oral reports should be given. Portions of Scripture should he recited in front of the class. Though children like to follow the way of’ least resistance, they must he taught that proper sentence structure and the making of paragraphs are a must. Word pictures are a form of art. How abilities vary, only a teacher knows.

Some pupils should be encouraged to contribute freely as a lesson is in progress; others must he tactfully discouraged. Some recoil when an idea must be expressed; others bubble over with eagerness. These tendencies are neither developed nor curbed in one or two weeks.

In our Edgerton school we do not have a large number of pupils in each grade. This is due to the fact that the enrollment consists solely of children of our nineteen families. It is an inspiration to have our people willing to walk in this oft difficult way. However, when the Lord instills a desire, He also opens the way. May we go on in His strength wherever we have established our schools.

Originally published in:

Volume 18 Number 3 April 1958