by Denise Pape, mother of two, passionate about education, righting the wrongs of the world and eating good food. Creator of Left-Hand Learning, a support organisation for parents and teachers.
Being left in this right-hand world can be extremely frustrating. Not only are teachers often trying to teach skills such as cutting, drawing, letter and number formation from a right-handed perspective but then to try and get suitable stationery and workbooks used to be impossible.
Being left-handed myself, I found it quite easy to teach my left-handed son the necessary skills but when we got to school I suddenly realised how ill equipped our teachers are. Further research confirmed that teaching left-handed children is not even covered in the majority of teacher training colleges anymore. Is it any wonder that a left-handed child is more likely to enter some form of remedial therapy than a right-handed one? Is it because the frustrated teacher no longer knows what to do with the child when it comes to teaching fine motor skills so consults occupational therapists or remedial therapists ? Often I have heard teachers and therapists saying that it doesn’t matter if the child is right or left-handed, well, it does and let me tell you why.
First of all, stationery. Ever watched a left-handed child try to cut with right-handed scissors? Not easy I can tell you – the blade on the scissors is formed differently so the paper will be folded or bent and the cutting jagged – not the child’s fault at all but a simple switch to the correct scissors makes it a much easier task to learn. What about pencil sharpeners – watch a left-handed child use a pencil sharpener – he will hold the pencil in his left-hand and turn the sharpener with his right – often resulting in a pencil as blunt as before.
Secondly, watch a left-handed child use an activity book for letter or number formation – it is designed completely with the right-handed child in mind. Often a left-handed child doing symmetry drawings or dot to dot will turn the book upside down and work that way.
Having watched my son go through this process with much frustration and increasing anxiety, I started researching left-handed stationery and the teaching of fine motor skills. What an eye opener it was for me! I found that parents and teachers in Europe all sit with the same problem. Teacher training colleges that barely covered the issue and parents who were none the wiser.
So Left-Hand Learning was created. Through our work we are now able to run workshops for parents and teachers, we import and sell left-handed stationery and we publish and import workbooks specifically for the South African market. Our aim? To make sure every left-handed child is taught the way he or she needs to be taught and enable the parents and teachers to provide the right equipment and materials to allow that to happen.