The Right Tool Matters

Oct 09, 2017 | Posted by Nathan King


Imagine a hammer on Jell-O®, a screwdriver for surgery, or a round peg in a square hole.

The wrong tool at the wrong time can impair what we’re doing. That’s bad enough when we’re building a wood project. How much more sobering is it when we’re working with students, all of whom have their own individual educational needs? While IEW is focusing on special needs students during the month of October, the reality is that every student has specific educational needs and deserves to be treated as an individual! Using the right tool at the right time allows students to learn at their own pace in a way that makes sense to them, and ultimately to thrive instead of wilt.

The right tools allow students to work at their own pace. However, the modern reliance on certain educational tools is often at odds with this reality. For example, when teachers or teaching parents expect workbooks to teach students, they create precisely the opposite circumstance. Workbooks rarely proceed at the pace that the student needs. Instead, they plod happily along, always covering topics at precisely the same pace, heedless of the gifts or limitations of their charges. Workbooks have the perceived advantage of low teacher involvement, but with the same workbook some students can become frustrated and overwhelmed while others become desperately bored. The impersonal workbook fails to offer any individualization on its own. On the other hand, the right tool would provide a personalized, customizable methodology to better allow teachers and teaching parents to increase or decrease the pacing of assignments to meet the needs of their students.

The right tools make sense to students in their situation. Obviously, regular print is inappropriate for blind students—braille is an essential educational solution, and no one would disagree. However, other students may have less evident struggles. For example, students with dyslexia have a difficult time with exact visual sequencing, so forcing them to learn something like spelling via printed materials is a poor plan indeed. Instead, a better tool for someone with dyslexia would comprise an auditory approach to spelling. I know of one well-meaning teacher who brought a balloon-popping game into the classroom without considering the effect it would have on one of the students who struggled with loud sounds. The right tool takes the student’s situation into account.

The right tool sets kids up to thrive, not wilt. Prior to working at IEW, I worked with youth. While teaching a class, I called on a young girl to read, little knowing that she was a struggling reader. I never intended to do her harm, of course, but she refused to come again. These sorts of deadly errors—left-handed children being forced to use their right hands to write, children having to do assignments with too high a reading level—these sorts of blunders set students up for failure. No wonder some students wilt in school! Failure is all they’ve ever known! But using the right tool at the right time in the right circumstance sets a child up to succeed, and a child who continues to be challenged and yet succeeds is a child who more likely will thrive.

Imagine a hammer on a nail, a screwdriver on a screw, and a round peg in a round hole.


Nathan King, the customer marketing manager for IEW, grew up as the son of a pastor in Wichita, Kansas. Following his graduation from Manhattan Christian College and Kansas State University with a degree in secondary education in history, he worked for thirteen years as a youth pastor in his hometown. Since he began working for IEW, Nathan has enjoyed both the marketing and customer service sides of his position. Nathan and his wife of thirteen years, Melissa, homeschool their four children, but it is his amazing wife that does the lion’s share of this vital mission!

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