Learning To Tell Time


by on December 31, 2013

in Parenting, Parenting Kids

clock face

O’clock, a quarter of, half past – what does it all that mean?

As kids go, I must have been one of the hardest to teach how to tell time. My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Grace Whisnant, helped us kids make a pretend clock with a paper plate, a paper fastener and construction-paper big and little hands. She would then give students a time and we were to place the hands in the proper position. After setting the time we were to hold up our clocks to be judged right or wrong.

My clock was always wrong – that is, unless I looked at the smart kids’ clocks.

That afternoon my mother tried to teach me to tell time in a similar manner as Mrs. Whisnant but she quickly ran out of patience and time. Later, my dad came home from work and was obliging to the task so he took off his watch to show me. Dad kept talking about a “quarter of” and I thought he was talking about quarters, you know, twenty-five cents. Naturally I thought he meant 25 minutes.

Feeling hopelessly stupid, I hopped on my pony and rode over to see Mur, my grandmother. I could never hide my feelings around Mur so she asked what happened this time. When I told her everyone was mad that I couldn’t tell time she let out a snicker and pulled her clock off the wall above the stove.

“Come here,” she said, “you’re gonna leave here tellin’ time.”

With Mur and me side by side she held the clock with her left hand and said there was two parts to a clock, a ‘before’ side and an ‘after’ side. If the big hand is on the before side, 6 to 12, then it is before the hour. If the big hand is on the after side, 12 to 6, then it is after the hour. Now you look at the smaller hour hand to see which hour it is before or after.

Bingo! I suddenly understood completely how to tell time! My own eureka moment taught me something about kids that helped me in my parenting career.

(1) Children learn at different paces. Just as using a growth chart, you should remember that some grow faster or slower and either should be acceptable.

(2) Children learn in different ways. Some children learn visually, like I did, some will learn in other ways: Aural, verbal, logical, physical, etc.

(3) Children react to a teacher’s style of teaching and bring their own baggage into the learning equation. My teacher, mother, dad and Mur all had different teaching styles: Judgmental, hurried, impatient and patient.

(4) Children learn best without pressure. Any child (or adult) learns better when there is no pressure. In each instance of my trying to learn, I was being judged, humiliated and pressured.

Any time parent is teaching a child something new, no matter what it is, taking these four points into consideration may be helpful. Thinking of the ultimate goal may have helped my teacher, mother and father in being more successful. Can you remember a time when you struggled to learn something? Or a time when it was difficult to teach your own child? What are your thoughts on teaching a child to tell time?

Jackie Saulmon Ramirez has served as a volunteer with Parents Anonymous® of New Jersey, Inc. for more than twenty years, giving and getting support. Find her at her contact page.

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