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Beginners please

most of us can't remember learning to read. That's not because it was so long ago but because it was a relatively painless experience. Recently, when I was talking to a group of teachers about learning to read, it occurred to me, when was the last time you learnt to do something?

I don't mean something such as how nursery vouchers work or how to use the new CD-Rom. I mean learnt a new skill, where you're taught to do something by somebody else.

As teachers, we constantly place our pupils in situations where they learn something, but we rarely experience this ourselves - especially the highs and lows of success and failure.

Two years ago, my family and I went on a water sports holiday and I learnt to windsurf. I experienced the frustration of spending a whole morning trying to stand up and balance on a thin white board, and the feeling of satisfaction when, on day two, I could stand up and sail, followed by panic as I realised I couldn't stop the thing. In addition, there was the knowledge that people on the beach were watching and waiting for me to admit defeat - but I had started and couldn't, no wouldn't, lose face by giving up.

It was physically demanding, and I needed every bit of encouragement I could get from the coach, who was half my age.

Not only did I complete the week's course and gain a certificate, but I was awarded the "most progress made" prize too.

The experience made me think about the encouragement I give my reception class when they were learning to read. They need just as much encouragement as I did (if not more). So what are you going to learn to do this summer? I can thoroughly recommend the experience of being in the learning seat again.

Daphne Cawthorne teaches at Birkdale School in Sheffield

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