Thinking Teaching Creating

Thoughts, Tips, Ideas, and Projects from a Creative Teacher Mama

PSA From A Left-Handed Primary Teacher

I’m left-handed.  Really, that shouldn’t be a big deal, but sometimes it is.  I’m one of those “all in” lefties who does everything left-handed.  Eating, brushing my teeth, cutting, using a knife (except at the dinner table), etc.  When I wear a baby in a carrier on my hip, I even prefer to put him on my right side so my left hand is free.

I remember when I was a kid, there was always only one or two pairs of left-handed scissors in every classroom or in the art room.  All of them were so dull (or the two sides were separated so much from overuse and age), that they rarely even cut paper.  By about 3rd grade, I just used the right-handed scissors and dealt with the fact that they were really uncomfortable.  Also around third grade, I vividly recall purposefully changing the way I held my pencil so that my hand hooked.  Why would I do such a thing?  Because I had to write my spelling words 3x each, and they had been printed on the left side of the page.  I couldn’t see the words on the paper because my hand was in the way.  So I changed the way I wrote.  This was also an issue in learning to write in cursive for the same reasons.  Writing in a spiral bound notebook is a a nightmare.  When I use a binder, I remover the paper from the binder, write what I need to, and replace it into the binder rings.  Every desk in my middle school, high school, and university was created for a right-handed person.  Regardless of the tool I use to write with, the entire side of my hand, from pinky joint to the base of my palm, is always smeared in graphite, ink, or marker.

I spent much of my time in PE classes asking how I should do something that had just been demonstrated right-handed.  The typical answer was, “Just do the opposite.”  Gee, thanks.  There were even times when we were doing a unit on baseball and there weren’t enough left-handed gloves for all the lefties in class.  Not cool.

To this day, my sense of right and left is not good.  I get them mixed up way more frequently than is probably normal for anyone over the age of 9.  I blame at least part of that on the fact that my teachers frequently ensured people know which hand was their right hand with the statement, “it’s the one you write with.”  Um…not everyone.  I even overhead a colleague (younger than me, so not an old-school teacher set in her ways) using that exact phrase last year to her class.  Now, granted, she may very well have have not had any lefties in her class, so I’ll assume that’s true.

It’s also a pain at a restaurant, or really any dinner table where I’m seated with right-handed people.  I’ve gotten really good at choosing the seat that puts my left hand against the wall or to the aisle, and failing that, eating with my elbow tucked in to avoid bumping against my right-handed companions.

The time it was most difficult was when I needed to teach students cursive.  Yup, I got to teach students to write in cursive for 6 years.  I learned to make the letter in the air, facing the class (so I had to make it backwards in order for them to see it properly), and I learned to guide even right-handed students having difficulty forming a letter by doing hand-over-hand with my right hand.

If you’re a teacher, please, I beg you to do the following for your left-handers.

  • Have ambidextrous scissors, or make sure to have left-handed ones that cut effectively.
  • Print anything that needs to be copied (handwriting, etc) so the original word/sentence is on the right side of the paper for your lefties, or on a separate paper altogether if you want to avoid making two versions.
  • If a child asks how to do something left-handed, do not tell them to just do the opposite of what you showed them. Either try to figure it out for them, ask around your colleagues who are lefties how they do it, or find a YouTube video.
  • If you seat a lefty next to a righty at a table, put the lefty so that their left hand is not beside someone (or is beside another lefty) if you can.
  • Never, ever, utter the phrase, “On the right, that’s the hand you write with,” unless you are 110% certain that every person in that room writes with their right hand.
  • Check out additional resources at lefthandedchildren.org, and mamaot.
  • Check out the 18 worst things for left-handed people.
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