Schools are rooted in the tradition of using grade-level expectations of when a child should read and write and when to teach American history. Information flows primarily from textbooks, practice through worksheets, and assessments through tests, reports, and grades.
Have you ever wondered about the result of this type of education?
Thirty-percent of the children rise to the top because textbooks, workbooks, quizzes, and reports support their learning style. They can sit quietly and listen attentively during lectures. Not because they are smarter, but because that is how they are wired.
The other seventy-percent sink to the bottom. These equally intelligent children are at a disadvantage, not because anything is wrong with them, but because educational methods have been narrowed to the point of excluding some children from the learning process. The talents of these children go unidentified and unused. These children, hurt by the educational process, feel unintelligent and lose sight of the strengths they were born with.
Richard Selznick, author of The Shut-Down Learner, describes such a situation:
“Brian struggled in school. Teachers saw him as disconnected, uninterested, and unmotivated. He spent much of his weekends at a local pond collecting animal and plant life for elaborate terrariums he constructed. He was incredibly sophisticated in showing creativity and a real depth of understanding, yet was getting a D in science. Why did his passion and love of science disappear at school?” (Selznick, 2008)
Brian was a bright student, but the textbook curriculum crammed Brian’s days with reading, writing, and memorizing. These methods worked against his learning style, wasting the scientific mind he was born with. He wanted to learn science, and he did, in his own way: experiencing and demonstrating. Selznick explains,“These children are bright and creative, yet these qualities often lie dormant during the school years because traditional read-write-lecture teaching methods ignore the way they learn.”
Traditional teaching methods can hinder our children’s learning and give us a narrow view of our children’s capabilities. When we insist on using one method to teach our children, we end up sorting them into piles of smart and unsmart, using worksheets and multiple-choice quizzes as the benchmark.
By honoring our children’s learning strengths, we avoid penalizing them because their brains are wired differently than a traditional curriculum. When a nine-year-old beams with pride as she rattles off the multiplication facts, does it matter if she learned them by using picture cards, rhymes, flashcards, or shooting basketballs?
When a child learns using her natural learning strengths, she is successful. She can remember how to spell words because those words have been etched in her memory in a way that works for her. Successful learning gives her confidence as she sees herself as an intelligent and capable person.
This year, let us break with tradition.
Let us see our children as individuals with specific learning strengths. Let us refuse to accept the school’s limited perspective of our children’s abilities. Let us discover our children’s learning strengths and make sure they are nurtured in the classroom. Let us allow our children to learn at their own pace and in their own way so that their inborn talents emerge. Each child has a unique talent that the world needs, a talent that will bring him fulfillment and passion in life. Let’s nurture that talent.
What talents do your children possess? Leave me a comment and let’s celebrate our children’s strengths!