I am a right-brainer. Hopefully, though, I operate as a whole-brained person, dipping into each side when needed. As a child, however, I was dead in the water in school because my teachers were left-brained and taught that way. Lots of verbal instructions and worksheets. Ugh! I often drifted off into a daydream where my creative, imaginative world lived and gave me comfort.
I bring this up because my wife and I tutor children at our local public school and one of the kids assigned to me is left-handed. He is automatically right-brained; there are other children- right-handed- whose right-brainedness is more difficult to identify. Of course, it the teacher isn’t knowledgeable about brain dominance, then little else matters. He/she will teach like their brain dictates- most often in a verbal, sequential, part-to-whole way. Deadly for a child who gets none of that.
Recently, however, students entering their elementary years are more often visual learners than verbal. The age of technology has encapsulated their entire lives and they expect that same pattern to repeat in the classroom. Think about this, though: what if those children meet up with a teacher who greets them with a stick of chalk and a blackboard! Yes, like you remember from your classroom back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Deadly. And what if the teacher’s only other method of capturing the attention of the child is an overhead projector. Oh, both the chalk and the projector are fine for the left-brained kids- the ones who listen to the words, see the words and follow along the sequential, part-to-whole teaching pattern.
While the left-brained learner is sitting nicely in their seat, paying close attention to the teacher, absorbing every word, putting the pieces together one-by-one, the right-brained kid is squirming in his seat, playing with his pencil, looking out the window, or having a wonderful daydream- oblivious to the droning voice of the teacher.
Right-brained kids are imaginative, spontaneous, strongly visual and whole-to-part learners. Color, music, pictures, art, media and hands-on learning are their strong points. They often seem disorganized because their way is not the ‘usual’ way of organizing things. Just think how all of these characteristics irk the traditional teacher! At report card time, the check marks are numerous, telling the parent what a poor student they have in their child. Poor student or poor teacher??
“We are all creative, but by the time we are three or four years old, someone has knocked the creativity out of us.” –Maya Angelou.
Author Daniel Pink has written a book with a most interesting insight: A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the World. Yes, RIGHT-BRAINERS! Pink warns that people who don’t nurture their right brains “may miss out, or worse, suffer” in the economy of tomorrow. He argues that the old world is a left-brain world. The new one is a right-brain world. Part of our dropout problem can be summarized in one phrase: we are preparing students in “Left-Brain” schools to enter a “Right-Brain” world. The school does not resemble the world they’ll enter after graduation. If they graduate at all.
Hmm. Well imagine that, will ya! I’m the future with my right-leaning brain; too bad that for the past 70 odd years I thought I didn’t fit in all that well.
In an article in the Huffington Post, Dr. Tim Elmore, founder and president of Growing Leaders, writes about this brain dominance dilemma unfolding upon our nation and our schools. He writes that as a kid he and his gang liked to ‘play school.’ “I noticed over time,” he writes, “my whole perspective changed. School became somewhat of a drudgery. I stopped “playing” school. More than that, however, I stopped looking forward to it and began looking for ways to get out of it. Sadly, I was like most kids. School and learning were fun when we were young, but eventually they came to mean toil and boredom. For many, school is even repulsive.”
He warns that schools are not preparing students for what Daniel Pink is suggesting about the future. And with the new emphasis on mandatory testing in schools, there is little time for the teacher to produce creative lessons that will enrich right-brained students. Teach to the test! Proficiency evaluations! Sadly, voters look at ‘school test results’ to decide whether or not to vote for the school levy. After all, that’s what they learned sitting in classrooms for all of those years.
…and the chalk squeeks on the blackboard!