Left-Brain Schools in a Right-Brain World

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. a-whole-new-mind

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!



8 thoughts on “Left-Brain Schools in a Right-Brain World

  1. I thought that here, rather than in the post, would be a better place to list the 6 elements ( senses) that Pink believes are attractive and vital attributes for students to display and nurture for success in the future.

    “Six Senses .” 1) Design–making things not only functional but engaging by design; 2) Story–developing a compelling narrative from the data; 3) Symphony–seeing the big picture and gathering seemingly desperate parts into a harmonious whole; 4) Empathy–fostering caring relationships with our family, friends and colleagues at work; 5) Play–the need to have fun at whatever you do; 6) Meaning–seeking purpose and the greater good seems to define us uniquely as humans.

    Note that these elements or skills are not at all nourished nor welcome in most schools today.

  2. Too old to worry about it any more, lol!

    You mentioned voting in your last paragraph…Reminds me that you were
    going to inform us what the turn out in Toledo area/Ohio was. Were there
    any school levies? Anything ideologically significant?

  3. Voter turnout in Toledo was 25% even though it was a mayoral race. Many school levies passed inc. Toledo Public. The black vote was low, not surprisingly, even though the incumbent mayor was black. He lost significantly. Some black precincts were as low as 13%!!

    The trend continues-‘they’ only vote in presidential years.

  4. What’s that old saying “use it or lose it”? By not using the right to
    vote, a right enacted by whites like you and me, the blacks are losing it.
    I don’t here Rev Sharpton and the black talking heads that appear on
    his nightly program ranting and raving about non-voting blacks, do you?
    To tell you the truth, I,m sick and tired of bending over trying to help
    people vote. I’ve never been a supporter of post card vote by mail, early
    voting, church voting, absentee voting, dubious of out of country military
    voting, and whatever else. They deserve what Kasich, Bryant, Perry,
    the U.S. Supreme Court, and other governors have done to limit black
    voting. Expect what you get, if you don’t show up!

  5. Yes, expect what you get if you don’t show up. That’s why we have all of these right-wing governors in BLUE states. Perhaps you recall a post [rant!] towards the end of the Ohiio governor’s race a 3 years ago. I walked my ass off in dicey neighborhoods knocking on doors to get people to vote for Strickland. Days and days of walking and knocking. Remember the gun threat I got behind one door? Still better, remember the question one person asked me: is the President on the ballot?

    My ‘no’ answer cemented her visit to the polling booth.

    1. By the way, my friend, I’m fairly DONE with ranting politics any longer. It is a waste of my time, talent and energy.

      I’d like to focus on education and employment instead. Oh, yes, I do know that there is a political spice in that stew, but with the ‘system’ so rigged against The People, I can’t hope that anything will change there. Hopeless comes close.

      Education, my friend. Maybe this is where you could put your time and energy. Run for the local school board? Employment? Join the Chamber of Commerce??

  6. Join the Chamber? Already Done! $300 a year! Joined and attend twice a month meeting. Joined the county Democratic Party, meet once a month
    plus a number of other meetings like our county Democratic women group.
    You know, the one you called me “rude” for educating the group about Hillary’s past and getting attacked by the femanazis. Who wants education, lol?

  7. Get appointed to a County Board. Find the decision maker, call that person
    up, and request a meeting. Or that person who has the speaking
    authority with that decision maker. Maybe a committee of the main Board,
    but they have to know your interested, right? Get a flow chart of Boards
    and Committees. I served on a city zoning board; we met to hear and vote
    on variances to the zoning code

Comments are closed.