A year ago, I was trying to work with my son’s school counselor, Mrs. K, to figure out why my son cried about having to go to school every single day. I thought that she, being a counselor, might have some insight that would help me. One day, in frustration, as I was leaving her office, I commented that it’s too bad the school system doesn’t teach to how my son learns- how his brain works. Her reply was that if schools taught to my son’s brain, then the majority of children wouldn’t learn.
In a nanosecond, with every fiber of my being, I knew that was dead wrong. And more than that, I knew that if schools would teach to how my son learns, then every child would be able to learn; not just the majority. And hell yeah, I was pissed off.
Since that time, I have thought about that comment a lot. I know that my son has Sensory Processing Disorder, and because of that I know that he benefits from certain small modifications in his school day. And I am also learning that my son is very right-brained. What that means is that his strengths lie in his ability to think creatively, use global reasoning rather than logic and analysis, to be amazingly intuitive, and to follow a heart directed life.
He thinks in at least 3 dimensions instead of 2 or 1. When problem solving, he sees 25 possibilities (and most of them, outside the box) instead of 5. His creativity in general is off the charts. When he interacts with people, his body intuitively lets him know if they are ok or not. And the same for people’s motivations- he knows if something feels right or wrong; and it’s not ambiguous to him. As he goes through life and will have to make hard decisions, or the big life decisions, he will be able to listen to and follow his heart, which will always take him the right way.
Our current education system was set up to educate en mass. As such, it was also designed by predominantly left brained thinking people, for left brain thinking people. One definition of left-brained, describes people whose behavior is dominated by logic, analytical thinking, and verbal communication rather than emotion and creativity. And along with verbal communication, is communication that is written and read. Logical and analytical thinking involves following a thread of thought, usually down one or two paths, and analyzing (using the brain) which path is better.
So, how would a school look if it taught to a right-brained child? Well, it would have to use a multidisciplinary and multisensory approach. What I mean is, that when teaching a child the alphabet, a right brain child needs to build and to feel each letter as a 3 dimensional object. So, in every grade and every class, art needs to be heavily involved. Instead of reading a book and taking a multiple choice quiz on its contents, have the child build a diorama or Lego project about the story, and present it orally to the teacher and/or classmates. Have them paint or create artistically in other ways, to demonstrate social studies concepts and history.
In helping the brain assimilate math, music needs to be involved. Keeping the beat of a song, and learning about eighth, quarter, half, and whole notes comes so much more easily when music is involved. Music needs to be a significant part of every curriculum. And for my son specifically, who has issues with small motor control of their fingers, he is more likely to want to learn to play an instrument than to sit and work at holding a pencil, trying to form letters. Who cares about writing the alphabet when you can play the Mario theme song? Music would help his small motor control, that would help his writing. And music also helps a child with math. (This last one has actually been shown in studies).
Math concepts would also be easier learned by using manipulatives, things like blocks or other 3D objects. My son’s school used these a bit through second grade, but they should be used much further up the grades for right-brained teaching.
To learn spelling, kids would be up on their feet, doing jumping jacks and cross body exercises, spelling their words out loud. This would help the words integrate into their brains better, get them moving and exercising, and bring their attention back to the classroom.
This whole system of clumping children together only by how old they are, needs to go too. I would love to see children clumped together by where they are in their development, and by their strengths. I can just see it now. My son’s classroom would have tubs and tubs of Lego’s and other building materials. And you would see projects all around the room that represented everything from their times tables, to a scene from WWII, to creations representing several books that were either read, or listened to (many of these right-brained kiddos find reading a big challenge).
So, if our education system taught to, and thus valued, the strengths of my right-brained son, all children would have to learn how to see a problem from all angles and levels, to think (creatively) outside the box, and to honor and value their intuition. They would learn to use and integrate art, music, and physical movement in all they do. I can see the amazing possibilities to help not only our children, but our whole world and future. So thanks Mrs. K. I felt you were wrong, and now I know why. Time for you and for our educational system’s current paradigms to retire.
And how to make these changes? I put that one out to the creative, thinking outside the box, problem solvers of the world: those who are right-brained, like my son.