5/10/12

Pushing Forward

In my last post, Rags to Riches-What Holds Some Back?, I wrote about my idea that the thing that is holding some kids back in school is genetics, particularly inherent skills or lack of skills that enable people to get things done.  This is based on my experience and reading over the last few years and is meant as sort of a meandering of the mind, because we all know there are just so very many factors involved in educating young people.  I don't mean at all to say that home life doesn't contribute to a child's ability to learn, only that I don't think it plays as big a role as many people assume.  I was particularly saddened to see that a survey of parents done by The Child Mind Institute showed "63% of parents said. . . too many children are being diagnosed with ADHD when they just have behavioral issues."  One third of the parents believe ADHD children are just a result of bad parenting.  And I believe it, because I have felt it even from some school personell.  The fact is that all stereotypes are based in truth.  There are Some kids out in the world who are behaving badly because of bad parenting, angry children who are angry because their parents do drugs or aren't there for them at the baseball games, school events, or life in general.  There are some really crappy parents.  Then there are the rest of us. . .stuck under the weight of the stereotype saying "Hey!  That is not Me!"

That is a bit of a tangent from where I planned to go tonight, but I needed to say it.

Another big part of my last post was about the acceptance that some kids just don't have certain skills that they need to succeed, and the need to find ways to teach the skills (like those listed on my page titled "Lagging Skills") or otherwise navigate them.  So my next thought right now is that one way to help a child who has lagging skills is to lessen the demand for the skill that is blocking learning, and focus on what the child CAN do.  This may sound like I am saying the exact opposite of my last post, but I look at this more as a twofold approach.

 If homework every night taxes the child to the point where she is arguing and crying about it, what is the point?  Is that work, or lack of , indicative of what she can do? or is it just punishment for not being able to do it? (ie:  Not only will I the teacher require that you do homework everynight causing you to become willfull, upset, and or discouraged, I will also take credit away from what you could do, by lowering your grade, your A is now a C or your C is now an F)  When I look at it this way it isn't as difficult (in my mind anyway) to see why some kids get angry and down on school.

For some kids, the problem isn't just homework, it is showing what they know, even in the classroom.  Maybe she is slow to contribute to discussion.  Slow processing could cause her to be unable to respond or contribute in a meaningful way on the spot, but an hour later she thinks to herself, "Drat!  Thats what I should have said!"  Slow processing speed doesn't mean cognitively slow, but a very bright child can easily be misread as shy, quiet, or even not all that smart.  There all kinds of ways really that kids don't perform well in school due not to a lack of intelligence, but a lack of ability to show what they know, I won't get into more of them right now.

The idea is to ask ourselves where are our students strong?  What can they do?  What are their gifts?  Each child has one you know, from the gift of gab, to the gift of written expression or musicality.  There may be a child who lights up a room with his pure happiness, and the master of Star Wars trivia alongside the fastest pitching arm a bookworm and the little one who dances through life.  If we provide opportunities for everychild to feel success, they will learn to navigate and understand their own abilities so they may make wise life choices that suit them well and allow them to be happy.

Not a simple task. . .How do we take these gifts that walk through our classroom door and acknowledge them and nurture them while simultaneously covering the standards and then some?  How do we use the gifts, that bring happiness and joy to our children, as a teaching advantage?  A happy brain is able to learn.  If we forget (or don't even know) what makes our children happy, we forget the key that opens the door to learning.  A stressed brain is less capable of learning.  So why do some people think that constant exposure to what is hard will make it easier?  Is that possible?  An adult brilliant writer with no hands can hire a scribe or use a Dragon Naturally Speaking program to dictate his ramblings, we wouldn't force or expect him to physically write his words.  The best advice for solving a problem that is confounding you is to walk away from it, sleep on it, do something you find relaxing, then eventually the solution comes.

There is a growing awareness among parents who I know of with children who struggle with lagging skills who are seeing they do. . . eventually . . .acquire the skills.  Sometimes not till highschool, or college and others not till their nearly 30!  And it is not for lack of intervention, modeling, or explicit teaching of the skills they need, by making lists, breaking projects down into managable lists, setting alarms for due dates on older students' phones.  So in the meantime, finding ways that our kids can feel successfull is of utmost importance.   They maximize out of school time with sports or music lessons, science camp, pottery lessons, you name it because they want their child to have opportunities to find their place in the world outside of school.  Sometimes we forget that school requires children to perform every skill well, while life only requires that we do something well enough to make a living.  Happiness however, requires what we choose to do to fit who we really are, if that occurs we can't help but do it well.



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