What if My Right-Brain Child is in a Left-Brain School?
Albert Einstein once said, "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education."
These are all traits we'd rather our children keep and sustain.
But, sometimes schools preoccupied with grading and goal-setting lose their focus—the well-being of our children. And in the process, our children lose their desire to learn.
LOSING THE SPIRIT 6-year-old Frankie was a vibrant child who loved life. At home, his parents had set up learning corners and outdoor guarded play areas. Throughout the day, Frankie would draw and paint, help his mother with cooking or cleaning, write creative stories, sing and dance to learning songs, spend quiet time with math workbooks or sit and read. Growing up in this environment, he was a happy, bright, beaming little boy. One day, his mother e-mailed us. Frankie was unhappy. His grandparents had spent a lot of money for tuition at a private school and he did not like it. This once passionate, curious boy, who loved to experiment and play, was depressed. After a few months at school, he cried before leaving home each morning. His mother didn't know what to do. Frankie would describe how other children were humiliated by the teacher if they spoke out of turn. He was adapting to a highly-scheduled day, and when he did like an activity, the teachers would pull him out of his project before he was ready to switch his focus. He had to sit still. He had to focus on a single whiteboard at the front of the room. Frankie's mother asked: "How can a right-brain child stay in school without losing his spirit?"
How do right-brain children survive in left-brain schools?
Let me begin by saying that there are a growing number of teachers--caring, enlightened teachers--who make a big difference for children who are lucky enough to be in their classrooms.
But, the truth is that it is a challenge to keep the right-brain pathway alive and active as children grow older in left-brain educational systems--east or west. Change must take place. And the time is now. The Power is in Your Hands
You have choices. If your child is in school and you feel like their spirit is unable to shine, then here are your options.
Talk to your child's teacher. This is not an easy option, but, it could make a world of difference. If you believe that creative learning is important, then talk to your child's teacher about your concerns. You might be surprised at the results.
Create a right-brain learning corner. If talking to your teacher doesn't yield results and you cannot change schools, then boost your child's right-brain creativity at home. You can create a right-brain learning corner for homework or continued learning of other subjects that he really likes. Use this learning corner to support and encourage your child each day.
Find a different school. If you can find another school that combines right-brain creativity and flexibility with left-brain academic standards--within your price range--then a change in your child's environment to one that is truly positive will uplift and inspire your child, and affect your whole family.
Homeschool. Homeschooling is only an option if you have the time and resources to do it. If you can, then time spent with your child can be highly rewarding and his right-brain genius can shine in a highly attentive environment.
You Can Help Your School Become More Creative
You may have heard our rallying cry: "Changing the world... one heart at a time." Love, respect and support is powerful. If you want to see a change, as Mahatma Gandhi says, "be the change."
If your child is not fitting in at school, please consider it an opportunity to make a positive change in your corner of the world. Frustrated with the current situation? Offer a helpful solution. Your voice and words of encouragement could really inspire another to do better.
CHANGING THE WORLD… ONE SCHOOL AT A TIME
HOW TO TALK TO YOUR CHILD'S TEACHER
If you would like to inspire real change at school, please consider these steps.
(1) Start a Conversation
Communicate with your child's immediate teachers. It's not easy. But, in the long run, it will be a good investment, making life easier for your child and for you. Call, e-mail or stop in for a parent-teacher conference.
Here's how you can make it effective...
(2) Have a Positive Attitude and Appreciation Make the first meeting all about listening. All teachers are on guard when parents step in the room or call to complain. As a teacher, I can confess to the truth of this! So, go in as a listener, first. While listening, you may learn some things that you hadn't considered, which may effect your next step.
However, if you are discouraged by what you hear, please stay positive. It is easy to resonate with "how things are" and then give up. Please stay hopeful about the eventual outcome of your meetings. Don't think about the system or the school, overall, or even what is "usually" done in your country or culture. Just focus on your child's needs. Think about the highest possible positive outcome.
Listen to--and appreciate--what it is that they are already doing. Let them know exactly what you like about their classes and school. If they know that you are listening to them, and noticing their efforts, then they will be more open to what you have to say.
(3) Casually Check Back Meet again. Be persistent. Check in with your teacher regularly--you don't need to ask for anything. Just check in, ask how your child is doing, and offer help with anything that they might need you to do at home to help make things better for him. If a teacher knows that you are always checking in, they will (1) give your child more attention and (2) really watch themselves, and make sure that their reactions are proper = kinder.
(4) Be Prepared If you REALLY want to make a change in your child's classroom or school, go in to your next meeting armed with information. A wonderful place to start is with Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory. The right and left brain combine in different ways to produce different learning strengths and ways of learning. Knowing how children learn helps us reach them so that they can develop their genius. Every child has genius, and this will show you where your child's passions lie.
Have your child take this online test:
Edutopia Multiple Intelligence Assessment
Print it out and bring it with you.
Here's what it is...
MULTIPLE INTELLIGENCE THEORY
This is based upon the understanding that there are many types of intelligence--he now counts 9 intelligences. (Few of these intelligences are evaluated or even detected in an average IQ test.) They are:
Kinesthetic (Body Smart) - learns through building a model or acting it out
Linguistic (Word Smart) - learns through verbal instruction and praise
Logical (Number Smart) - learns through logic, methods and repetition
Interpersonal (People Smart) - learns through group/team projects
Intrapersonal (Myself Smart) - learns best alone
Musical (Music Smart) - learns through songs or rhythm
Visual/Spatial (Picture Smart) - learns through pictures, flashcards and stories (mental visualization)
Naturalistic (Nature Smart) - learns through outdoor exploration
Spiritual (Faith Smart) - learns through moral stories and mentorship
Ask your child's teacher if she would like to incorporate special learning techniques to her class. Respecting her voice and waiting for her willingness will be key for the success for change--when she is ready.
Knowing about the multiple intelligences lifts most schools up out of a left-brain approach. Their observation of the child becomes more sensitive, and thus they become more right-brain!
(5) Take it All the Way! If your child's teacher is excited about this learning profile and wants to learn more, then here's what you can do.
GIVE A GIFT - Download or purchase the book Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom by Thomas Armstrong and gift her a copy of it.
WATCH AN EXAMPLE - Ask her to look at this video--it explains how a teacher used this to improve her 4th grade music class in the United States. http://vimeo.com/32373665
LOOK OVER THE PROFILE TOGETHER - Bring your laptop, or meet at the school library where you have access to a computer. Show her the above Multiple Intelligences test. It is an excellent resource. Once she sees it, if she has the energy and passion... she will see the possibilities!
SUPPORT YOUR TEACHER - The challenge that most teachers have is that they have to adhere to a curriculum and learning philosophy of the school. So, your child's teacher may feel that she cannot do much to effect change. But, the opposite is true. Any step that she takes can impact the school--especially if she has support.
If your teacher wants to move forward from here, then encourage her to have all the children in her class take the test. You can even volunteer your services to bring in a laptop and sit with each child during the day, or to hire someone to do it, in order to help her know that she is not alone and that you are willing to help make the change. Just let your teacher know that she is not alone. If she reads about the multiple intelligences and just makes one small change at a time, then it will be a more right-brain classroom over time.
One step at a time.
You can make a difference. :-)
In closing, I'd just like to say that if you are in this situation—stay strong and have faith. As a mother and teacher, I have tried all the options I've mentioned above. We've homeschooled for many years (I'll write more about how to do that that soon) and had our children in creative private and public schools with many different experiences. Each of our four children have had different needs as they have grown and developed over time. There is no one magic bullet—because your child is always changing.
In this world, we do not always have the freedom to choose. But whatever your child's situation may be, please know that you can help him through any difficult experience--at home or at school. In the end, his knowledge of your love and support and your belief in him will be enough to help him conquer all of life's little sufferings in the world and emerge happy and well-balanced.