In Which I Get Thoughtful

This entry’s to be stream-of-consciousness, so please bear with the random threads of thought.

I’m the outsider in a ninth grade science class right now, and I can’t figure out why this guy’s projecting a couple of cartoon peas on the wall.  Okay… now animations of a priestly-looking fellow blessing a couple of trellises, and oh! Four little baby peas appear!  The word “appear” has the word “pea” right inside it.  This is some sophisticated linguistic trickery from someone who doesn’t even speak my alphabet.  I’m impressed.

Back to the lesson, which is potentially about dominant and recessive traits.  Can I say this next part with a straight face?  I hope to god it’s not about creationism.

Phew: big R, little r.  That spells relief in a way that Rolaids never could.  I am not heavily into promoting creationism as a science.

This pea business would be really hard to understand if I didn’t have a solid foundation of genetics under my belt.  I cannot for the life of me figure out how anyone ever gets an education in another language. 

Okay, I just got bored and started copying Japanese characters willy-nilly into my notebook, and I had this flash that some of my ELL kids do this all the time.  I always wondered why, too, because from the outside it seems like sort of a useless activity, but now that I’m doing it myself, I get it.  I don’t actually comprehend the shapes I’m making, but I know other people do.  It’s a time killer, the drawings are novel, and bonus: I get to look busy.  

Ohhhhhhhhh.  Every teacher should be allowed to do this.  It’s such an eye-opening humblefest.  

Math class is awesome!  I get to learn ninth grade algebra, which corresponds to the honors class I took with Mrs. Worthley as a sophomore.  It’s a happy 45 minutes spent figuring problems I’d forgotten I know how to solve and reminiscing fondly about the amoeba that allegedly lived in her eye shadow.

Next, I return to the lab.

Now this guy looks 100% like a scientist.  Hair is flying everywhere like he’s just been prepped as Doc Brown in Back to the Japanese Future, and all of his mannerisms exude the air of nematodes and covalent bonding.

I’ve not the faintest idea what’s happening here, but I’m wildly entertained.

Check that.  Just a few minutes later, I’m bored out of my mind.  The lecture style of this pedagogy is leaving me completely out of the realm of academic participation, and I’m note-to-selfing again to have something like the pea family animation in my lessons back home, because that at least kept me partially involved.  If I can incorporate some pictures and simple ideas, then even if I’m speaking completely above a kid’s level, at least I can get a few salient points across via visual.

I used to think if a student didn’t understand something, he should just try a little harder to figure it out, play an active role in his education.  Just come up and ask, if he has a question!  Now I’m realizing that while that’s true to some extent, how does a person figure something out independently when he can’t even pull a complete sentence out of a lecture to connect with his life?  Why ask the teacher to explain when she’ll just repeat the same incomprehensible things at a slower pace, enunciating to make him feel like an idiot?

Food for thought, and I’m hungry.

Now I’m wondering whether our diversity in learning styles is actually a biological adaptation that benefits us as a species, serving a specific and important evolutionary purpose.  It would certainly behoove us to have members of our community predisposed to learning different ways: some through visual interpretation, some through written language, and some interpersonally.  It stands to reason that the more ways people in society can learn and communicate, the better they’ll be able to adapt successfully and respond to threats if one or more of those methods is cut off.  The community has to work together.

Perhaps I’m onto something.

Throughout my teaching career, I’ve been told to avoid sticking to one way of teaching because not all kids learn the same way.  That made sense, so I accepted it and have gone forward accordingly.  Kids hear that and accept it, too, but I’m not sure they always accept themselves when they’re stuck in classes that don’t teach to their strengths, or that don’t balance the strengths of the class as a community.  I think kids would benefit not only from being told that there are many different learning styles, but also from being taught how valuable those differences are, and precisely why.  

The classes I always loved most were my neuro-psychology classes because they taught me how my brain worked and how that knowledge would help me fit into society.  Then I got interested in evolutionary biology because it’s comforting to know there’s a “why” for feelings, even the most terrible and depressing ones.  I never understood why we had to wait until college- and in an elective, even!- to learn that, because that knowledge has been the single most important catalyst when I make a positive change.  

Maybe the single most positive change I can make for others is to help them understand it at an earlier age.  Happy science, everyone!

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3 thoughts on “In Which I Get Thoughtful

  1. Catherine says:

    Excellent blog Carrie! I agree with you whole heartedly: students should be taught about different learning styles at the earliest possible age. I actually think it is being done a lot more now – as early as Kindergarten. Lots of little learners will tell you that they are visual learners or auditory learners because their teachers have drilled that over and over again to them. They know to make flash cards for homework, or they know to read a book on tape. You bring up a good point though about the neuro-psych part. You’re right, prospective teachers don’t learn that til way late in the game, if at all. I started telling particular children that they were wired differently when they were 4 or 5. That way, they didn’t blame their differences on themselves but rather on science. Now I think it would be helpful if kids knew how depressed feelings, happy feelings etc. are produced by the brain too. It would help them cope a lot better in life.

    Keep blogging these insightful observations, and oh yeah, keep those crazy photos coming. They’re great!

    Like

  2. Darci says:

    Carrie–Thank you! Thank you! THANK YOU!!! I’m going to do a learning styles lesson or unit with the 6th graders this fall thanks to you! But, not just the “you’re a kinesthetic learner” kind of lession. They need to know that there is such a HUGE range of “normal” ways to learn. And that their differences aren’t weaknesses! And work in brain science too! I love it! You just helped me get psyched about September–and that’s hard to do in July!!! Hope the rest of your trip is fabulous!!

    Like

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