Pages

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Learning styles.

The picture above is of my son Brian (1980-2011).

Early in my teaching career, I was assigned to teach English at a junior high in East LA, a suburb of Los Angeles where newly arrived immigrants from Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico crowded the local schools.

I picked up enough Spanish to have casual conversations with my students. More than fifty percent of them were born in the US, but their education had not been constant. Often, families would spend months visiting relatives in their homeland, and by the time the child returned to school. the curriculum and course of study had moved on.

I learned a great deal about students' lives at that time, but not enough to change how  hos ineffective I was as a teacher. I assigned, covered the material, and gave grades. When the children failed to turn in homework, I asked no questions. I just punished them with a fail for each missing assignment. They had earned whatever grade they earned because they had not done their homework, and had not studied enough for their tests.

Years later, my son Brian taught me the biggest lesson I would ever learn. Though a very bright child, he would complain that his teacher assigned work, but never showed them how to do it.  You see, he was a  kinestetic learner, taking things apart to see how they worked, rather than opening a manual and reading the instructions one line at a time. He had followed his older siblings around the house, trying to imitate what they were doing, not afraid to make mistakes and trusting his instincts. He had been socialized to do things together.  Going to a quiet room  to get a page of homework finished was not an easy task for him.

I, on the other hand, believed all knowledge comes from books, and following intricate instructions, practicing each skill before attempting bigger tasks was the way to go.

Brian learned to read  by constructing models of cars, planes, looking at pictures, identifying parts and functions and by trial and error to get the assembly together and functioning. At the end of the task, he could read every word in the manual.  We cooked and wrote recipes down at the end of the meal, each ingredient's name memorized and spelled correctly. Brian would often volunteer to fix anything around the house. He loved competitions and as a member of his high school Academic Decathlon Team, he brought  home team and individual gold medals. His curiosity was boundless. We were not surprised when he decided to major in Physics in college.  His father and I fed his imagination and provided many opportunities for him.

I wonder how many parents and teachers are still naive as I was, expecting their children to learn and succeed the way they did.








13 comments:

Snap-Smith Photography said...

ALL of us can learn and remember this lesson, rosaria. Thank for sharing it.
BTW.......very handsome son

Rubye Jack said...

I'm guilty of thinking if this is the way I understand something, then others should also. I think it is kind of natural to think others think and learn as we do. It takes patience and empathy to help others learn and to understand how they may be different and that that is often a very good thing.

Brian Miller said...

lot of truth in this...we have to take into consideration how the student learns and differentiate...we do stations often even in high school to give them a chance to work with manipulatives...and try to touch on different styles...because they will get it...

Linda Myers said...

I made the same mistake with my visual/kinesthetic learner. When I figured it out he was in the seventh grade. I learned to changed how to talk to him about what I wanted. "When you've finished cleaning your room I should see all the bowls and spoons in the kitchen sink. I should see all the carpet in your room. I should see all your dirty clothes in the hamper.

Then he knew how to clean his room. Not until then.

Tom Sightings said...

I remember taking a test once -- this was when my kids were little -- that showed what kind of learner you are. As I recall the three categories were oral, visual or kinesthetic. Does this ring a bell? Anyway, you are so right; everyone has their own learning style, and we should respect that, and schools should teach to that as much as possible.

yaya said...

Thank you for sharing a bit of your dear son's life and I think the problem with regular school is the idea that all kiddos need to learn at the same pace with the same techniques. I learn best by seeing and then doing..reading, although I love it, doesn't work when it comes to technical things. Schools have to have curriculum that fits "most" and I hope teachers can be the buffer to make sure the others "get it". I'm not a teacher so I'm sure doing that is not easy.

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I read somewhere once that there are billions of different learning styles, one for each and every person on earth. That always made me think...

dianefaith said...

Thanks, Rosaria. I assumed for years and years that all of us learn best from books and lectures. I basically got my two children through school still thinking that way. I wasn't noticing that my daughter hated every minute of it. She wants everything to be practical; she learns by doing. Now, with 3 young grandchildren, I can see that each of them learns differently.

Hilary said...

My two sons are so different in most ways, and their ways of learning illustrated that to me fairly early on.

My younger one was much like your dear Brian. Their dad I I used to joke about how they would each view the same challenge - "How does that clock work?". Jeffrey would look it over for a half hour, walk away from it, think and come back to it and give his best explanation. Alex would have it in pieces within thirty seconds.

It's so important to remember that not everyone learns at the same pace or in the same way. Thanks for this.

troutbirder said...

Most interesting and true. Perhaps one reason why I found each new administrator who came into our school determined to force the one true way to teach such a waste of time...

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Rosaria .. you've learned a great lesson from Brian .. not having children I can't pass comment. Yet somewhere along the line I'm learning very belatedly in life ..

I enjoy the blogging and learning process - we all learn differently don't we ..

Cheers Hilary

Maggie May said...

That was a lovely photo of your son and thanks for sharing that post.
I like to be shown how to do a thing ...... with the help of books afterwards!
I wonder what that makes me?
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Amanda said...

We do need to shift our educational system to accommodate all learners. Brian's learning style seemed very visceral and immediate - an autodidact I guess they call them? I can relate, as I think I am somewhat that way as well. We do the best we can as parents, only able to chastise ourselves in the clarity of the 20/20 hindsight mirror. I recall working with my son on a math problem. He solved it without going through the steps I thought he should - I wanted him to stop fidgeting and do it the way I knew to do it. Years later, I realize this is the way his mind works, and to respect different ways of learning.