Educating Young Minds – What gives?

An interesting article, excerpted below in the N.Y. Times – “Studying Young Minds and how to teach them“, got me thinking about something very special today…….

I taught grade 4 for a few years and also began my teaching career as a Jr. Int. teacher. Throughout all the time I’ve spent with young learners, I’ve come to one unamazing conclusion – THEY ARE ALL DIFFERENT!

Like outlined in this article – we spend so much research and study, so much energy searching for the “magic bullet” . That one method that will make a genius. Kids go to school when only 3 years old. Kids don’t go to school until 8 years old. Early reading, late reading. I could go on and on and on…. But it is all for naught. There is no panacea – how can there be when each student is different. Why keep trying so much?

I think we only need to do whatever it takes but sprinkle that teaching and curriculum with two important things. Focus on these and all else will fall into place.

1. Give every child a feeling of success! This should be the motto of all teachers teaching young children. Nothing breeds success like success! I’ve witnessed it. The moment I slowed down, the moment I set my students up for success – they began learning. But not only learning — LOVING TO LEARN. My greatest math teacher – Mr. Worth (and how appropriate that name!), always gave us the answers to every test! Imagine that. With a wink and nudge, while doing review, he’d “suggest” this question would be on the test. It always was! And even me, a dimwit scored well and learned to love math.

2. Make all objectives point towards the development of the WHOLE child. Not just their brain but their creativity and most importantly their heart. No, I’m not going to advocate a system like Montessori or Steiner (one must create one’s own system or be enslaved by that of another – saith Blake). No. I”m simply pointing out the obvious – get teachers in the classroom who care and who nurture. No one else.

Too little questioned is the notion that we should be creating a genius!!! I question this. Utterly and completely question this. As Ken Robinson suggests – “Why do we only teach from the neck up?” I question research that seeks to make children “brainier” by inflicting on them all kinds of rigorous activity and structure. What kind of monstrous methods are these that we don’t question them???? What are the implications of our cookie cutters and tweezers?

I think “education” all over the world — needs a really big “rethink”. Our goal should not be to graduate a genius. Not to create a “thinker” (but if this happens that’s fine). Our goal should be to graduate a person who is happy. Who is well adjusted and helpful. A person who is kind. A person like my mother (who doesn’t have much “edjumakashion” at all). I won’t pontificate but as you read the article, think of this. Think of our duty as “public educators” and think about this world of pain and suffering, crime and violence. How might better it be, if we teach towards the psychic development of a child more than their cerebral misdevelopment?

Studying Young Minds, and How to Teach Them

Published: December 20, 2009

BUFFALO — Many 4-year-olds cannot count up to their own age when they arrive at preschool, and those at the Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center are hardly prodigies. Most live in this city’s poorer districts and begin their academic life well behind the curve.

Students at the Stanley M. Makowski Early Childhood Center get an early introduction to math concepts.
Brain Power
Wired for Math

For all that scientists have studied it, the brain remains the most complex and mysterious human organ.

But there they were on a recent Wednesday morning, three months into the school year, counting up to seven and higher, even doing some elementary addition and subtraction. At recess, one boy, Joshua, used a pointer to illustrate a math concept known as cardinality, by completing place settings on a whiteboard.

“You just put one plate there, and one there, and one here,” he explained, stepping aside as two other students ambled by, one wearing a pair of clown pants as a headscarf. “That’s it. See?”

For much of the last century, educators and many scientists believed that children could not learn math at all before the age of five, that their brains simply were not ready. But recent research has turned that assumption on its head — that, and a host of other conventional wisdom about geometry, reading, language and self-control in class. The findings, mostly from a branch of research called cognitive neuroscience, are helping to clarify when young brains are best able to grasp fundamental concepts.

In one recent study, for instance, researchers found that most entering preschoolers could perform rudimentary division, by distributing candies among two or three play animals. In another, scientists found that the brain’s ability to link letter combinations with sounds may not be fully developed until age 11 — much later than many have assumed.

The teaching of basic academic skills, until now largely the realm of tradition and guesswork, is giving way to approaches based on cognitive science. In several cities, including Boston, Washington and Nashville, schools have been experimenting with new curriculums to improve math skills in preschoolers. In others, teachers have used techniques developed by brain scientists to help children overcome dyslexia.

And schools in about a dozen states have begun to use a program intended to accelerate the development of young students’ frontal lobes, improving self-control in class.

“Teaching is an ancient craft, and yet we really have had no idea how it affected the developing brain,” said Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain and Education program at Harvard. “Well, that is beginning to change, and for the first time we are seeing the fields of brain science and education work together.” Continued HERE.

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Teacher trainer, technology specialist, educational thinker...creator of EFL Classroom 2.0, a social networking site for thousands of EFL / ESL teachers and students around the world.

2 Responses

  1. Dr. Sanford Aranoff says:

    Students are all different. True. But things that are not different are the principles. Teachers must understand how students think, build from there using basic principles and logic. Too often we ignore or do not understand the principles. See “Teaching and Helping Students Think and Do Better” on amazon.

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