The Struggle of School: Right-Brain, Wrong-Brain
My name is Gabe, and I have struggled in school since the very beginning when I started. I am writing this because I know there is a way to fix this issue, maybe not by the time I graduate, but there is a way. Right now our school system only teaches in a way that 30% of students can learn effectively. The other 70% of the classroom will compromise, struggle, or fail. Is that really how our education should work? I do not think so; I believe everyone should be taught in a way that they can understand. No one should fail due to something they have no control over. 40% of people are right-brained, meaning they learn in a visual and auditory way. Another 40% are left-brained, they tend to be more logical with their thinking and learn with words and facts. The remaining 20% use both sides of their brain equally, so they can accommodate for both learning strategies. So what if I told you that the struggling 70% could learn and succeed with just a few ideas, would you listen?
Go here to find out what brain type you are: http://similarminds.com/brain.html
You start off in preschool where you learn social skills and manners, then you go on to kindergarten to expand on those while also adding on basic skills, and adjusting to a school routine. After that, you continue onto elementary school which teaches you core lessons and gets you into a working habit. After elementary school you go forward to middle school, by this time you are expanding on the main subjects while preparing you for high school. High school determines your future, you do well, you get into a good college, you do poorly, your future might not be so bright. During all this time you are going through school learning in a specific teaching method. Most of the time, the teaching method doesn’t even fit your type of thinking. People, who are too far from this method, are on a path that only leads to failure. Sadly, I am talking about mostly those who think in the right-brain fashion.
I happen to be one of those kids on this very path, the path that has a hard future made up of the unsuccessful. It’s not my fault either, I am a good kid. I am a Boy Scout, I am part of a Christian youth group called Younglife and I have never touched drugs or alcohol in my life. I never asked to have my type of thinking pattern, but I can’t change it either. The United States education system leans more toward a left-brained way of thinking, meaning there are a lot of essays, note taking and reading. These are all great things to learn and know for the future and in certain areas, but not every class is an English class. Sometimes there are other ways to go about a topic, maybe not all but definitely some.
My way of thinking is very visual, I require videos, pictures, hands-on projects and auditory things to learn. For instance, in History class I am given a text book to read and take notes to learn the subject, but in History class the same topic could be shown in a video with a speaker and visuals to explain the exact same things that were in the book. I would get more out of the video just by watching it once, rather than if I read that same topic in the book ten times over again while taking notes. It’s just how my brain works, it doesn’t make me stupid compared to the average left-brained thinker and it doesn’t make me smarter. In English class, yes taking notes, writing essays and reading books are great, but that is because that is how English is taught. Which I realize that most right-brained kids don’t even want to read this and might not read this just because of the massive word content, but that is just how we think.
With our education, I am taught in a way that isn’t compatible with my brain. Think of it like phones, where you are trying to get an iPhone to charge using a Galaxy’s charger. You’ll find that it will not charge the phone no matter how many times you stick the charger in the plug. Maybe you can buy an extra part to go on top of the charger that will be able to plug into the phone, but by doing that you lost money and it isn’t as efficient as it could be if you just had the right charger in the first place. Different phones need different chargers, just as different people need different education plans, not some replacement help to get us through school and not give us our full potential of learning.
To add onto my learning method and how it doesn’t work with our school education, I have many, many learning problems. I have enough to fill a book! Yet the worst part about it is, I could have more and not even know it. I was just diagnosed with ADHD this summer! That is REALLY late to learn I have a learning issue, a problem that I could have gotten help to allow me to be more successful with school. Have you ever wondered how those kinds of issues are found? Some issues are found early on in life but only if the kid shows major symptoms and a teacher might tell the parents to get the kid tested. Sometimes a parent might just go get the kid tested at a young age to be on the safe side. Which for me, I was lucky to have a parent who noticed early on I struggled in school. My mom had me tested for a couple learning problems, such as memory, dyslexia and ADHD. My tests showed I had an awful working memory, along with short term and long term. Though my brain problems masked my ADHD at that time, so it wasn’t found until recently when my therapist asked me some questions and then I was tested. Most people only learn of their learning problems later in life or never at all. That is just not right for people to find out later in life about a problem that if it got the help it needed, that person could very well have been a better student, got better grades and then been more successful in life.
Since the end of my sophomore year, I’ve been going to a place called Learning Rx. It is like a second school that works solely to find as many of my brain issues as they can and then start doing “games” to help my brain fix them. But, it’s not only for kids like me who have mental problems. Anyone can go, it is used to tune and strengthen minds of all ages. Senior citizens can use it to help Alzheimer’s from having such a strong effect. Kids use it to help them in school, and adults use it to keep their mind on its toes. They described the activities as physical therapy for the brain; you train it to make it better. I can’t really describe the type of brain exercise I do there and put them into words, but I’ll do my best. I don’t like to call the work I do there, games, only because they are crazy hard and take a lot of brain power. For me, because my memory is bad I have an exercise where my trainer holds out a card with a certain amount of numbers on different areas of the card. There are nine spots on the card for a number to be, three across and three down. There are four numbers on the card each number in a different spot on the card. Let’s say this card has a “1” in the top row, middle column. An “8” is in the top row, right column. Then a “4” is in the middle row, middle column, it’s in the center of the card. Finally, a “7” is in the bottom, right corner of the card. My trainer will tell me a direction or a pattern to say the numbers; we’ll say an “S” pattern. I only get to see the card for four seconds, she then flips it over and I have to say the numbers in order on beat of a second per answer. But before I even try to answer the card, my trainer will distract my mind with a question like, “What did you eat for breakfast?” I would answer and then answer the card. You say the word “blank” whenever there is a spot without a number. So this is what I’d say, “blank,” then I’d wait one second. “One,” wait one second to answer again. “Eight… Blank… Four… Blank… Blank… Blank… Seven.” As easy as that sounds, you’d be wrong to think so. As you get better you are given more numbers, less time to look at the card, and more difficult patterns. When I first went to Learning Rx, I looked around and saw the tests and thought they looked easy and I could do them. I was so, so very wrong.
I’m lucky to have parents that will spend the money to help train my brain to be better even with my learning problems. Which got me thinking, what if kids were trained like I am at Learning Rx in their early years of school? Their problems would be found, they would be trained to be better even with their problems and they would find out how their learning process works, whether they are left or right-brained or maybe even both. I am going to go back to the phone analogy, imagine a phone that wasn’t made quite right, or developed a glitch. You probably would get it fixed. That way the problem would no longer be an issue and it would work a lot more efficiently compared to before. People are the same way, if your kid had an issue you’d want to find a way around or to fix it and watch them succeed. It doesn’t make your kid any less of a human if they have problems, this may come as a shock, but everyone has problems whether physical, mental or emotional.
My mom was telling me how some parents are in denial of their kids having a mental issue because they are afraid their kid will be “labeled” or teased. They don’t want to put their kid through classed like Special Ed because of this. I hate to break it to those parents, but your kid will be labeled regardless. They will be “that kid who struggles in school” and will most likely end up in places like study hall or academic workshop. In reality, those are the same exact classes as Special Ed, trust me, I know. I’ve been in Special Ed, Academic Workshop, and Study Hall and they all have a teacher who works to try and help your kid’s needs. You don’t even need mental issues on your student file to get put in those classes. So, their kid is already labeled and in those types of Special Ed classes, whether they accepted the problems or not.
Now, as I said, we could fix all of these problems and teach kids in a way they can actually learn, whether left or right-brained, mental issues or no issues. Preschool could work the same, teach social skills and manners. Kindergarten however, while adding onto what preschool taught there would be brain exercises to find the problems and how the kid learns. Even into Elementary school, those same exercises would be carried on. Not only that, but schools could be taught in three sections. For right-brained thinkers, visual learners, a teacher with the same type of thinking would teach the class. The same would go for the left-brained kids, only in a left-brained fashion of teaching. Then, the third group, the both sided brain thinkers would learn in the specific way to help them learn. More kids would succeed, more kids would understand, and more kids would be better prepared for life. Now not all classes would ONLY be for right-brained kids or ONLY be for left-brained, like Art or P.E. and “elective” classes could be ones they all share. Kind of like how in schools kids have different homeroom teachers, so it’s not like your kids are being separated like it’s a bad thing. Kids already get separated whether it’s different homerooms, or learning levels. Some kinds are in a higher reading class, some are in a less fast pace one, all because that’s the class they need.
Right now, I’m not even sure if I am going to make it to college, because I was never taught in a way that could help me. No school treated my needs to help me succeed. I did so badly in my freshmen year of high school, that when I got frustrated and couldn’t learn the topics I began to skip class. I mean, why go to class if you’re going to fail no matter what? My sophomore year, I failed English class with a 32% final grade. When I was tested on my reading skills, I averaged in the top 7% percent of my age group. For thirteen years I was well below my age group average, but now I am way beyond it. I had to fix my reading problems on my own, so one day I picked up a book and just began to read, then another, and another, until I was reading almost a book ever two to three days! I obviously am good at reading, I am pretty good at writing, but without the teaching resources, I am going to struggle and maybe even fail.. That scares me, I want to get to college, and I want to get a degree in graphic art to become a video or computer game designer. I want to be successful, but I can’t get there without the help I need.
When I went to school I grew up hearing the word stupid as a common word being described for me and how I work. “Gabe, you’re so stupid,” or, “Gabe you’re such an idiot.” Both things I heard and still do hear many, many times from other students. The sad part is that because I fail my classes and because I hear things like this, I actually begin to believe it. It wasn’t until just now, as I began to put my thoughts down on the page is where I realized they are wrong, I was wrong. I am NOT stupid! What is stupid, is me failing school because I think a little differently or learn in a way that people can’t help me. My mom would tell me I am smart every time I would get frustrated with school or began to fail another class. My mom would say things like, “I know you’re smart, if you just did the work you would do better.” Well, that was the motherly advice right? So of course I blew it off. Only now, I realize she was right, but the work was also an issue. If I didn’t understand the work in class, I most certainly wouldn’t understand it when I got home. So I blew off the work, failed another class.
We are so worried about how the United States is falling behind in education, we are currently ranked 54th in education right now. I see commercials during presidential elections of how they are going to improve education by putting more money into it. Yes, money would help to change it, but maybe we could start fixing it by fixing the education system’s structure more, while we fund it. But, throwing money into an education system that is broken will not fix the issue; you are only making the problem look a little nicer or the problem a little more expensive. So why not give my ideas a try? Help put kids on the paths they deserve to walk on. People are worried that it will cost too much money to fix these issues and to get the resources kids need to learn. When there is never too much money to put into education. The more money we put in, the more we profit in the long run. More people would be successful in life, bringing more money back that can only improve schools more and more. It is a circle of benefit, kids learn better, they succeed and then profit to restart the cycle over again.
So is this issue going to be fixed? I have no idea. Will people read this and try to stand with me? I have no clue. But if you do, I want you to realize that this is what our education needs. This is what those kids like me, those kids who struggle and need help to put them toward a future of success. I know I’ve said that many times, but I’m tired of failing, watching other kids failing. I am tired of hearing kids call other stupid for things that they can’t control. I am tired of watching kids not being given the tools to help get them to their full potential in life. Maybe you noticed these issues while you were in school, or are noticing it now while you are in school. How do these issues get noticed and fixed? In all honesty, I do not know, but I’m going to start by showing this to parents, posting this online and sending it as a letter to my city council.