Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Learning Disinterested

I may be a cold-blooded, ruthless, unsympathetic human being and a merciless teacher, but I sometimes suspect that certain students are not "learning disabled," and we underestimate children when we label them as such. Perhaps advanced schooling is not their forte. Perhaps neither is "book l'arnin'."

However, after reflecting on the behavior and attitude of many summer school students over many summers, I cannot help but get the notion that some children are not "learning disabled." They are "learning disinterested."

This pedagogy is no longer the prevailing notion in our country. Instead, the school is at fault and the system as a whole is blamed for students' lack of interest because the curriculum is not presented in a way that sparks their imagination. I am not saying every teacher and their class is exciting; I am positive many are boring. I've been in them, and I made decent grades in those boring classes. I have taught those boring classes, and interested children made a good grade in the boring classes I taught.

What about the ones that don't? There are many wonderful, "learning disabled" children in schools today who will grow up to be productive members of our future society, but that doesn't alter the fact that they have no interest in math, language arts, or social studies. Even exciting, hands-on science activities quickly become a game, a distraction, from the actual learning of scientific vocabulary and the eventual ability to speak abstractly about or conceptualize the exciting, hands-on activity.

In many cases low academic scores come from a lack of communication skills. Too many children do not have the advantage of listening to adults speak to each other, of joining in on their conversations rather than dominating them by changing the subject, and of listening to adults who have a large vocabulary and are unafraid to use it in front of children. Lacking the ability to clearly understand the language spoken in the schoolroom, the student flounders, human nature "kicks in," and the student is very unwilling to speak up about their lack of understanding.

This is not a research-based, academic paper. I used anecdotal information and records to come to this conclusion. One of the more powerful pieces of anecdotal information is the look on many of my summer school students' faces when they listen to me or anyone else talk about the curriculum. The word lethargy comes to mind. Also narcolepsy. However, if someone gets up and talks about their vacation to Six Flags, their faces light up. That's only natural; so does mine. What bothers me is their complete inability to even act interested and their ensuing inability to learn the simplest of curriculum.

I don't want to accept the fact that their brains are ineffective in such a way as to prevent them from learning. I do not believe their brains are damaged. I believe that many of them are "learning disinterested."

No comments: