Freedom to Grow in an Environment of Grace
- Tuesday, July 15, 2003
"Yes indeed, while listening to the lectures of well-intended teachers, children like me appear to be listening, but we've really been transported to some distant land. For example, when the history teacher begins to lecture on Marco Polo, children like me are riding in the caravan as we are about to meet Ghengis Khan."
If it were not for my adventurous imagination, school would have been like solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. In elementary school my high grades reflected only my ability to memorize facts; my level of reasoning and comprehension remained below average.
In high school, where a higher level of reasoning was required, my grades tumbled and with it, motivation to apply myself to study. "Why would anyone "give their all" when there are so few rewards and so much failure?" I reasoned.
If labeling a child for inattentiveness or hyperactivity had been prevalent during my childhood, I certainly would have been a candidate for ADD, ADHD, BDHD, ZDDD! I was "a handful" with an indefatigable spirit. For me, school was imprisonment.
Looking back, I attribute this distaste for school to four factors:
Underdeveloped reasoning capabilities
Environmental pressures and stress
The first, underdeveloped reasoning capabilities, is a common problem especially in the early years of growth. Every child's mental capabilities grow at different rates, and children of the same chronological age are often at different developmental stages. Children are neither meant to nor able to grasp the same content that the teacher or parent presents. Forcing or pressuring a child to learn beyond his capabilities will only frustrate and, in the end, lower his level of reasoning. Children subject to this approach rarely reach their potential as fear suppresses the ability to learn.
Fear, I believe, is the single greatest factor that impedes a child's ability to learn. When the level of fear is high, the level of reasoning is low. Lower the level of fear and you will see the level of reasoning and risk-taking increase.
Risk-taking is essential in the learning process. Without risk, children will persevere to unlock those "mental blocks" in order to achieve mastery. For example, a fearful, insecure child learning division for the first time will be easily frustrated and more apt to give up before this challenging concept is understood and applied through repetition, trial and error. The greater the fear, the lower the level of risk-taking and reasoning.
Some children are born with an inquisitive nature and actually enjoy facing obstacles. They enjoy the process of discovery and remain motivated until the answers are found. These children do not succumb to fear easily. Their mental abilities are strong enough to carry them through most learning environments.
We must strive to lower the level of fear in order to raise the level of reasoning. The first and most significant fear factor is found at home. The stronger the relationship between Mom and Dad, the more security a child possesses, enabling him to tackle life's challenges.
When a child fears that the relationship that holds his life together is breaking down, feelings of insecurity and worry are often insurmountable, resulting in an inability to concentrate. Other fear factors that contribute to a child's learning difficulties include the fear of failing, fear of an angry parent, teacher, or principal, fear of peers, fear of the death of a loved one, and more recently, the fear of terrorism. Though this list is not exhaustive, it does represent some of the destructive fears a child faces today. In light of war and terrorist threats, the threshold of fear for children has significantly increased.
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