"My teacher hates me. She gets mad whenever I ask her to repeat something." "When I told my teacher I had to read the same page over again three times to get what it said, he told me I was just being lazy." "I got in trouble for fidgeting in my chair, but I just can't get what the teacher's saying if I sit still." Young people often sense that there's a disconnect between them and their teachers, but they seldom know what's behind it. Frustrated teachers often assume that a student is being lazy or impertinent even though he or she is really trying to learn.
Often, what's going on here is that the student's style of learning is different from the teacher's style of teaching. No two people learn exactly the same way. Some people learn better in one environment than another. Often, teens become convinced they can't learn when in fact they'd learn just fine if the information were presented differently.
Many school systems and teachers still aren't fully aware that different students learn in different ways. A one-size-fits-all teaching method is never going to reach every student. Sometimes teens get labeled with Attention Deficit Disorder when what's really going on is that the teacher doesn't know how to reach the student. We're not advocating against correct diagnoses and prescription drugs when they're appropriate - there are teens with ADD whose meds have made their worlds good again - but it's possible that not all diagnoses of ADD are equally correct. When people get a handle on the way they learn, they can customize their learning experiences and fill in the gaps their teacher might leave. Human beings have three main ways to take in new information: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
For most of us, one of these ways is dominant and the other two are weaker. Visual learners like to see pictures, colors, charts, and graphs. They usually do well with reading.
They talk in visual terms like "picture," "view," "see," "look," and "vision." Visual learners like to sit in the front row, looking at the teacher and the board. They take good notes but sometimes miss the oral parts of the lecture. Auditory learners like words that have to do with sound such as "hear," "listen," "tune," "ring," "chime," and "music." Auditory people are the ones mentally recording everything the teacher is saying but often looking away. They're often repeating what the teacher just said in the form of a question.
Sometimes the frustrated teacher, not understanding what the auditory learner is doing, says, "That's what I just said. Weren't you listening?" Kinesthetic learners learn by touch and movement. Words that appeal to kinesthetics are "feel," "sense," "handle," "do," "gut," and "intuition." Kinesthetic people like to feel things out, be emotionally connected, and learn by doing. Other people get annoyed at them because they can't seem to sit still, but they process information best by moving their bodies.
How do people know which kind of learners they are? There are tests they can take, but most get a pretty good sense of their learning styles just by becoming aware of the way they behave in class. They can also pay attention to the way they express themselves. If they "get it," "grasp the problem," or "have a feel for" a certain subject, they're probably strongly kinesthetic.
If a phrase "rings true" or "sounds familiar," they're likely to be high-auditory. If they "see what you mean," or "get the picture," they're probably visual learners. Visual learners can help themselves stay connected to the lessons by sitting where the teacher will be in their immediate visual field. They learn best by reading or seeing a thing being done before they try it themselves.
They absorb more information when they use lots of colors and graphics in their notes. Auditory learners can boost their learning by reading lecture notes out loud. They learn best by having something explained to them verbally before they try it. It helps them to talk to a parent or friend. Kinesthetic learners want to try something for themselves before they have it explained to them. Since touch is important, kinesthetics learn better when they incorporate movement and physical objects into their lessons.
Jolie struggled all the way through high school, believing something was wrong with her. Whenever she had to write a paper, she couldn't seem to put her thoughts into written words. She'd gotten used to teachers giving up on her. Then one teacher, who had assigned a paper comparing the students' generation to their parents', pulled Jolie aside and said, "You can approach this assignment any way you want.
You don't have to write the entire thing. You can do some of it as a comic strip, a series of photos, a collection of memorabilia - whatever really gets you into the subject." For the first time, Jolie was able to approach an assignment from a hands-on perspective. Though she still struggled with the written part, she found that snapping photos of her friends interacting with their parents and drawing cartoons to illustrate different scenarios between adults and teens brought the material to life.
Jolie's paper turned out so well that the teacher recommended that it be published in a special edition of the school's newsletter. Campers who have come to believe they're poor learners have a major "Aha!" when they realize they learn just fine in their own way. In many cases, it's not that they can't learn, it's that the way they learn and the way the teacher teaches aren't a match! Once they have this information, teens can take charge of their learning again and fill in what's missing from their learning environment.
At SuperCamp, the learning and life skills summer camps for students in grades 4 through 12, kids learn about the 8 Keys of Excellence. Parents, go to http://www.SuperCamp.com now to learn about enrolling your son or daughter while space remains. Age-specific programs are available for students in grades 4-12 and incoming college freshmen. At the website, you also can get a free eBook that gives you an inside look at what works with teens.