I recently listened to a message given by educator, Earl Oremus, to a group of music teachers. He explained the differences between intuitive and non-intuitive learners and declared we are all intuitive and non-intuitive learners at different things. (Helps to keep you humble and refrain from comparing quite so much!) [Article references some of this message here.]
Some of the most interesting insights he shared, though, were the results of an interesting study of young people who had become world class performers in areas such as math, music, swimming, tennis, et. al. A common denominator found among them, was that they had all had three kinds of teachers – in succession. I’ll move backwards…
The third (last) teacher was able to take them on to performance level due to the solid foundation given by the previous teacher.
The second teacher was able to help students gain mastery of the basics of the skill due to the first teacher’s positive first impression upon those students.
No, the first teacher didn’t impress the students with his/her personal ability or skill. And no, they didn’t pressure the students to get everything right. The teacher actually didn’t care a lick about whether they got everything correct or not. What they DID do was structure the experience in such a way that the students’ first encounter with it was positive – causing the students to enjoy it – thus attaching a positive emotion in their brain to that particular area of learning. THIS is why they were motivated to pursue and later perfect that skill.
The brain is one of God’s most amazing creations. It actually “adapts its function according to its circumstances, that is, according to each individual’s experiences”. (Not that it cannot adapt after a negative first impression, but how much more difficult might that be?)
You see, something else about this study I found interesting was that those world class performance level young people had a sibling who actually had MORE RAW TALENT than themselves in that area of expertise. Why didn’t their sibling succeed the way they did? Their sibling had the second kind of teacher – FIRST.
Next time we are tempted to label someone “dumb” who isn’t “getting” a concept as quickly or as easily as we might – know (and maybe remember if you’ve crossed that bridge) that there are some things which I/you do not “get” easily as well – be they academically related or perhaps socially related. And next time we are introducing a concept for the first time to someone, if we can to make it enjoyable, fun, relaxed, without pressure, and so that they feel successful in their experience, it just might make a difference in whether or not they go on to really want to learn it well – even if it doesn’t come natural to them (if they are a non-intuitive learner at THAT activity).
Perhaps this is one reason we are admonished in God’s word to “serve the LORD with gladness”. Little ones (or even unbelievers) “catch” attitudes much more easily than they “learn” a formal lesson. And remember, their first impression of a Christian, just might be lasting.
(Speaking of the brain – we just watched this film online and fell in love with it and have appreciated the insight of this Christian lady who actually helped someone with severe brain injury re-cover (and from what I understand, re-build brain cells).