As an educator, I am required to have a certain amount of hours of continuing education each year in order to keep my credentials. I am no longer teaching in public schools so I don’t have that requirement. However, I decided that I need to challenge some of my thinking, conceptions, and prejudices so I thought I would require a certain amount of continuing education of myself. I decided to check our local public library for books on creativity and education. While my family was in the children’s section searching for Fancy Nancy and other titles, I went to the adult non-fiction section and found a computer.
While searching for books on creativity and education, I came across a title that struck me as worth reading and, by Jove, was it worth it! The title was so intriguing that I couldn’t help but say to myself “I have had students like that”. Then it struck me: “There might be homeschooling parents who have a kid like this and are at their wit’s end and can no longer teach them.” So I thought I would share this book with you and what I gleaned from its pages. The book is called The Shut-Down Learner:Helping Your Academically Discouraged Child.
This book, by Dr. Richard Selznick child psychologist, opened my eyes to the possibility of a whole new different kind of learner. This learner doesn’t do well with reading, writing, and sometimes math. They can be disruptive and distracted when learning. They are spatial learners, which means they tend to gravitate to activities that allow them to build physically, think in terms of pictures/sounds instead of words, and struggle with language (sometimes they make great musicians). They’re the Lego kid or the Erector Set master. They get excited when they can work on an engine or go fishing but LOATHE writing about it.
The conventional public school atmosphere lends itself to readers and writers. Those who like to sit behind a desk, absorb a lecture, and the regurgitate information through homework. However, this is not the ideal environment for a spatial learner. In this environment, we tend to view them as lazy, uninspired, or unmotivated. Nothing seems to spark them and we just yell at them to do their work and take away privileges until they concede. We say things like “he can do it if he would just try/apply himself/focus” (take your pick). On the other hand, Dr. Selznick’s observation is that these learners shut down when doing things that frustrate them. They also shut down over the years of being yelled at and threatened and therefore approach learning with an already defeatist mentality.
The book helps you identify this type learner and help you understand learning from their perspective. Then the book gives helpful suggestions on how to engage such a learner. Reading this book will help you find a way to connect with the learner and “start over” , as it were, on many basic skills. I highly recommend reading this book if you find yourself frustrated with a learner and just can’t seem to get through. It isn’t a panacea for all learning difficulties but it might be a soothing remedy if your student is a shut-down learner.
The Shut-Down Learner on Amazon.com or check your local library. At 160 pages, it is a quick read.