Mark was identified in first grade as a child who had difficulties in the classroom. He would not follow directions and would frequently be sent to the guidance counselor’s office. In fact, throughout second grade, he spent a great deal of his time in that same office because he was not producing, or he was touching something he should not be touching, or he was physically someplace where he should not be.
Mark is now in the third grade. He likes to work alone, off by himself and away from other students. He will sing when he is working, and taps his pencil, but doesn’t understand that he is disruptive. His teacher laments that there is no computer in her classroom because when he gets the opportunity to work hands on, he thrives.
The way she has found success for him this year is to grade all of his manipulative tasks. She has also worked out with him a situation whereby, whenever he has a paper and pencil or school task to do, she arranges it so he can do these in small spurts. “It has been a constant negotiation, and nothing is ever easy,” says Mark’s teacher.
Mark is a classic example of the learner who finds it difficult, if not impossible, to use his learning processes within the orderly, controlled and quiet learning environment in which he has been placed.
Students like Mark begin with the best intentions, informed by the messages of both parents and teachers: “Pay attention. Listen to the teacher. Learn what the teacher is teaching.” These are the behaviors which are required, expected and valued.
Only when he is with a teacher who understands his struggles to conform, is he able to use his learning processes in any type of an effective manner. Mark is the learner whose voice is silent and whose message is loud and clear: “I can figure out, solve, build and fix just about anything, except school!” This message within the learner begins early as a quietly intoned question, “Why can’t I make school work for me?” and reaches a crescendo by the middle school years in the percussive declaration, “I don’t care if I can make school work!!!”
Meeting with Mark
I first met Mark as a feisty six-year-old in an urban district. I met Mark in Malta too. He was in 8th grade. I found Mark in an upper-middle class suburban high school on the East coast. He was 15 years old, classified by the Child Study Team as Perceptually Impaired, classified by other students as a loser; classified by his teachers as “just putting in time.” I’ve met Mark’s grandmother in Palo Alto; his parents in New Jersey, and his disciplinarian in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Mark was my graduate assistant one year. I have also met Mark at Rotary International. Mark does get around! Mark has many faces, many ages, many stages and many locales, but the profile is the same: capable, underachieving, unmotivated, not working up to potential while in school, highly engaged in learning outside of school – learning about how to make the world work involved in finding solutions to real problems.
When compared to other learners, Mark appears less academic, less in tune with the paper and pencil world of schooling. A three-year study which followed 42 children from their first through third years of school suggests that children with learning combinations which do not value “words” and “right answers” are more likely to be off grade level or referred to the child study team than students who do.
An empowering experience for both
Amidst our frenetic drive to teach ’em and test ’em, we have lost sight of the Marks and Melanies in our classroom. The Let Me Learn Process® offers relief to all students, teachers, and parents who are seeking a way out of the maze of schooling. It provides an opportunity for the learner’s voice to be heard above the din of the demands of curriculum and testing. It initiates the process by which teachers and learners forge a partnership focused on learning which matches who each is and what each brings to the classroom environment. The Let Me Learn Process® is a freeing and empowering experience for both.