Updated: Jun 27
Children do not learn when they are in a state of trauma, distress, or shock. It goes without saying that they also do not learn in an environment that is traumatic or stressful.
A wise woman once told me, not too long ago, that people do not learn when they're in a state of imbalance, stress, or trauma. That the brain is quite literally incapable of taking in new information when it is in such a state. I've kept this thought first in my mind when teaching – something I've always sort of subconsciously "known," but never really put words to before.
How does this, the “idea of brain shut down,” relate to our children and their learning?
Over the last two years, children, particularly those within the public schooling system, have been socially conditioned for disappointment after disappointment, for let down after let down. I am not a psychologist or a counselor, but I don’t need to be an expert to see with my own eyes what this is doing and has done to children’s emotional well-being.
You can not repeatedly tell children that they are socially responsible for the world’s health problems, and expect it not to take a toll on them. You can not repeatedly make children feel as though they are villains of a sort because they choose to exercise their bodily autonomy, and expect that not to affect them psychologically. You can not shut children out of their social circles and extracurricular activities because of a medical choice they are making, and expect that they will not internalize that in a negative way.
A lot of them are drained. A lot of them are tired. A lot of them are confused – they have all these conflicting ideas and things constantly being pushed on them or told to them as facts – when a lot of these things and ideas are not facts at all. A lot of them have no energy or excitement over hardly anything anymore, because what’s the point of getting excited when it will probably just get canceled. Children are resilient, yes, but that doesn’t mean that the goal is to see how much they can handle. As a parent, you want your children to be strong and independent human beings, but you don’t want them to have the entirety of the world thrown onto their shoulders. Remember that we, as adults, can handle a lot more emotionally and mentally than our children can, simply because we – should – have the appropriate tool kit to support ourselves. And so, what is the solution to all of this? How do we fix the damage done to our children psychologically over the last two years? Short answer: you don’t.
Not right away. Healing takes time. It takes dedication. It takes strength. It take perseverance. It takes an innate knowledge of oneself, one’s traumas, and one’s behavioral tendencies. A lot of which our children don’t have. But you do. As their parent, you (hopefully) have that innate knowledge and guidance that you can provide for your child(ren).
You know what kids need?
That's it. That's all.
If one of my kids is "not feeling" learning that day, we have a conversation about why - it varies from child to child, but it's often times an emotional challenge of sorts.
And sometimes, that means cutting session short. Sometimes, that means no homework. Sometimes, that means we just sit and chat for 15 minutes. On occasion, lately more regularly than not, the session morphs into learning life skills and strategies like anger management, emotional regulation, and a deeper understanding of cognitive function.
Children need sympathy and understanding, especially in today’s world. If you ever have a choice, please pick that one.
Until children are in a state where they are ready to learn, they won’t learn anything. I view it as possibly the most important part of my teaching role with Star Students – preparing them to learn. Because building a world we want for our children means building up our future itself, and that’s our kids.
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