Mimosa Hill Blog
|Posted on May 17, 2016 at 1:15 AM|
It was in my final few years of teaching, having served as principal, at the Department of Education as a Distinguished Educator; as a School Transformation Consultant; as a teacher at every level, from pre-school through college; within multiple curricular areas, from Homebound and Disabled to Gifted and Talented; that I learned something new—and critical to my teaching. Through reading research into how the brain remembers or learns, I came to understand that there are three requirements for the way that we “teach” so that most students can “learn” a new concept.
First, new information has to make sense to the student (regardless of how much sense it makes to the teacher). The best way to accomplish that is to use the student’s culture (rural culture) to make connections. If I am an urban dweller just finding my way in the rural community, I will need to educate myself on the values, expectations, and experiences of the local students. I also need to ensure that I find a way to value the rural culture or the students will have a difficult time trusting me or my teaching.
Second, there must be something inside the student’s brain, already there, for the new piece of information to link to in order for it to find an appropriate “address” inside the biological computer (the brain). That will also require me to be familiar with the rural values, expectations, and, especially, experiences my students have had. Those connections to what they already know about farming, livestock, country music, hunting, gardening, canning, sewing . . . will be important areas for me to learn about, too, if I want to be a good teacher of the rural student.
Third, the new information has to be presented in such a way that the student understands and can apply it before it can truly “stick.” Again, understanding the rural student’s culture will be imperative. I will need to know the basics of agricultural processes: planting and harvesting crops, insecticides and herbicides, cutting and baling hay; gun use and safety; tilling, planting, and controlling for insects and weeds in a garden, etc. Rural students are often expected to learn early how to work in the fields and gardens and how to use guns and bows to hunt. Details about those skills will be my platforms for building my content (what I teach about Reading, Writing, Math, Art, etc.) so students can use the new concepts in the lives they lead outside school.
My ignorance of these three concepts during my early teaching years handicapped me and limited what my students could learn for the “long term.” Without meeting the three requirements and not connecting them to place, I was limited in my ability to lead the students to taking new learning past the cultural filters that ultimately cause them to accept or reject new information as “long-term important.”