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From my coaching and tutoring experiences, it is not uncommon for me to hear statements about students from parents and teachers, such as: “S/he’ll start succeeding when s/he starts trying” or “We know s/he can do better.” These statements suggest that when students are failing academically, they are guilty for their performance, even if the problem does not necessarily lie completely with them. As a result, students are driven to accept labels that mark them as deviant or dysfunctional. Many will be mistakenly diagnosed and believe that they have attention deficit disorder or a learning disability.

But every mind is endowed with a unique wiring of neural networks. Some minds are wired to handle a lot of information at once. Other minds can process only a little information at a time, but with great accuracy. The delivery of information is important as well — some people learn better visually, some learn aurally, and others learn better kinesthetically. Yet, instead of responding to true educational needs by catering to weaknesses and strengths and acknowledging the diversity of multiple intelligences, students are shrunken down to a list of scores that will determine their lives throughout school and their future careers.

Clearly, this issue is far too large to tackle with just a single solution. But one approach may be to focus on the teacher, who is in a strong position to address these issues. Let’s say that teachers were to gain fluency in the development of the mind and learning styles specific to the age group they work with. They can become adept at analyzing and investigating the ways in which their specific subject matter draws on neurodevelopmental functions — or why a student may have difficulty learning a specific subject. Teachers who keep up with the influx of brain development research could utilize such information in classrooms. This process could push the teacher to reflect upon their teaching methods, as well as analyze and diagnose the method instead of the student. A teacher may be able to more effectively treat the student’s learning area of difficulty and empower the student by supporting their strengths.

In providing this example, I am not insisting the responsibility of education lies solely with the teacher. Teachers, parents, and students all must share such responsibility. Teachers should observe and inform, parents should reassure, and students must stay motivated throughout their developmental process.

Brian Chan is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

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