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Viewpoints, Learning & Paradigms

Hello, and welcome to my new blog.  This is new for me, as well, but people have been
telling me for a long time that I need to do this.  So, here goes.

My Intention

This blog, for now, is going to be primarily centered around my new book: Teaching
Learning: Helping Your Kids Gain the Learning Skills They Won’t Get Taught in School
and all the issues addressed in that book. This includes just about everything having to do
with how kids learn, and how parents (and everyone else) can help them learn how to
learn. In case you aren’t familiar with the book, here’s a bit about it (and if you want, you
can simply click the “Books” button, above to get more). I want people to think about
learning and helping kids, for all the obvious reasons.

Beyond that, though, I have a more theoretical but equally valid reason. NLP is a field of
study. What we study is the structure of subjective experience. That means how we
perceive and make sense out of the world we live in. The technology of NLP is about
modeling excellence, so that we can duplicate it, or modeling non-excellence, so that we
can change it. So, it’s about change, fundamentally. I’ve always believed that change and
learning are flip-sides of the same coin. I don’t know how to disconnect them (nor do I
want to). That means everything we do in NLP has some learning component to it.
Increased sales effectiveness, better therapeutic outcomes, improved relationships or
gaining control over an unwanted habit or addiction. All of these involve learning. I want
all of us to think more in these terms because I think it will make all of us better at what
we do.

Teaching Learning

The book title does describe what it’s about. I’ve designed it for parents who want to help
their kids learn how to learn.  It’s a step-by-step program, and includes a great deal to
improve the parent-child relationship, as well as to help kids learn to increase their skills
in learning. These skills include paying attention to what they see and hear, learn from
what they read, manage their own states of mind for improved focus in all areas of life,
how to better express themselves in speaking and writing, as well as how to study most
effectively. The book is filled with explanations, tips, guides, diagrams, check lists and
exercises. It is meant to be self-paced, so parents and children can use it in their own time
and their own way. There has never been anything like this available before, and kids
certainly won’t get most of what is in it in school. Any parent who truly believes that
learning to learn is one of the most valuable lessons their kids can learn, will benefit from
this book. And, there is plenty here for any Practitioner of NLP.

My History in this field

I have written several books for teachers prior to this one. All of them were aimed at
getting the latest knowledge, techniques and skills into the hands of teachers, who could
then pass it along to the people who could use it the most: the kids.

Those books came from two sets of experiences in my life. The first was my own
difficulties in school, which is a story for another day. But, the second was early in my
professional career, and here is a brief description, from Teaching Learning:

Years ago I was a social worker helping families and kids in a family
service agency. Almost all of the people I worked with had very low
incomes, came from a pretty awful school system and had many different
kinds of problems. But what brought a lot of them to see me were school
problems. There was one pattern that kept showing itself over and over
again. Kids would be sent to me because they were getting is some kind of
trouble-fights, skipping class, disrupting and the like. Also, most of them
had been diagnosed with various kinds of learning disabilities. Sometimes
the teachers and counselors openly recognized that the behavior problems
were a direct result of the learning problems. Kids had trouble, felt stuck,
stupid, embarrassed, angry or worse, and would act out in some way. But
they just wanted me to “fix” the behavior. I refused.

My feeling at the time was that the aim of fixing the child (who wasn’t
broken in the first place) was unfair and short-sighted. I remembered how
it felt when I was young and had trouble learning in school. I was
frustrated too. I didn’t know what to do, and I was angry because I couldn’t
find the help I needed a lot of the time. And I came from good schools. I
imagined what it must have been like for those kids I was trying to help.
Not only weren’t they getting the help they needed, but then they had to go
home, often to difficult family situations, in neighborhoods filled with
poverty, drugs, crime and very low expectations for improvement. Not
very hopeful.

My decision was to try to make a difference that would last, what we
sometimes call the difference that makes a difference. I believed that if I
could help the kids with their learning problems, the behavior would clear
up on its own, and I might actually give these kids some tools that would
help lift them out of some of the hopelessness and, just maybe, make a
real impact on their lives.

What I found, to my surprise, was that there was nothing I couldn’t teach
these kids. Nothing. I found myself doing lots of experimenting to find out
what made the difference in their ability to learn when they were with me,
as opposed to when they were in school.

In these blogs I’m going to give experiments, each time, because anything having to do
with NLP should have some experiential component. Some of these will be specific to
the kinds of troubles kids, or adults, have in learning or the classroom. Others will be
aimed at parents, to help them understand, or at least frame, what they’d like to
accomplish. This one below is for all of us, to begin the discussion in terms of the
outcome we’d like; or at least some direction or form it should take.

The experiment

So, I’d like to open the question that I’ve asked throughout my books on learning and
education: “What makes an educated person?” A big and sometimes contentious
question, with many answers, from various points of view. The answer(s) really amount
to a series of judgments, which is why people can have so many opinions. Rather than try
to give my definitive answer (that wouldn’t satisfy anyone, including me), I’ll give you a
brief thought experiment.

Step 1

First, think back to sometime when you were back in school. It doesn’t matter how far
back you go; up to you.

Step 2

What did you think of what you were doing then? I mean literally. Did you think you
were making yourself into an educated person? (Probably not).

Step 3

Now go to sometime later in your life, between the time you were in school and now,
when you recognized something about how your education was affecting you. For
example, perhaps you were in some job where you were asked to learn something new,
and experienced a flashback or memory of being in school; helpful or not. Or, a time
when you first had kids of your own, or had some responsibility for, and some challenge
around learning or school reared it’s head. Or, you were thinking about going back to
school, because you realized you wanted or needed to learn more for some reason. What
was it like to have this recognition? Was it the first time, or first meaningful time, that
you thought about education, and what it means, more broadly? Did this experience have
some impact on you, your thinking or beliefs?

Step 4

Bring yourself to today. What do you think “educated” means now? Who are your role
models, good or bad, in this case? Who do you know that may have attended one of the
world’s great universities, perhaps with advanced degrees or other recognition, but
appears not to meet your personal criterion (judgment) about what it means to be
educated? Who do you know with perhaps very little education, but seems to satisfy
those criterion well?

Step 5

Thinking about those, or other examples, what would be a description of educated, for
you? Who would be your standard(s)?

Paradigms

Lots of people, including those in NLP, love to talk about shifting paradigms. To my
mind, the best definition of the word comes from Thomas Kuhn, from his classic text,
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions:

… some accepted examples of actual scientific practice … [which]
provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of
scientific research.

Accepted examples. That’s key. We need examples, or exemplars, of what it means to be
educated. And, just as science goes through revolutions, and evolution, so does
education. This means our old, or present, examples probably won’t hold up over time.
But it’s not a bad place to start.

Thanks

I appreciate any comments, ideas, suggestions, requests or questions you may have. I’ll
try to answer them here as best I can, or if you prefer a more private conversation, you
can send me an email, and I’ll try to get back to you as, quickly as I can, with an answer.

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