A New Way to Learn is a New Way to Grow

In Community, Donesa Walker by Lola Magazine

Written By Donesa Walker, M.Ed. Educational Specialist, Board Certified Cognitive Specialist

This obituary doesn’t read as one would expect it to read. There is no survived by nor preceded by death in this obituary, for it is the obituary of a way of life. I am not morbid enough to be writing about the death of our society as we know it although that seems to be in the offing. As an educator, I am actually writing about the death of the educational system as we know it and the rebirth of the system it was intended to be originally. This not only applies to education but to so many other fields. We as a society have given our responsibility up to others and have not done our part, and the result is that we have a system that we do not now know or enjoy. I am so fascinated by the American spirit and the ability to rewrite our lives. I am struck by how unbelievably resilient we truly are and that is the key. The anchor to all of that is in whom we trust. The motto on the dollar says, “In God We Trust” and it is that spirit that is unsurmountable. Circumstances may waylay us but yet we still trust.

I have been looking back a lot at history during this time as my son is in college and studying the parallels between this time and the time of the Great Depression. Circumstances are much the same and the parallels are scary, but the spirit of Americans is courageous in both times. What seems to be a really bad and depressing time can be a time of renewal and growth if taken and embraced as Americans are doing.

A little history of educational principles and you will discover that our country was founded on freedoms of religion and education like no other and this founding principle is awaiting rediscovery. When CoVId-19 struck our shores, it was a lack of knowledge about this disease that caused the pandemic and the shutdown of our country resulting in the sudden onslaught of education at home. While some found this an enjoyable experience, many others found it overwhelming and daunting because of the lack of freedom. Many found themselves suddenly chained to a computer for hours upon end through trying to connect their children to educators who suddenly were forced to educate via a portal on Zoom, Google Classroom, etc. For others, the internet was inaccessible, and they struggled to understand packets of worksheets sent by the educators to the home as everyone struggled to find a new normal in this unknown. The freedom came to those who finally gave it up to enjoy educational experience and found the joy of learning with their children. This is what school should be about. It is about learning and the joy of finding this knowledge for oneself through various explorations rather than regurgitated knowledge spit back up on a test. The cause of death of our educational system is not a lack of funds nor a lack of time nor any of the other excuses. My dad always told me that an excuse is a “skin of a reason stuffed with a lie” and this is true. The cause of death is apathy. This is the same cause of death of our society. OK, soap box for a minute here… why are our kids rioting, rebelling, falling for the lies that others tell them? Apathy. Not theirs, ours. History teaches us that apathy about a situation is what leads to downfall of a society. The Holocaust would never have happened except for apathy. But that’s a much longer conversation…

Many of you know that my dad and mom as well as a lot of my dad’s congregation contracted CoVid-19 and it was not a pretty thing, in fact, some of them are still fighting it. My dad is a miracle that he is alive…but for God and His provision allowing me to educate myself and those caring for him listened. People want to place blame on others around them for so many things and I promise you that is really easy to do. Doctors are not God. Teachers are not God. Law enforcement officers are not God. Every time you try to put someone else in that seat, you will find failures because all of these professionals who do amazing jobs at what they do are simply people who educate themselves and yes, they make mistakes. The reality is that some mistakes cost lives and that is terrible and hard. The reality is that some mistakes cost period…in lives, money, economy, emotions, etc. Why am I saying all of this…to encourage all of us to get off the bus of apathy and into the classroom of life. So many people ask me what curriculum should I use as I homeschool this fall since my kids are not going back to school or in case they cannot go back to school. The answer is simple. What does your child need to know? Do you know this? What is your child’s learning ability? Where are their strengths/weaknesses? What skills do they need to develop? I birthed two boys with the same genetics and the same upbringing, but they needed different things in terms of training and education. Can you expect any school to deliver this to your child or any curriculum to do so? The answer is NO!!!

So how do I educate myself and my child on what they should know? Let’s look at the basics of knowledge needed and let’s start with the foundation of learning.

First and foremost, is learning FUN? It should be fun. Learning should bring joy, and this is a foundational misstep in education. It is not the job of the school to make this happen. The parent holds the responsibility of helping the child to find the approach to learning that brings them excitement and the parent does not give this up by enrolling the child in school. Parents need to take this responsibility back and quit trying to pass it off. I know this is not a popular statement but I promise you that in doing so, you as a parent will experience a freedom that you have never had before and the teachers/school systems that have you on board will be grateful. This does not mean that you go to the school with a list of demands but rather you take responsibility for knowing and understanding the way that your child learns and you provide that type of learning experience for them by accessing the resources that he/she needs in your community and helping the school to know your child in a partnership with the resources.

Community resources such as therapists from cognitive therapy, speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, tutoring, etc., are accessible, and some of the best in the nation are here in our community. Many of these function in the school setting as well as privately and many take insurance plans or help you file for reimbursement for those that are out of network. Employing the resources to find the right direction/assistance to give your child the best is the beginning. Then one must make sure that the resources are meeting the needs and that one is continuously monitoring the overall health including the EQ/IQ of the student through achievement to interaction. Admitting when you need help in finding the right resources and getting the help for both yourself and your family is the ultimate key.

Death of a fruit is life to the seed. In other words, all this uncertainty and struggle can be a breath of life to the learning cycle of the struggling learner and can put joy back into learning for those who were struggling. Learning a new way to learn and a new way to grow does not have to be a negative…it can be the beginning.