November 7, 2005

Selective Attention Advantage

We had a great discussion at the last meeting of the Academic Support Program at the school about kids with ADD. It was like a light going off for me. I was the kind of kid who could memorize hours of Monty Python dialog but couldn't tell a noun from a pro-noun. What we were talking about in this meeting was how it's not so much that kids can't focus but that they focus on the wrong things.

The really amazing part of this conversation was when we started talking about how maybe the way kids learn isn't the problem but rather they way we teach. What if we turned the dynamic around and talked about how 'school' is just one part of 'education' or even more globally about 'life.' With that in perspective how we teach and what kinds of institutions we create to teach kids has to become the front part of the discussion!

I could see this very clearly this past weekend on Burleigh camping with the last part of our freshman class. Sure they had a hard time staying on track and doing the grownup / teacher things I wanted them to do. But when we got into a conversation about how social drama makes everything more difficult, how to embrace it, avoid it or deal with it - boy could they focus!

Earlier I had been showing some kids how to tie a figure eight knot for the Alpine Tower and they were wandering all over the place. Then we started competing to tie it behind our backs, with eyes closed or the ultimate twirl and toss "party trick" version. I had to drag them away and on to the next thing.

What makes this experience happen? How can kids turn their 'ADD' into 'Selective Attention Advantage' and focus in on things that really matter to them? I'm not really sure - but it was cool to see it happen on Burleigh this past weekend.

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