Calm in the chaos

When things come to us out of their order, things can go haywire.

Have you noticed children who seem scatter-brained, children who do things out of the natural order? Creating order in a child is more important than creating order around a child. Simply stated, children must be enabled to find order, rather than having it bestowed upon them. To do this we need to know why order is so important.

Consider a few simple scenarios.

The first one: imaging reading a chapter book in a random order, the story would not make sufficient sense for you to speak intelligently about it. You could probably explain the gist of it, but you would struggle to remember and explain things well.

A second scenario: you watch your child put their lunch box in their bag and then pick up their sandwich of the counter, realising that things went wrong, the ever ingenious kiddo tries to open the jammed-in lunch box amongst all the books in the bag and squeezes the bread (with some squishing) into its rightful place, only to realise that the juice box remains outside the bag. Now he takes the lunch box out, to which the books fall into the space now available, he shoves the juice box on top of the books and leaves the lunch box on the counter.

Last one: said kiddo goes ot school on Monday, he leaves hi maths book at home, so his teacher gives him spare paper to take notes. He loses that spare paper before Tuesday arrives, but he now has his book at school sans Monday’s learning. Not sure what happened to the errant paper, he spends the first half of the lesson swearing blind that it is somewhere around or maybe the teacher has it. Anyway, the lesson continues but it makes no sense because the first half was missed. He is given time to write down what is on the board, but he copies it letter for letter and doesn’t find any sense in it. Wednesday rolls around and Tuesday’s homework isn’t done because it made no sense, the book is lost again but Monday’s work has appeared, scrunched but there. Thursday is a test on the work. What work?

Order is everywhere. It is in the difference between ‘angel’ and ‘angle’, or 24 ¸ 3 and 3 ¸ 24, or putting your shoes on before your socks. When order is illusive, children feel dumb and invalid and unsuccessful.

To establish order, adults must create a stable learning platform. A solid structure of learning that starts at the bottom and works its way up. Teachers need a teaching plan and students need a “student-ing” plan. That is a silly way of saying, they need to know how to be good learners.

The first step is being present. But that is far easier said than done.

Kids do this a lot, they miss a lesson or an activity at school and then they are lost.

When this happens too many times, that is when things start to go wrong. As silly as ‘school attendance’ or ‘attention in class’ may seem, missing a step in between learning is like reading this chapter before the last one. Things stop making sense.

This happens to kids who are often ill and have to stay at home. It happens to children who battle to stay focused on the learning and mentally check out. It happens to kids who are struggling emotionally and socially so they are not able to focus and remember the learning.

Great teachers approach their subjects as an accumulation of skills, they build on learning from the day before and stretch the kids just the right amount every day so that by the end of the year, they are doing work they never thought they would be able to. It is a delicate dance where child and teacher move fluidly from the unknown to the known.

When that flow is disrupted, the child loses out. Yes, teachers will go back and cover topics again, they will reteach and catch up, but the natural learning flow is broken.

As Anat Baniel, a clinical psychologist working with special needs kids, says: “When we overwhelm the child this way, there is an active inhibition of the fragile new connections that take place, making it much harder, and at times impossible, for the child to do it again.”

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