Amazingly – there is always a teenager within us – the one with a swagger and a bravado: “Only dumb need to be told the same thing in a class twice…”
How did I notice that? – Observing my own
son. He is 13 now and finally his studies at school begin to go beyond
elementary. He is a bright kid and until this year his school work was a breeze
– he was mostly getting A’s without much sweat (Ok, I admit – art and music are
not his favorites – but I guess that’s hereditary J). But lately the level of curriculum complexity went up to the
extent that sometimes he actually needs an effort to get a deeper grasp
That’s where our positions began to differ quite dramatically – I was happy to see him entering the realm of proper learning whilst he was somewhat upset…
My first reaction was predictable – I just thought that he was in opposition to a ‘burden’ of harder intellectual work, and obviously ‘extra hard work’ is not exactly the easiest thing to sell to your teenage offspring…
However, once I started to dig deeper trying to improve his learning skills, I stumbled upon some insights that I find quite intriguing.
I think that by looking back at those formative school years – there are valuable lessons to be learned for most of us grown-ups as well.
What began as a parental duty, eventually unfolded into a quest about the way we acquire learning skills and use them throughout different facets of our lives.
Let me get back to the opening line of this post – loosely quoting from my son: “Only dumb kids need to have the class material repeated to them (twice or more) – smart ones get it quick …”
His words really struck me.
I suddenly got an insight on why so many of you expect us to teach new things all the time, and why any attempts to go over the material that was introduced earlier meet such a strong resistance.
This resistance bugged me for years – Why most families refuse returns to basics so vehemently? Why is it so difficult to encourage a person to get from mere familiarity with ABR technique to a truly built-in ABR skill? – I saw that such resistance was counterproductive for parents’ development as ABR ‘practitioners’/ providers but I couldn’t figure it out. It seemed profoundly illogical to me since personally I love scrutinizing the basics and ‘re-inspecting’ foundations – it always excites me to find new links between the old facts.
So finally, observing my own son – I’ve got this “Eureka!” moment:
· No one wants to feel as a ‘Dumb Kid’. That’s a major part of our self-validation. That’s why we praise so much the ability to be quick and grasp the information on the fly. “I’ve got it…” gives your teenage self-worth a lot greater boost than “Can you repeat, please” , which is not far from confessing “I am not smart enough to get it fast.”
Well, sure, there is more to the “New information only, please” mindset than the subconscious rejection of being referred to as a “Dumb Kid”– but aren’t we all being the products of school system and the framework of relationships that it formed? Aren’t we all still internally refer to our age peers as ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ regardless of the number of years we clocked on a calendar? Aren’t we all still favor the music that we were fans of back in teenage years? – Fact is – we do. Amazingly you can see a lot of this ‘teenage self-referencing framework’ even among the octogenarians…
When I was a teenager myself I chuckled when my grandmother (who was in her late fifties then) talked about meeting up with ‘the girls’ who were all grandmothers as well. Twenty years later I know better…
I am inclined to think that deep internal unconscious “I am not dumb” filter is a major reason why the moment we recognize information as not being ‘100% new and fresh’ – we switch off our mind’s ‘learning mode’.
We either simply skip it by flipping the page or let our mind drift away or pretend that we are paying attention – there are tons of ways to stay disengaged.
It’s really fascinating – as if we have an internal detector with the ability to switch our ‘learning mode of mind’ on and off. If the information being presented is new enough – we try to follow; but the moment we realize sufficient familiarity – the mind is off because repetition is for ‘dumb kids’ only.
Obviously, these are just my observations and guesswork but my gut feeling tells me – it’s an important insight.
The problem stems from the subconscious nature of this filter. We don’t really realize its workings, We only feel the fruits: feeling bored, annoyed, unhappy about ‘stale content’/ ‘regurgitating’. – but we are not aware of the roots of this visceral reaction to “old information”. Because of this filter we only limit ourselves to a superficial level of familiarity denying our access to deeper ‘imbedded’ knowledge.
I see it all the time and I am really happy to share these insights with you – I hope that this realization will help you to learn more from us and increase your effectiveness in helping your special kids.
Let’s face the reality – ‘Tell us/show us something new’ mindset is clearly prevalent among dominant majority of ABR parents. And this mindset is not limited to a single cultural setting– we face it all around the world.
All of ABR Trainers – everywhere, without geographical exceptions – vent their frustrations on me all the time: “Parents do not want to practice the technique for long enough… Parents do not want to go over their previous home exercises – they want to start with the new ones right away… Once the parents get their full set of a new home program – their only intention is to be out an on the way home..”
But the end result is the same – over-learning faces a major mental block that is often impenetrable.
I guess it’s time to bring in the key player and clarify why I am so passionate about the matters of over-learning. What is over-learning?
Over-learning – is the way to reach the unconscious ‘automatic’ competence in a certain skill/ knowledge
Why doesn’t it work at school and why there is such a stigma on repetition and review of familiar material?
Let me remind you the well-known knowledge hierarchy:
· Level 1. Blissfully unaware, unfamiliar – unconscious ignorance/incompetence
· Level 2. Awareness – realizing the existence of a knowledge domain that you need to learn about; you get the idea of what you do not know – conscious ignorance/ incompetence
· Level 3. Understanding, familiarity, ability to follow solution algorithms within the borders of a domain while being focused and concentrated when applying those algorithms– conscious competence – the skill/knowledge is in the buffer zone of your mind, you’ll lose it if you don’t use it.
· Level 4. Internalized knowledge, ability to build bridges towards the other domains, integration of this knowledge domain and skill-set into the framework of one’s worldview, no more need to have an effort and focus hard – unconscious competence – the skill is now inside, it’s yours – forever.
The school settings are designed to bring a student from Level 1 to Level 3 but students are different– some are able to get to Level 3 quicker than the others and they are rightfully being praised for that.
Who gets the repetition then – the slower kids who struggle on the way from Level 2 to Level 3, from ignorance to basic familiarity and conscious competence.
That’s where the where the repetition becomes stigmatized: It’s a 1-2 logical punch that gets imprinted to your subconscious mind ever since kindergarten and primary school.
1. Smart kids do not need repetitions they get it quick.
2. If I am getting it quick – I am smart.
1. Slow kids need repetitions.
2. Repetitions are for dummies.
Effectively repetition of an information becomes associated with the under-learning.
Conclusion/ mindset/ action model? – “If you are repeating things to me you are implying that I am dumb, that I am not able to get from Level 2 to Level 3. You know what? – I am not dumb, I get it, okay? “.
And actually things get from bad to worse when an audience misinterprets the over-learning message for the under-learning:
3. “If you insist on repeating things to me – you are insulting me, you are showing me disrespect, you are just stopping short of calling me a dumb”.
Depending on a social situation you might either suppress these feelings or let them go – but you’ll never forgive the person who treated you like that. Since these mental models are imprinted so deeply – most likely you are not even going to know where your discomfort comes from and why you accumulate a dislike for a person who repeats things to you.
That’s where the best intentions lead to deep divide and conflict.
I think that this imprinted model of ‘repetition equals under-learning’ is the one that all of us who were churned through school system have; and this model is the main culprit responsible for blocking our access to over-learning – the path from Level 3 to Level 4 – to the level of true unconscious cost-free competence.
Conscious competence is easily lost. It is not internalized, it remains foreign to you. It consumes your resources – you need to concentrate on and think of a solution algorithm to apply it. On opposite, unconscious competence – expands your resources.
Level 3 competence is expensive – it drains your mind’s most versatile reserves. Hence the moment you don’t need it – it’s gone, washed away. Unfortunately, in such a case most of the effort that you have spent to bring yourself from Level 1 to Level 3 – is wiped out.
Level 4 – is different. A knowledge or a skill is yours – forever. Even if you do not use it for ages, it might get a bit rusty but gets back in a snap. Think of riding a bike – you might have a 10-20 years gap since you rode it for a last time – but the moment you get on a bike – voila, everything is back and you feel the confidence returning every minute.
That’s where I want to bring your ABR skills to but in order to do so – you need to switch off your mental filters.
I hope that this post will help you to make a step in this direction…