The Need for Whole Brain teachers today
According to the South African Bill of Rights (2000) it is required of an educator to acknowledge the individuality, uniqueness and needs specific to each learner. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the educator to encourage their leaners, guiding them to reach their greater potentials while behaving in an appropriate manner. One can assume that most legislations will afford its children these rights.
These are fantastic sentiments, but exactly how does the law propose we fulfil these obligations?
While this may seem like a cynical response, the question “how?” already gives us an indication as to where one might begin to find a solution: we need to think creatively. Classrooms in South Africa, and in most countries really, are largely over-packed, and teachers in these circumstances may find themselves without the proper resources, both emotionally and financially, to deal with the demands of their work.
But before we go thinking that the teachers owe our children a better service, implying that they should “just try harder,” let us consider another question: what are the rights of the teachers?
And more so: could we be neglecting the professionals in this line of work?
“Step Into Their Shoes and Walk a Mile”
The challenges faced by teachers on a daily basis are generally resource-based. Firstly, they have inadequate financial support, which restricts their ability to acquire teaching aids, and secondly, the coping resources afforded them through their own higher education was likely not enough to equip them with the demands of a struggling education system.
Therefore, the challenge is to find ways to give teachers the support they require, and deserve. The world of teaching is one where the employee (the teacher) of an organisation (the school) is seldom given the protection they are promised by the law, as the Employment of Educators Act 76 of 1998 demands they should. According to this statute, teachers are supposed to be given safety and security in their work environment, which includes both psychological and physical components.
Hence, they need to be given every scrap of help they can receive in order to become effective creative problem-solvers.
For the past 20 years the Neethling Brain Instruments (NBI®) have been put into use to give teachers every reason to succeed in fulfilling the mandate of the South African Bill of Rights. As well as accomplishing the demands of the Employment of Educators Act.
The purpose of the NBI® are to profile the individual’s thinking preferences. When a teacher is unaware of their own thinking preferences and the thinking preferences of the student, they may say things like: “I just cannot understand why this child is so misbehaved!”, or; “It puzzles me why most of the kids are getting this concept, but this one just doesn’t get it! I mean, I teach them all exactly the same way!”
These statements reflect an ignorance of the brain’s inner workings, and a denial of individual learning and teaching styles.
The NBI® delves into the individual thinking patterns of each teacher. When the teacher becomes aware of their own thinking preferences, they are able to gain insight into their own “unconscious” manner of doing things (become Whole Brain teachers). Bringing these mental processes into light makes them changeable, if necessary. The teacher can start to pin-point aspects of their own behaviour which may be frustrating their attempts to adequately guide their learners.
So how does this work? The results of the NBI® separates the thinking preferences of the teacher into 8-dimensions. The initial divide separates the brain into left and right hemispheres, then splitting those two hemispheres into the fore-brain and rear-brain. The final distinction happens in the now four quadrants by allowing for two additional categories in each quadrant.
The results of the profiling will give a final graph depicting a preference divided amongst the 8-dimensions. Each person’s score totals 300, so there is no right, wrong or “best” outcome. The final preference of the teacher is decided based on which of the dimensions have more weight. The circle below may help you to understand the 8-dimensions and their associated thinking patterns.
Working Towards Using the Whole Brain
Once the teachers are profiled and debriefed about their profiles, the goal of the training is to take them beyond their own thinking preferences. While it is a wonderful thing to embrace and appreciate one’s own thinking preferences, it is our endeavour to help each trainee develop an appreciation for all the preferences across the 8-Dimensions. There are two specific reasons:
- If we can appreciate the strengths of all the preferences, we can see the benefit of being able to apply them in situations where they are beneficial;
- An appreciation of the 8-dimensions leads to an appreciation of the thinking preferences of the people around us.
The ability to incorporate these two points into one’s daily business is what we refer to as Whole-Brain Thinking. With Whole-Brain teachers guiding each classroom of learners you can expect massive positive changes in the classroom and greater school environment. You can expect a Whole-Brain teachers and staff to have the following benefits:
- Higher student pass rates;
- Better Discipline (which happens when the teacher can better understand the thinking patterns of their students);
- Healthier and happier teachers;
- Addressing creative solutions to problems in the school;
- Stronger cohesion and communication between teachers;
- A better understanding of teacher engagement and needs. A team profile of all the teachers can be drawn-up showing an overall thinking preference of the entire staff. This indicates to the school why certain policies are easily upheld and why others are not being implemented;
- A teach staff highly equipped to fulfill the previously stated Bill of Rights mandates, likewise safeguarded by the bolstered emotional and mental faculties now available to them.
While these are not all the benefits to be gleaned, a school operated under Whole-Brain Principles is bound to be a beacon of success to all surrounding institutions.
Can you imagine what it would be like if every educator was so adequately equipped in knowing themselves, let alone if each student was versed in their own thinking preferences and approached learning in a whole brain manner too?
The implications are incredibly exciting and hopeful!
OK, so now that have established that people think differently… What does that look like?
Here are the four quadrants and a summary of behaviours that a teacher operating in that quadrant might exhibit.
The L1 trainer/teacher usually prefers a formal lesson and the use of a text book or other teaching material. Encourages summaries. Logical argument and opportunity to analyse content are usually elements of the lesson. Instructions are precise. This trainer tends to do research regarding the content and will encourage this in students. The content will be factually, technically and mathematically correct. This can be an authoritative trainer who likes to be in control of the situation at all times. He/she can tend to be too critical and would not allow emotions to cloud the issue. This trainer will use gestures and facial expressions sparingly.
The L2 trainer/teacher usually prefers a formal lesson and the use of a text book or other teaching material. The lesson content is usually well-planned and presented in a sequential order. Putting content into practice is very important to this teacher and therefore repetition and reinforcement are strong elements of their teaching style. Clear explanation of lesson objectives. This is a trainer who would ensure that the syllabus is completed and done so within the time allocated. Thoroughness is very important and untidy and incomplete work is not tolerated. This teacher could resist new teaching methods and could tend to be inflexible regarding change within the system.
The R2 trainer/teacher is usually sensitive to the needs of the learners and will treat them as individuals rather than a group. Movement and play normally form part of the lesson. This trainer/teacher uses body language, gestures and facial expression readily to enhance the lesson. He/she tends to move amongst the learners and encouragement, touch and non-verbal communication is quite natural. Showing emotion as part of the teaching comes natural and is accepted in the learners. Music often plays a part of the learning process, as well as role play and story-telling.
The R1 trainer/teacher usually gives a holistic view of the lesson and prefers to make the link with other subjects and how it slots into ‘the real world’. This teacher will encourage spontaneous participation and create opportunities to experiment. Visual aids will form an important part of the lesson. Lessons could be unstructured, involving different content, etc. on the spur of the moment. Often it creates opportunities to speculate, to strategise and discover. A fun element is often part of the lesson. Administrative duties, deadlines and thoroughness can sometimes be lacking.
A Few Parting Thoughts
When one thinks back on school, the teacher who taught you has a link to the success of that year. Which invariably means the how they taught you!
We can all agree that the future of any country largely depends on how well it educates its people. Perhaps the time has come for us to start prioritising where changes need to be made. The system is often to blame. However, the billions spent on shifting between education systems can be spent on equipping the teachers with soft-skills. This will benefit the students regardless of the curriculum.
What a beautiful day it will be when a population and government comes alive to this knowing and does something about it. Imagine a school governing body that does fund-raisers to equip their teachers as whole brain educators? Or a government that specifically budgets tax money for it…
As the Chinese Proverb puts it:
If you plan for 1 year, plant rice.
And if you plan for 10 years, plant trees.
But if you plan for 100 years, educate the people.