Diamonds In The Rough: Learning Styles & Diversity

by Gina Parker Collins on May 3, 2010

I admit it, when I think of diversity I often overlook learning styles, instead thinking of race as the de facto diversity initiative. Another admission, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) used to be the first descriptor that came to mind when considering learning styles.

The term “lexicon,” has been surfacing in many of my independent school conversations around learning styles. How do Firm Schools communicate with their family/student body? Is it with broad strokes or straight talk? Culturally, many families communicate with straight talk. The esoteric delivery of many Firm Schools in communicating to families can be seen by some as passive aggressive, particularly in environments like parent/teacher conferences, or grade reports for that matter. Understanding and communicating language is extremely important in well-balanced retention of a private school education.

Once I began to pay attention to learning styles I realized that ADHD is not the de facto for learning styles, and that there are many other considerations like autonomy, organization, and language. Students and families alike need a foundation for communicating with administration. The reverse is also recommended.

Decoding may be necessary for some parents in order to stay ahead of the game in supporting children with their own learning styles, before it is too late. Before questions of school fit come into play three quarters of the way into the school year, families should always ask for clarification on anything that sounds or looks, well, fishy. Ask for clarification with straight talk and more than likely you’ll get the information that can help you take action with the best interest of your child at heart. A matter of fact, when you understand the “coded” issues you can ask for what you need. Your school may have more resources then you think.

There are many thoughts on what makes language such a universally challenging learning style, such as social, economic, cultural, and environmental influencers. I am in the midst of reading Gladwell’s Outliers and could not help but make correlations. In Gladwell’s book, research strongly supports that the biggest influencer for success is family; meaning that one’s family strongly determines an individual’s ultimate success.

As parents, do we encourage cultivated or natural growth? Ok, so this happens to be an example of a broad stroke question. With straight talk it could sound like this, as parents do we expose and do a ton of interesting activities with our kids or do they go without or do it alone?

The research suggests that if we cultivate our children, let’s say with travel to China or thoughtful visits to MOCA (Museum of Chinese in America), then we’re increasing the opportunity for our children to develop descriptive language, or perhaps another language altogether; if involved in a sports team then they are learning how to stay on task, manage defeat and personalities; if they are allowed to engage in conversation with adult figures, then perhaps they will be able to effectively and respectfully challenge authority or question ideologies.

Language plays a big role in each of these scenarios making it easier overtime for children to engage in and understand esoteric communication.

As parents, it is never too late to learn how to decode language and use it to become vested members in our school communities. Being able to effectively and respectfully challenge the information shared by administrators, and get the necessary tools to support our children’s ability to thrive in both progressive and traditional institutions, will allow all to brilliantly shine and be counted.

About the Contributor: Gina Parker Collins, Founder & President of RIISE, is a regular contributor to the NYC Firm Schools Blog in the area of diversity.

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