Any student learning new material, particularly something extremely challenging, can suddenly find their mind in a spin and further progress stops. Sometimes the mind turns to mush or you find yourself staring at the page and not seeing anything, or even find your thoughts wandering far away. Basically, the mind stops absorbing the information. However, the rest of our senses are sometimes not aware of that fact. When the spin starts, most kids just keep sitting and staring at a page and making no progress. They have occupied the chair for two or three hours, but maybe only accomplished an hour’s worth of work. This is basically a waste of time and they don’t get the things done that have to be done and they don’t have time to do the fun things either. It is not a happy scenario.
A case in point happened a few nights ago in an academic drawing class. I had been working hard for an hour and a half sketching a rather complicated cast of a hand holding a ball. Suddenly, I could no longer see the angles. I wasn’t sure which tilts to check. Things just weren’t computing. Recognizing the familiar signs, I stepped away from my easel and took a break.
The interesting thing about this phenomenon is that it is not something we intuitively recognize. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is something we must train our children to identify in themselves and then give them solutions that work for their particular personality and learning style.
Years ago, when I saw my son’s eyes begin to glaze over, I would encourage him to lace on his tennis shoes and go run several miles. When my daughter’s progress on an academic problem became evident, I suggested she take a break and practice her violin. When her violin practice ceased to be productive, I would recommend she switch back to her school work or read a good book. My kids were very good students, but like all young teens, didn’t have the skills yet to recognize the spin. Over time they began to understand how to manage their productivity. The things they did to cope with that overload in high school became very important to how they later managed their stressful college lives.
Train your kids to recognize the spin and how to cope with it. I would rank the skill as one of the most important in their arsenal for later success in college.
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