Righties and Lefties by Sarah Glick, E. Amherst, NYBasically, there are two types of people in the world: "left-brainers" and "right-brainers." For someone unfamiliar with these terms, they do not mean that such individuals merely utilize one hemisphere of their brains or that they only possess half a noggin. These categorizations refer to learning styles and characteristic traits of people. According to On Purpose Associates, a right-brained individual is typically subjective, creative, random, intuitive, holistic and thinks in terms of wholes; while a left-brained individual is logical, sequential, objective, focused on accuracy, rational, analytical and thinks in term of parts.Many high schools are currently debating lecture format versus interactive "hands-on" teaching methods, but little attention is focused on catering to the different "brains" in the classroom. Naturally, a math curriculum is your model left-brained class. Everything is exact and specific with no room for error. But an English curriculum is almost the complete opposite - a relaxed situation is more beneficial when engrossed in creative writing or reenacting scenes from a novel.At a recent School Improvement Team meeting, we were discussing new teaching styles when the matter of left-versus right-brained learning was brought up. Coincidentally, this issue coincided with a situation in my AP English class. I completed a questionnaire asking under what conditions I prefer to work (dim or bright light, with or without the radio on, on a couch/rug or at a desk, etc.) and determined myself to be more right-brained (consistent with my preference for a relaxed learning environment and atmosphere).Most days during seventh period English, I sit on the radiator. Although this may not seem terribly unusual, the vast majority of students sit at desks (the small ones where the workspace is attached to the seat so that you can only sit down from one side of the contraption). Each day, I actively participate in the lively discussions from my radiator position. But my very understanding teacher doesn't seem to appreciate my self-selected seating area quite as much as I do. She's been teaching for many years, doing things her way and now she has some teenage "rebel" who practically refuses to sit at a desk. Looking at the situation from this point of view, her argument that I sit at a desk seems perfectly logical.However, let's evaluate the case from my viewpoint. For six and a half hours a day, day in and day out, I sit cramped at an uncomfortable desk, listening to teachers ramble on about some topic that will be of zero significance to me after I am forced to regurgitate the information during a test. But my right-brain oriented English class is different - a time when I interact with my peers, debate controversial topics and break free of the cage through which I am force-fed math, science and social studies like a tamed animal. In this seemingly right-brained environment, I have rejected the traditionally left-brained desk for a more conducive radiator setting, thus making the class more interesting and stimulating for me.Additionally, the natural sunlight streaming in the windows brightens my mood, unlike the dreary fluorescent bulbs throughout the school. There is also the comfort issue - on the radiator, I can recline slightly, stretch my legs and lean against the windows. Plus, the elevated radiator provides an excellent view of the classroom and teacher, one that is unattainable when someone's head obstructs my view from the desk. Lest we not forget, in the rare event or a fire emergency (or other natural disaster), I am closer to the window escape!There is a point to this anecdote. Many teachers are aware that each student is an individual with separate needs and learning styles. If students learn better from the radiator (and cause no disturbance), let them stay where they will absorb the most information. By the time a student reaches high school, he or she knows if the floor or a desk or standing on their head will be most beneficial. So, for all those right-brained boys and girls struggling in a left-brained class, fight for your right to radiator seating and, more importantly, a curriculum to suit your brain's needs. ?
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.