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Learning at its Best

Attention please! I just stopped paying attention – to you!

This is a repost from my personal blog. I wrote this almost four months ago but it still resonates with me when people take someone’s attention for granted. I hope posting it here may prompt additional feedback from the people reading this blog.

Image credit:

No, you’re not annoying, just boring! Attention is the new currency in our world and you need to offer something in exchange if you want me to listen to you. Telling me what to do, how to do it, when to do it doesn’t cut it anymore. Teaching me old solutions for old problems doesn’t inspire me anymore. I get what I need to learn to cope in this world from other places!

Yes, I learn from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, blogs… I learn from my neighbor who is obsessed with vintage cars and spends all his free time with oil on his hands. I learn from William half across the world who harnessed the wind to save his family from starving. I learn from Mark up in Maine pondering the question of mind while wondering if his bees have lessons for human communities.

I learn by exploring, digging, experimenting, opening, tinkering, building, hacking and playing with toys, plants, animals, rocks, wood, and all kinds of stuff — yes, even power tools!

We’re told to pay attention to our teachers, parents, elders. The common wisdom has it that without attention you won’t learn anything and become a bum. There is some truth that attention is important, but the failure in the common wisdom is the assumption that the attention is absolute, can be defined and can be instilled in kids from young age.

This assumption leads to treating those kids who never learn to master such absolute attention as failures. Or worse, medicating them till they turn into living zombies after highly paid psychiatrists label them with stickers like ADD, ADHD, etc.

Image credit: Gary Olsen (Dubuque Community Schools)

Well, the secret is out! There are almost 7 billion people in the world and none of them is the same: — we all learn differently, — we all like different things, — we all pay attention to different stuff that interests us, not necessarily you!

It is time we tear down the walls of the orderly world of black & white absolutism and enter the scary but exciting and colorful new world of infinite challenges and (at the same time) infinite opportunities!

My kids are taught rules, I teach them when to break them! My kids are taught to listen, I teach them to dream! My kids are taught to behave, I teach them to have fun! My kids are taught to remember solutions, I teach them how to spot problems!

Am I the only one?

About kima

Organizer: Father. Agent of change. I learn for a living. Curiosity is my passion. Writing is my dream. I believe in the value of social media as a way to meet new people and love double espresso as a way to feel warm with old friends ;-)


11 thoughts on “Attention please! I just stopped paying attention – to you!

  1. Great post.
    I plan to pass it on.

    Posted by Tami | March 24, 2011, 11:49 pm
  2. Clark Aldrich digs very deep into this new book on Unschooling and at his blog

    Posted by Tim McClung | March 25, 2011, 9:23 am
  3. You aren’t the only one, but your students are lucky you have noticed the real problem!

    Posted by Andrea | March 25, 2011, 4:21 pm
    • Thanks Andrea — though I am not a teacher and I am participating in this group as a parent who is trying to bring additional perspective outside the classroom.

      I actually have great respect for teachers and find many of them to be doing great job and put lots of effort to inspire the kids to be curious and increase their appetite for learning.

      My struggle is with the many others — parents are guilty on this one too (including myself till recently!) — who are not aware of the damage the existing methods are causing to the kids. The system has become so big and entrenched that the only way to start a change is to first raise awareness of its pitfalls!

      Posted by kima | March 27, 2011, 1:52 am
  4. Well said! I am a teacher who grew up with diagnosed-but-untreated ADHD…which I am thankful for, beacuse it taught me to work on creating a classroom that doesn’t have IDD–Interest Defecit Disorder.

    Posted by Ms. I. | March 26, 2011, 10:20 am
    • Thanks for your comment Ms. I.! I am sure there are many people who would like to hear your story how you were able to ‘cope’ with ADHD to become a teacher … unfortunately the blog linked to your profile doesn’t seem to be available anymore … maybe you would like to do a guest post for the coop?

      Btw, I love the idea of IDD and your efforts to cure it!! 😉

      Posted by kima | March 27, 2011, 1:29 am
  5. I completely agree, but would argue that there is something to be said about being able to sustain attention/focus (aside from obvious challenges like ADD that require their own accommodations). As teachers I think it’s important that we know our students as people and understand what makes them tick. We also need to understand how the brain itself learns and functions–it’s a known fact that we can only focus on one thing for so long. At the same time, I think it’s important to foster the ability to think deeply and critically, which requires students to be able to sustain attention on a dialogue or idea.

    You have addressed these ideas in your post, but just wanted to reiterate that requiring attention is not always a bad thing! Demanding attention for arbitrary reasons (i.e. “I’m the teacher.”), however, is just silly.

    Posted by Mary Beth Hertz | March 29, 2011, 10:02 pm
    • Thanks Mary Beth!

      I do agree attention is important, but my post was about it not being absolute, though many seem to treat it like it is!

      You bring up two key ideas about education that I truly hope to see implemented before things are too late. The point about the teachers knowing the students is really about humanizing the education and looking at the students as wholes rather than through the scores on the standardized tests and other stuff that dehumanizes education today. The point about understanding how we learn is equally important one, though it seems there is very little known research, which is strange as the problem of the school system preventing instead of nurturing the natural learning capacity has already been recognized many years ago.

      One exciting change that I believe is converging with the efforts to change the education is the emergence of attention economy — where the attention is not the thing you buy, but the “currency” you earn. It puts the students into a whole new position in which the education options must compete to get the attention of the students. The exciting thing is not in the competition, but in the value shift education must go through in order to win the attention — from being the promised path to a good job, to being a platform for immersing into a wide range of experiences, learning from them and creating something of value, often through remixing previous works from other students and teachers!

      Would you agree?

      Posted by kima | March 30, 2011, 4:27 am
  6. This sounds great but what do we do instead in the classroom?

    Posted by Stecha | April 12, 2012, 11:11 am

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