By Oliver DeMille

looking glassThere is an excellent book by John F. Heath entitled, When Bright Kids Can’t Learn: How New Brain Research Can Help Your Child. I highly recommend it.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the book, at least for me, is the idea that Teaching and Learning are two entirely different things. This seems obvious when you think about it, but most modern educators don’t point it out very often.

Teaching has its own set of goals and objectives, techniques and systems, and measurements of success. So does Learning. But there are a lot of these in Teaching that are drastically different than in Learning. This is confusing to some students.

In fact, according to Heath, roughly 80% of students are able to effectively translate what they hear from the traditional Teaching side of things into language, habits, processes and thoughts that feed their personal Learning. The problem is that about 20% of students don’t make these translations, and if your student is one of them he or she will struggle with modern schooling.

Some of the 20% have disabilities, others are far above average intelligence, and still others are found throughout the intelligence spectrum. In short, some of our students simply haven’t learned to translate the Teaching world that dominates education into words and ideas that help them effectively Learn.

That’s big. In fact, we’ve known it for a long time, but it’s instructive to see what the researchers are finding in the details.

Back to the Students!

The challenge for education, Heath says, is that most schools and classrooms are teacher-centric, so a teacher who is, for example, visual and likes to teach using mainly reading, writing, charts, diagrams and/graphs will reach some students.

Teachers who are more auditory will use a lot more lecture, and kinesthetic teachers will apply a more hands-on approach.

Some of these work for some students, others for others. Sadly, some students are left out. This is the reason that Thomas Jefferson Education (TJEd) and Leadership Education are student-centric rather than teacher-centric.

We see better results for more students when the student’s needs, learning, and learning styles come first, and teacher preferences are secondary.

Indeed, Heath suggests that in modern education there are two stages: the Teaching phase delivered by a teacher, then the Neurological phase where the student hopefully translates Teaching to Learning. Again, in TJEd the emphasis is on Learning supported or guided by Personal Mentoring—which adopts whatever teaching the student seems to need.

Specific Tools For Student-Centric Parents or Teachers

HeathBookBut where Heath’s book excels, even for those who already apply a student-centric approach, is in the 10 specific learning skills and the exercises parents and teachers can do with their students. These are designed to help any student more effectively translate Teaching processes into personal Learning, and they will help any style of parent (or teacher) and any style of student understand each other better—and learn more from each other.

This is, in fact, an activity book that will help adults and students integrate brain functions, increase learning skills, and overcome various learning roadblocks. Plus the exercises are also really fun.

Oh, if you do have a student in a Teacher-centric classroom, this can really help. If not, it’s still a great, enjoyable, boost to learning skills, because every parent and every child have translation issues. These exercises help us all become better translators, listeners, and more skilled learners. Try it!

The exercises are a great way to start out a daily Kidschool. Just do one per day, and make it fun.


For help on personalizing learning for kids of different ages and interests, see The Phases of Learning.

For advanced help in pinpointing learning styles and mentoring needs, see The Student Whisperer.

Image Oliver DeMille is the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd. He is the NY Times Bestselling co-author of LeaderShift, and author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy: Education & the Future of Freedom, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.

Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through Leadership Education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.