It was third grade when I first heard my daughter described as “one of them”, one of those “creative types”. Being a creative type myself, I was confused by the sound of disdain in the teacher’s voice when describing her. I’d gone in after school to see the teacher for some clarification on a class project. Some parts of the project were to be done in class and some at home but there was some confusion on what was happening where. I asked the teacher for a written list so my daughter could manage the project more independently. The teacher thought the list was unnecessary and third grade was ‘sink or swim’ time. She also thought the need of a list was further evidence of the inferiority of us creative types.
Stunned, and without the list I asked for, I left and headed to Mrs. Armstrong’s classroom. She was the second grade teacher that actually liked me and my daughters. I asked her, “What’s wrong with my daughter? What’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with us creative types?” After some conversation, Mrs. Armstrong gave me my first glimpse of what it was to be a right brain, visual person in a left brain world. The world we were talking about was school. I started to see how being right brained and creative had affected me and how it was affecting my daughter. It turns out that Mrs. Ridge was the quintessential left brain thinker. She was neat, tidy, precise, no room for deviation or variation. Us creative types were way too messy and didn’t fall easily into line. And yet, I was the one asking for a list!
For our own family Mrs. Ridge was just one teacher that didn’t get us. And yet here it is some twenty years later and this is what education has become; one way to think, one way to teach, one way to measure. But it’s not what teachers want and it’s not what our kids need. Right brain visual kids are not the problem. They are in fact way ahead of the curve. Mrs. Ridge, much like our current education system, was really good at using the left side of the brain but what about the other half of who she was? What about the other half of her brain? We all have the same two halves, a left and a right with specialized functions. When we use both we are whole. We don’t go through life using just our left side or just our right side. We need both arms, both legs, both eyes. We have two sides of a brain and we have to use them both.
The left side of the brain works on parts. It focuses on the details. It’s the calculator, the computer. Ask it a question and it looks for the answer. But who’s asking the questions? Who’s thinking about the big picture, about what we should be doing, where we’re going or why we’re going that way? It’s the right side!! The right side of everyone’s brain wonders. The right side of the brain asks, “Should we go to the moon? Where is the cure for cancer?” “ Is our company going in the right direction?” The right side asks the questions, then the left puzzles it out.
The right side of the brain sees and feels the wholeness of what is around us. The right side loves to ask questions, dream, imagine, look for new ideas, new ways of doing things. The right side of everyone’s brain asks questions, dreams dreams, imagines solutions. It sees the world, the people, the color, glory and beauty. The right side thinks about what is, what’s possible and what’s next. The world reminds us every day that we need to embrace our left side. We need to use it, not to replace or override the right but to support it. As we gain fluency and competency with the left, we enhance and add strength to our right side gifts. Some of us already do that really well. And when we use both our right and left, we are the smartest of the smart ones.
What about all the lefties that don’t even know that they’re operating at half capacity? And why are we okay with an education system that only wants to teach and train half of our brain?