Attention Controls

As Liz pointed out in my comments,

One of the difficulties of the Schools Attuned approach is that it does not map directly onto [IDEA] [NCLB] [DSM-IV-TR] (pick your poison). As a parent of a child with a specific learning disability, I think that Levine’s approach is more beneficial for the child — but the flaw is the conflict between the various laws and Levine’s non-labelling, discrete approach.

She probably right. I teach at a private school, which makes things easier for us. We are not beholden to the same entities as public schools are; however, we do still have an obligation to provide the services necessary to students we accept. To that end, I do think we can adopt this approach if we get everyone on board. Asking the faculty to read Levine’s book, All Kinds of Minds, would be a start. I know that I have been guilty of assuming laziness on the part of students whose performance is inconsistent. I doubt I am alone, and education might be key to changing some perceptions.

As I read the chapter on the Attention Controls System, I wondered what Levine’s take on medication was, as he didn’t mention it until the end. He feels that medication may help, but is not the whole solution and that often kids’ attention problems are addressed through medication when they also had other problems that didn’t get properly addressed. I think he’s probably right on both counts, but I was glad to see he was in favor of medication. I think too many people dismiss its effectiveness for kids who do have attention problems. Perhaps it is overprescribed. I don’t know. I have never suggested to a parent that his or her child needed medication. I don’t feel qualified to make that decision, since I’m not a doctor. However, I have encouraged parents who are concerned to have their child evaluated for problems (attention, LD, whatever) with their doctor. I have heard stories of teachers actually recommending medication, and I find that shocking.

I am concerned with one assertion Levine makes in this chapter. He chides secondary schools for their “frenetic” pace — timed tests, deadlines, etc. He explains that at this point in an adolescent’s brain maturation, it is ideal to teach them to “work slowly.” Well, he’s the doctor, and I’m most definitely not. However, I have students who lollygag on purpose, and he doesn’t address that. Students will be given plenty of time to complete a task and procrastinate. He also advocates not timing tests and letting students finish later. What about cheating? What about the fact that whether we like it or not, students will take timed tests in the form of college entrance exams and AP? Are we helping them by reinforcing the idea that they always have as much time as they need to complete tasks? I think teaching deadlines is fairly important, especially with adolescents. Teachers are competing with so many other things that I don’t see how anything would get done if they took Levine’s approach to teaching high school (at least where deadlines and timed assignments are concerned).

One thought on “Attention Controls”

  1. I like Howard Gardner's approach in The Disciplined Mind, where he advocates both and–a rhythm to education, where some tasks are approached slowly and others under time pressure.

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