Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Improving Student Comprehension & Productivity

The quieter you become, the more you can hear.  ~Zen Proverb

Over the past twenty years I have observed an interesting phenomenon in many students who have attended my therapeutic boarding school--a sudden and somewhat dramatic shift in both comprehension and productivity. This shift usually occurs just prior to the student attaining level 800.  Instead of staff and therapist symbolically “pushing”the student along, the student starts leading the way.  Instead of struggling with subjects in school, the student’s productivity jumps ahead, not only to the surprise of teachers and therapists, but to the surprise of the students themselves.  
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Level 800 Students
Learning disabilities that these students have struggled with often become more manageable or seem to disappear.

Two additional important developmental tasks happen around the time of reaching level 800:  1) The student has meaningful goals for themselves; and 2) They are finding it much easier to distance themselves from past loyalties or problematic peer relationships.  Typically, students coming into Cedar Ridge lack meaningful future plans and are unwilling to separate themselves from the past friendships that supported their problematic behaviors.  This shift to making future plans and distancing themselves from unhealthy peer relationships are two critical milestones seen by students working for future success.

These students clearly demonstrate a marked reduction in anxiety along with a distinct positive shift in emotional maturity and confidence.  This reduction of anxiety seems to be the biggest factor in the accelerated productivity that I have witnessed.  In a DVD series called, Social Anxiety: The Untold Story, Jonathan Berent talks about how anxiety contributes to learning problems.  He mentions that problems diminish as anxiety is managed and an improvement in learning tasks ensues. 

Often what gets construed as learning deficits or attention issues are actually habits of detachment from uncomfortable stimuli.  This detachment is almost always automatic and unconscious to those who do it.  It is important to understand that detachment is a form of avoidance, which is dissociative in nature. Reflexively, detachment serves to provide relief from the source of discomfort.  Unbeknownst to many, this strategy of avoidance only serves to reinforce the discomfort that triggered the detachment in the first place.


When anxiety  is reduced, the mind becomes calmer (quieter).  When the mind is quieter, creative processes re-engage.  The constant regressions to past feelings subside and the normal process of maturation resumes.  The mind will tune into the rhythms of life in a more natural, developmental way both automatically and unconsciously.

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