In third grade, I failed penmanship and arithmetic. Apparently the teacher told my mother that I had passed third grade by the skin of my teeth. Looking over my report cards reveals comments such as, “If Margaret would try she would get better grades.” In seventh grade at the DOD school in Madrid, Spain I was given the choice of moving to class D and get a “C” on my report card or stay in class C and get a “D”. Given my father’s value of high grades, I chose Class D. All of this was before 1975 when Special Education became a legislated part of the public school system. Since my perceptions of these memories indicate that I was trying, I likely would receive special education services if I were in school today.
At church, during high school I was encouraged to memorize Scriptures to improve academics. So, I began to memorize long passages of Scripture, reciting them at church and at church camps. Also, during high school, my dad offered me $1.00 per “A” I earned on my report card. By the time I was a senior, I was on the High Honor Roll with all “A’s”. My first year of college was a challenge, getting a “D” at mid-term in Psychology. However, by my senior year, I was again able to get all “A’s”. I believe I was still probably working harder for those “A’s” than other students, but I was achieving better grades. Decades later, I want to review these lessons in light of what I have learned about how we learn.
Lesson # 1: Memorizing Scriptures Develops Cognitive Skills
Yes, the old adage, “use it or lose it” applies here. When you exercise your brain it develops. Scientific Learning’s motto, “Fit Brains Work Better” reveals how this principle works.
According to the neurodevelopmental approach, “Duration, Frequency, and Intensity” present three important ideas. Short, frequent, focused review of whatever is to be learned, locks into one’s brain. Today, I tell my students to put spelling words, vocabulary words, math facts or formulas, memory verses on cards. If they go through these cards between subjects, several times a day, they will learn it. Some may need to review longer to get the desired results, but they will learn. Do all of my students follow my advice? No, I am afraid that it is a hard sell, but I am not going to quit telling them to do it. While this works with anything, when one memorizes Scripture you get an added benefit: Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Lesson # 2 – External Rewards Encourage Learning
As a teacher, I would always prefer that students have internal motivation to learn – “for the love of learning.” It would be great for students to be diligent in their studies in order to please God. We can continue to pray and trust God for this. It happens sometimes, but often external rewards are necessary. It may be something as simple as, “Great job!” or a high five or a sticker on a chart. Twenty-first century students would normally not be motivated by $1.00 per “A” on a report card as I was in the 60s. While a monetary reward may not be the best, it certainly works on the job for adults.
After reviewing these childhood lessons, I see that I need to remember to apply these in my life even today as I continue to learn.