What would be the best environment for my child to truly enjoy studying? If you carefully examine your child’s temperament and provide a study environment that fits, they can achieve their fullest potential.
Noah was a smart outgoing kid, but difficult to teach. The kid was a fifth grader that I was privately tutoring and it seemed like he wasn’t born to study. During our sessions, he was always fidgeting, and couldn’t concentrate for more than a minute.
“Teacher, did you watch this movie? I watched it last week, and the character was amazing! He was like...”
Whenever Noah started chatting that could possibly go on and on, I tried to find a moment where I could intervene and lead the conversation back to the lesson. It felt like I was intellectually battling the little kid and it was exhausting.
Meanwhile, I had another fifth-grade student named, Jacob. Although he was very introverted and didn’t talk much, he showed strong concentration and could absorb everything he learned like a sponge. Having a strong desire to learn and independently solve problems by himself, Jacob seemed optimized for studying.
One day, Noah and Jacob’s moms wanted their children to start taking my lessons together. (Both moms knew each other.) While I was picturing various possible scenarios that could happen, such as Noah feeling dispirited due to Jacob’s superior ability to learn and lose his already minimal interest in studying, or the possible difficulty in running my lessons due to the big gap in their learning levels, I was also hoping Jacob could be a great example for Noah, and motivate him to study.
On the first day of tutoring them together, however, I could not believe what was happening before my eyes. Jacob, who once was an excellent student, lost all of his great attitude in learning. It was frustrating but also very interesting to witness his abrupt change. How can a student lose all of his ability to learn, just because a new friend is taking the lesson with him? By taking the lesson with Noah, all of Jacob’s attention was drawn to Noah, and not to my lesson.
Jacob was very sensitive by nature. When he was placed in the environment where he had to study with the friend, every remark and every movement that Noah made took away Jacob’s attention. The same Jacob that was so bright in my tutoring sessions, was now so focused on his friend that he couldn’t even realize I was calling his name.
On the other hand, Noah all of a sudden was so focused on the lesson with his eyes shining brightly. If I asked them a question, he would fully engage his brain to solve the question. Noah was very competitive by nature, and being in an environment where he was studying with a friend, naturally made him concentrate better on the lesson. My previous concern that Noah may be dispirited due to the gap in their studying levels was proven wrong, and Noah literally took over the session. There were still times that Noah couldn’t focus on the class. However, one thing was undeniable: Noah was showing drastic improvement! The new environment that made him study with a friend fit with Noah’s temperament, and drew out his maximum potential.
As a long-term goal, I wanted Jacob to learn how to retain his concentration whether his friend was there or not. Since Noah wasn’t intentionally disturbing Jacob, it was up to Jacob to hold down his center and keep his pace. However, Jacob showed little improvement so after a consultation with both of their moms, I decided to run Jacob and Noah’s tutoring sessions separately. Luckily, Jacob’s attitude and the ability to learn came right back once he started to study by himself. Jacob returned to being the bright student he was before. He also caught up with the materials he had missed out on, like the whole thing never happened. Jacob was just fit to study better alone.
As for Noah, after realizing it is more beneficial to study with friends, he started taking lessons in groups with friends who had similar temperaments. The most surprising change was that Noah, who used to disdain studying, became so mature and smarter, that he became an honor student. His new friends who were taking my lessons with Noah, were also the type that could learn better in a group. During lessons, they were mutually benefiting each other by solving problems together, teaching each other, and sometimes competing among themselves. After all, they had all found the ideal environment to study.
What kind of a student is my child? Can they concentrate better in a group? Are they more comfortable studying alone? Do they enjoy team projects? Regardless of their temperament, one thing they may want to eventually learn is the ability to keep their pace no matter the environment. Ideally, it would be best to rotate between solo and group study, so that they don’t fall into the trap of complacency. However, putting this long-term goal aside, if you as a parent can provide the best environment that fits your child’s temperament earlier in their educational career, your child will likely enjoy studying better.
Every child has a different temperament. What kind of a study environment should I provide to my child? This is the question that parents and teachers may want to ask themselves.