Read any entrepreneur’s biography and often you will find scathing references to their education ranging from ‘I couldn’t wait to leave’ to ‘I was expelled’. It must be a huge surprise that these students, referred to by educators in hushed tones as 'disengaged', can go on to become successful business people. Like Richard Branson, they aren’t stupid; they just learn differently.
Knowing this, imagine my delight when I chanced upon Wholebrain in Central Victoria that is dedicated to inspiring disengaged students to learn.
Wholebrain founder, Denise Smith, knows first-hand what it is like to be a right brain learner in a left brain orientated education system. She experienced the difficulty of learning, as did her son.
‘It tends to run in families regardless of gender,’ she explains. ‘We struggle with reading and become overwhelmed by everything in a normal classroom environment. Your self-esteem can suffer terribly.’
Dedicated to equipping students with right brain learning tendencies to learn in a left brain education system, Denise and her husband have donated a rural property at South Mandurang, just outside Bendigo, to host the program that primary school aged students can attend one day a week. Classes for up to eight students are held in a non-threatening family home environment while outdoor areas and a large shed host a range of physical activities to allow students to learn by doing which is their preference. The program is funded by parent fees and the occasional - and much appreciated - philanthropic donations.
‘We want children to understand that they’re not stupid, they just learn differently, and give them the tools to cope in their normal school environment,’ explains Denise. ‘We support the parents and teachers as well, helping them to understand the strengths of right brain learners.’
Incredibly, Denise has spent over a decade developing a specific font, phonics program and word lists to help young people with dyslexia to cope in the classroom. Teachers immediately notice a difference back in the students’ normal classroom.
If anyone is Denise’s biggest fan, it is Janeen Barker, who has taken on the role of principal teacher at Wholebrain for the past ten years. Like Denise, Janeen has first-hand knowledge of right brain learning although it was not evident to her as a child.
Growing up, Janeen never knew that her father could barely read let alone write. How could she when he was such an active community leader and executive on so many different committees?
What Janeen didn’t know was that her mother was quietly helping in the background writing the meeting minutes while he stuck to what he was good at; numbers.
‘Dad always used to say “there is more than one way to skin a cat,”’Janeen recalls.
Occasionally he hit an obstacle, for instance when getting assessed to become an umpire for bowls. Despite getting 100 percent in the practical assessment, he failed the theory exam three times. ‘Because Dad had a purpose to his learning he taught himself to pass the exam’, Janeen says with pride.
All this is painfully obvious to Janeen in retrospect, and she considers herself privileged to be a part of Wholebrain and able to make a real difference in the lives of future generations.
‘We are giving these children life skills just as much as we are helping them at school,’ Janeen observes. ‘It’s all about rediscovering the joy in learning.’
How could you not enjoy learning at Wholebrain with such commitment and understanding, not to mention kangaroos grazing in and around your classroom?
As Wholebrain enters its eleventh year of operation, various students are now entering the workforce and finding success.
By understanding right bright learning they are being put on the right track.
An open day is being held at Wholebrain on 18 June 2017 from 2-4pm.
For more information go to: https://www.wholebrainworkout.com/
ABOUT KERRY ANDERSON: Author of ‘Entrepreneurship: It’s Everybody’s Business,’ Kerry works with small businesses and rural communities to help them embrace new opportunities. READ MORE http://www.kerryanderson.com.au/about/