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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Building A Better Student Series: Window Versus Aisle

Building A Better Student: Window Versus Aisle
By Dom Testa
Talk to anyone who frequently flies and you’ll find that they’re adamant about their seat choice. There are aisle people and there are window people. (I suppose there must be a few folks who long for the middle seat, but we’ll whisper about them later behind their backs.)
Some of these preferences arel for practical reasons - leaning against the window to sleep, for example, or needing easy access to a restroom. Many times, however, it’s a personality issue: some may want to scan the area around them and do some serious people-watching from the aisle, while others want to be cocooned away against the wall.
In life we’re all either a window person or an aisle person. And kids are no different.
I’m fascinated by the differences in learning styles that kids exhibit. Some are the aisle people, flourishing in group settings and naturally gravitating to leadership roles in team situations. Other students withdraw into a personal cave of learning, preferring to do their own reading and processing their own thoughts. They’re like me: a window guy.
Imagine a classroom of twenty-five (or more) students. Teachers not only have to prepare lessons for two dozen students, but they have to factor in the fact that there are multiple learning styles grouped together.
What really intrigues me, though, is the disparity that pops up within the walls of the same house. You’d think that with the same parents - the same gene pool - siblings would be little copies of each other. But while they might look similar, their personalities are generally night and day: one is a bookworm, the other a social butterfly; one hangs back in the shadows, the other craves the spotlight.
This polarity shows up in learning styles, too. That’s why a one-size-fits-all approach to household study times might not work. It’s easy to assume that you can put two or three siblings into the same room to do homework, but, in reality, one might struggle while the other flies through it.
It’s because a window person craves a different environment than that of an aisle person. Not only do people have their own unique ways of absorbing information, they also require different surroundings in order to analyze that data. It’s why one successful author might lock herself into a quiet room to get the work done while another has music blaring in the background. Both produce great results, but through alternative means.
The point is to find the setting that best allows your student to process her studies. She may be an aisle person who does well with activity going on around her. Or she might be a window person, one who thrives when distractions are muted and she can retreat into her own head. It shouldn’t take you long to discover which one works.
One style does not fit all. If we’re to celebrate the differences in each individual - and the successes that may come their way - let’s acknowledge that they often take distinct pathways to reach 

Dom Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty-three years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit student-development foundation. His new book, Smart Is Cool, will be published in August, 2014. More info at


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