The divergent thinker has considered the problem from all angles and made connections between the question and each of the potential answers. He has now spent four times as long on the question as the person who is tuned to think convergently, and his likelihood of choosing the “right” answer is still no better than chance. Instead of eliminating some of the answers to improve his chances of making the correct choice, his divergent thought processes have brought all answers into the realm of possibility.

-Shelley Carson, PhD, Your Creative Brain p. 128

I have always loved learning, but all through high school felt stupid. The feeling came from taking multiple choice tests. I don’t remember when my anxiety around these tests began. I didn’t realize how bad the experience was on my self-worth until I was an adult.

I had to study more than many of my peers. I took notes on everything in order to get it. I had to practically memorize the material to get an 100% on a test. I realized, if I could focus on the material in the book, I could get an A on the test. When other people were doing dance and sports, I had to spend that extra time taking notes on what I was reading.  I used to pray for essay tests, because I knew I could get an A without a problem. I used to run out of room because of the amount of details I could provide. I didn’t understand why I had such a problem with multiple choice. Come SAT time, I was a complete mess. When I didn’t have specific material to study my anxiety would take me to a shameful place. My self-talk was brutal. My hair twisting and pulling increased to a level where I’m surprised I have hair today. What was it about these tests? Why couldn’t I figure out the right answers?

When I was an adult, I realized  I also had a fear of filling out forms. I was so scared of answering a question in the wrong way. I wanted to be honest and accurate, but I found myself wondering do they mean this, or do they mean that. In order to be a pre-school teacher, I had to take courses filled with multiple choice tests. I remember being told that many people don’t pass them the first time. I can’t tell you what that level of pressure did to me. Luckily, by the time I got to the test I was grounded in my spiritual path and I prayed that I would be able to pull the knowledge from my head as needed, and thankfully I did. Yet, I still went through the constant questioning in my head during almost every question. I just kept trying to remember the words that the books used. I still felt stupid. Why weren’t the answers black and white? I knew the material well enough that the tests should have been a breeze.

So, why did I feel so stupid when it came to multiple choice? I wasn’t going to understand that until I was around 37 years old and back in school. Eckerd College is known for their strong writing program. The Program For Experienced Learners (the program I attended) held us to the same high standards as the residential students. I loved it there. The classes were small, professors were available, lots of writing, and very few multiple choice tests.

The answer finally came in a course called, The Creative Process, taught by an amazing professor. I knew I would love the course just by the title. Once I met my professor, I knew I was in for a big ride in self awareness. The reading materials for the course were eye opening, but one in particular would help to heal years of pain and anguish over my fears and anxiety around multiple choice tests and filling out applications.

Your Creative Brain (This is a link to the website): Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity, and Innovation in Your Life by Shelley Carson, PhD.was the book that would give me understanding about brainsets and where I was most comfortable. The book explains all the different brainsets, then has a little test to show the reader where her/his personal comfort level is. The best part is in the next chapters she gives the reader exercises to strengthen the different brainsets. Based on the test, I was most comfortable in the connect and absorb brainsets. This made perfect sense to me. This has been my strength in my personal and professional relationships. It was what made me successful in sales and marketing. It is the power behind my creativity. It is the reason, I am driven by the connections I make with humans, nature, and animals through love.

How could this gift cause such anguish in school? 

“Convergent thinking is the type of thinking you do when you access the contents stored in your brain (including knowledge and memories) to come up with the one correct answer to a well-defined problem.”

-Carson, Your Creative Brain p. 125

OH! Multiple choice tests are based on convergent thinking. Now, everything is starting to make sense. I don’t fit into the mold of this type of education, wait a second… My son is completely immersed into the testing world, and he is having the same struggles and feelings that I did. He is an A/B student who is feeling frustrated, stupid and lost in the school system. I’m so glad, I have been educated enough to help stop the negative cycle that I have lived with since I was a child in school.

I have broken many of the negative cycles that came from the generations before me. It can take a long time to heal old wounds. I still feel my stuff come up when my son is discussing school, and it is a challenge to try to figure out what is the best thing to do for him. I need to approach him and the educational system from a loving place, but sometimes the how is hard to find.

I have watched many groups try and fail to change the educational system. I have read the research that is being used to fight the system. I have listened to countless parents and teachers who know that all this testing is not good for these young developing brains. The tests keep coming. Little changes keep happening, but I feel like we are still left with a lot of misunderstanding. Some teachers don’t know how to spot convergent and divergent thinkers and that makes a huge difference in how a child will absorb material. We are still focusing on the broken system. The negative energy is feeding the beast. What if we collectively could put our focus on what we did want to see in schools, instead of what we don’t? I still struggle with this one. I know the answer comes from a loving place, I just don’t know what it is.

My son was lucky enough to have an amazing third grade teacher. She made the time to really look at him as an individual and figure out how he needed to look at the material in order to be able to see the correct answers. She helped me to see that it was possible for a divergent thinker to work with these tests. There are so many  kids, parents, and teachers who don’t know what is going on in these students’ brains. How do we get this information out there in a way that it is not done through angry messages of what we don’t want to see anymore? How do we not shame people for not knowing any better? How do we inspire change through loving actions? 

Finding out about the different brainsets and how they contributed towards different areas of my life has been priceless. It has helped me gain understanding about myself and others. I finally know, I am NOT stupid. I actually have a beautiful gift of a divergent mind, and its because of this gift that I am here now. I figured out that the things I negatively labeled myself with are actually the very parts of me that I love the most.