Learning how our amazing the brain works can help teachers learn to unlock their children's potential.
Our brains are growing and changing all the time.
I have just watched the two TED videos on Doctor Lara Boyd's discussion of how amazing our brain is. In her informative and entertaining talks that I have attached below, Dr Lara Boyd will make anybody excited about the unlimited potential our brains have to change and how our behaviour shapes the extent to which our brain changes. Our brains are super plastic, amazingly adaptable and just waiting for us to reach great heights.
Our brains want us to work hard to become super-charged.
But, therein lies the rub: we have to do the work. Although our brains are super plastic and amazingly adaptable, we are responsible to develop our brains. We need to put in the long, hard hours to turn us into the brilliant writer, sportsman, scientist, musician, teacher, artist - anything we desire. The only thing standing between ourselves and our learning is whether we are motivated sufficiently to achieve our dreams. What ever you do, the brain will respond.
Our dynamic brain will embrace learning that you decide is relevant for your short term and your long term memory. However, if you want to develop your long term memory with ideas, knowledge and skills, the brain requires you to practice hard consistently for long periods of time. According to our brains, struggle is good.
That old age saying that if you want to learn something you have to engage in "repetition, repetition, repetition" is now an undisputed fact, according to the neuroscience research.
Neuroscience research about the plasticity of the brain is a tool of gold for teachers.
I believe that all school principals and their staffs should familiarise themselves with the research on the plasticity of the brain and its behaviour. If neuroscience research is telling us that our brains are capable of rewiring themselves, depending on our behaviour patterns, then this is good news for schools. That means that children with learning disabilities are not doomed forever! Teachers can prime the brain to optimize the learning for the children.
These are a few of the highlights I gleaned from the videos:
- Our brains are dynamic organs that have the capacity to change as long as we live. This knowledge gives us hope when working with children with learning disabilities. We need to reframe our thinking and realize that these children, with the right interventions that target their needs, and with hard work and practice, will overcome some of those limitations.
- If we want to change the brain structure and functions dramatically, we have to consistently repeat the desired behaviour intensively over a long period of time. The "use it or lose it" principle is non-negotiable here.
- Regular, consistent, focused exercise is critical. Studies show that short bouts of exercise of about ten minutes enhance learning noticeably. When a task is given to somebody after doing exercise, the structure of the brain (with its grey and white matter) and the functions of the brain change. Children learn better and faster. Neuroscience has proved that it is this easy to improve the learning experience for children in a classroom or elsewhere. No wonder the Chinese teachers who have to incorporate a variety of practical movement exercises in their daily lessons, seem to be able to unlock children's brilliance!
- Sleep is very important for memory consolidation. Even when you sleep, you are learning. Also, when you are asleep, the cortisol - the stress hormone - increases to levels that can help you manage stress.
- Our general health is important because it can affect brain development and brain health. This raises the issue of nutrition, safety and security at home and at school, exercise and a host of other important dynamics that affect children's learning.
- Of significance for School Heads and their staffs is that neuroscience proves that the school environment inside and outside the classroom, has a profound effect on how their children's brains are being developed and shaped for future greatness.
Staff development idea
Why not introduce your staff to these two videos and get the discussion about neuroscience and the amazing possibilities of our brain a talking point in your staffroom? Who knows, this may be just the trigger that teachers need to transform their classroom teaching as child-centred spaces.
Sun Valley Primary School is at the forefront of brain-based teaching. Visit their website and give them a call to request that they share their ideas and practices with your staff.
I would love to hear your views. If you are going to start your brain-based teaching movement at your school, I would be delighted to hear about it. If you are in the Western Cape, you can even invite me over to come and see.
My brain has changed since I started watching the videos, has continued changing while I wrote this post and will still be changing long after I had posted this blog post. This is such a "neat" idea, as Dr Lara Boyd, says.