Explore Nueroscience in Education with Dr. Lori Desautels

NEW POST!!! The Essential Life Questions

Why am I here? Why study for this test? What is my purpose in life? Why are most people so stressed, frazzled, or not enjoying the present moment, (the present of a moment?) How can I find meaning in this job? Why even go to school? What does the process of mitosis of a cell have to do with my life?  How can I make this decision?  What are the options?   What happens when I die? What is education? Why do we have wars? 

Please stay in touch with this post as I continually reflect on the essential questions that need to be addressed, played with and pondered in and out of our classrooms. I look forward to your responses!

Essentials for Teaching and Learning 

I have learned through years of research and simply living life that we have been given this powerful gift that collaborates with our intuitive muscle and the  limbic system of the old brain! This gift is our GPS through life… our emotions. We may not be able to shift our thoughts creating happier ones,   as easily as we would like to, but every human is in touch at one time or another with his or her EMOTIONS. Our emotions drive us to think, to act and to live experientially. As educators, parents, business or community leaders or members, it is our natural birthright and privilege to tap into these emotions discovering how we are doing on this journey of life… Are you frustrated? Feeling pinched or tight? Frazzled? Are you enjoying these experiences you have consciously or subconsciously created? Does it feel exciting to you? Peace-filled?  Do you find yourself in the same stream of emotions with the cycling or reoccurence of the same circumstances or thoughts?  

In child and adolescent years, the limbic system which holds the emotional driving force, the amygdala and hippocampus which work together to make emotional connections memorable   -negative or positive are more developed or are devleoping earlier than the pre-frontal cortex of our newer brain. The pre-frontal cortex is the place behind our foreheads that is the seat of responsible decision-making. It is the executive place of logical sequential and spatial reasoning. Sometimes the maturation of this part of the brain doesn’t fully occur until mid or late twenties! BUT, we do know that experiences shape the brain and when a child or adolescent is given experiences to play with, many options or choices for the stimulation of creative thinking, these exercises of choice can only help the maturation process along!

Dr. Susan Millstein, a psychologist at the University of California at SanFrancisco who has just completed the first long term study of teenagers’ perception of risk, has found that they don’t necessarly consider themselves immortal, at least not any more than the rest of us. They are scared of all sorts of thigs: dying, their parents dying, getting hurt, getting bad grades, and getting kicked out of their group. But here is the difference  she reports. Teenagers sometimes do not feel they have options, they are in touch with their emotions, but they do not know how to problem solve, to create or generate options for clarity for  decision making opportunities!  Teenagers do think and feel, but they are still devloping the the skills they need to make for improved decisions, weighing options and creative choices.

So here is where the essential life questions come into play! We begin by assisting one another in recoginizing our feelings or emotions, then we begin to ask the questions generating together lists of options, choices, and brainstorming what is applicable or appropriate, in alignment with what one values and desires.  Fron the book, The Primal Teen, Barbara Strauch states, “A young girl may truly believe that the only way to keep her boyfriend is to have sex with him; it’s a social benefit she is after, says Dr. Millstein. They may not be as good at it as adults, but children and adolescents weigh the costs and benefits in theirw own ways, just like everyone else!  “The Primal Teen”, by Barbara Strauch.

So we begin this wonderful journey together assisting one another with choice, opportunity, options and the value of emotional connections. Nothing is good, bad, right or wrong, unless we make it so in our minds.   When we ask one another the essential questions we need not to prepare to respond!! We need to open ourselves and place ourselves inside the world of the other if only for a brief moment. How many of us truly listen for understanding? I believe that through habit, we often times are listening but only as much as we are preparing our definitive response or retort or argument…  

Here is what I propose, we must begin to go beyond academics in the schools! This is not adding additional curriculum, it is enhancing what we teach and learn. When we provide opportunities for our students to acknowledge and name how they feel and what is going on inside their worlds, when we listen we are able to sit beside them and facilitate ways to problem -solve to critically think, to choose different experiences, to be aware of the GPS in our bodies, our emotions! This is the crux, the core of an extravagant education!

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