Thursday, March 21, 2013

Great PD Speaker

Remember when you started teaching and you had to go to all sorts of professional development sessions when you really needed to spend time planning and grading?  Remember how few of them spoke to your needs?  Remember feeling frustrated that you truly wanted to learn and think about these things but you were just trying to keep your head above water?  I remember those days…barely.  I consider myself fortunate now to be skilled enough in planning and teaching that I get to go to PD sessions and enjoy them.  Recently I had the opportunity to attend PD sessions by two speakers who were excellent.  Rather than attempt to tell you everything they said, I would just like to share my take-aways.
The first speaker was John Medina, author of Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School . First, let me say that Medina was a wonderful PD speaker.  Speaking to a crowd of teachers – on a Saturday no less – is not an easy task.  Medina brings charisma, humor and ease paired with engaging, provocative content.  There’s your recipe for success as a speaker.  So what did I take from him?

1. Read his book ASAP

2.     The brain is designed to solve problems outside while moving in varying meteorological conditions.  Certainly begs the question…Why do we have schools designed as we do if we want to maximize learning?
3.      We really don’t understand much about how memory works.
4.      It really takes 10 years of thinking about and re-encountering information to truly learn it.  Stop and think about this and consider how fast we cover curricula in schools.  Consider how quickly young teachers frequently leave the profession.  Consider how little support we give young teachers over the course of their first decade.  Consider how proficient we expect any professional to be after just a couple years.  Being good at something takes a while.  Being great?  See Malcolm Gladwell and Outliers.
5.      The brain doesn’t really allow multi-tasking; the medial parietal lobe doesn’t allow it.  I don’t actually know what this means, but I like knowing the brain doesn’t allow multi-tasking.  Now I can focus on one thing and have evidence to support me!
6.      A 26 minute nap begun 12 hours after the midpoint of the prior night’s sleep helps your brain reset itself, and you can then be more aware, better rested, and ready to learn.  I really like this idea for everyone.  And you don’t even have to sleep…simply getting horizontal helps.  Rosenkind at NASA measured the effects of this and saw a 34% increase in performance. 
7.     Generally speaking, we are all either larks, hummingbirds or owls – morning people, day people, and night people.  This is hardwired for most of us.  What would happen if we aligned students’ types and their school schedules?  What if we did the same for teachers?  Imagine lark teachers, teaching lark students from 7 to noon.   
8.       Longevity, youthfulness and aging are determined by your degree of being sedentary.  You can change this.  Regular aerobic exercise for 16 weeks can improve executive functioning of the brain.  However, it takes three years of aerobic exercise to see improvement in memory.  And anaerobic exercise has no impact on brain function.
9.      The single greatest predictor of academic success is the emotional condition and stability of the home.
10.   Stress isn’t the problem; it’s our ability to handle it.  We all have stress.  Improved brain functioning allows us to handle the stress better.   

My greatest take-away was more of a validation.  The way the brain learns and the way we organize school are in opposition.  We could improve schools, learning and over-all achievement if we applied what we know about the brain and child development more effectively.  

In my next post I will share what I learned from three sessions with Dr. Youn Zhao, author of World Class Learners: Educating Creative and Entrepreneurial Students.


Abbas Husain said...

Thank you! Reading this has been a validation for me too!!!! Abbas Husain from Pakistan

Rachel Wilks said...

Thank you for sharing: as someone who has striven for a number of years to explain to learners (and teachers alike) that one-size fits all education programme will never, ever allow everyone to perform at their best, professional, credible validation!

Joe Beckmann said...

One of the most critical observations is how long it takes to know something. The"take away"ought to be teaming -with others who "know things better" -rather than resignation. As one of my students once said, presciently, "I never knew I know something until I taught it to somebody else."

Anonymous said...

I am familiar with this educator because I attended a conference a couple of years ago which was titled Learning and ths Brain. It was an amazing conference. Having a background in Science, I've always thought education practice should include in depth understanding of the workings of the brain.