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1 What ou Y Should Know A bout ur Yo B RAIN the mo st va luabl e info rmati on ten ds to pass into you r Will is Judy thin kin g br ain. When yo u are anx ious, sad , frustra ted, or bore d, br ain fi lte rs co nduct senso ry info rm at io n fr om the ltho ug h the br ai n is an ama zi ng orga n, it’ s not Thes e reactive wor ld aroun d you in to you r reacti ve brain. equ ippe d to pr oce ss the bil lio ns of bit s of infor - brain syste ms do one of thr ee th in gs wi th th e in for mation : mati on that bom bard it ev ery seco nd . Fi lt ers in ignor e it; fi ght again st it as a neg ativ e ex perience (s en ding your brai n prote ct it fro m be co ming over - ou to act inappr ); or av oid it sig nals th at ma y cause opriately y load ed . The se fil ter s con tro l the in format ion A on gets rou ted to this . If inf ormati (caus ing yo u to da ydream) flow so th at onl y ap proxima per tely 2,00 0 bits of inf ormation reac tive br ain, it’s unl ikel y yo ur brai n wi ll tru ly process the secon d en ter th e brain. it. info rm ati on or remember Th re e ma jor br ain elements hel p co ntr ol wh at in format ion The Th inki ng Br ain and the Reactive Brain the limbic your br ain ta ke s in: the reti cul ar acti vati ng sy stem, Onc e sen sory information en ters th e brain, it ’s routed to one syste m, and the tr ansmi tter do pami ne. Let’s loo k at how yo u of two areas : (1) Th e prefron tal cort ex , what we might call the can he lp each on e work in you r fav or. thi nk ing brai n, wh ic h can consc iou sly proces s and ref lect on info rmation; or (2) the lower, au to ma tic brain, what we might reacts - to in form at ion instinc call the reacti ve bra in, which eeper RA S:The Gatek co rtex is tiv ely rathe r th an through thinkin g. The pr efrontal The fir st fil te r th at data passes th rough wh en entering yo ur actually onl y 17 per ce nt of your brain ; the rest mak es up the at th e brain is the re ti cular acti vati ng sy stem (RAS ). Lo cated react iv e bra in . stem), lower ba ck of yo ur brai n (your brain th e RAS rec eiv es When you are not stre ssed by ne gat ive emo ti ons, yo u can input fro m se ns ory nerves th at co me fro m nerv e end in gs in it in to your brain. By calming makes cont rol what in formation and int er nal your eye s, ears, mo uth , face, ski n, muscles, you r brai n, you can control sen so ry dat a from yo ur which organ s and meet at the top of you r sp inal co rd . These senso ry influence env ir on men t your bra in lets in or keep s out —and messa ge s mu st pa ss thr ou gh th e RAS to gain en try to yo ur co rt ex. whic h info rma ti on gets ad mitt ed to you r pr ef rontal highe r, thi nki ng brai n. When you r stre ss levels are do wn and your int erest is hig h, ll y if you keep the RAS filter You wi ll learn mo re successfu A E AT I O NA L E DUC DER SHI P / ASCD 1 L

2 open to th e flow of in form at ion u yo want to enter yo ur pre fron tal corte x. If you bu ild yo ur pow er to focus yo ur att en- in pu t tha t is most valua ble and im po rtan t tion on th e se nsory to attend to at th e momen t, the imp ort ant inpu t will make it you r reac - int o your th inki ng br ain. If you fe el overwhelmed, tive brai n wil l ta ke over. Then , what you experie nce, focus on, and remember wi ll no lon ger be in yo ur cont rol . It ’s the differ - efle ctin g o n and ence betwee n eac tin g to your world. r r W a t Y ou h D o Can  A ke y to ma ki ng your bra in wo rk opti mall y, then, is to keep S I L L I and to devel op yours elf ph ysi ca ll y he althy and we ll rested W L U A awareness of —a nd som e co ntro l ov er— yo ur em otions . Then P F O Y cal ml y and wi th posi tiv e em oti ons. you can app roa ch le arning S E T R U , for exam ple, by Practice foc usi ng an d obse rving yourself O C N O I in wit h your taking a sho rt bre ak from work to check T A R T S emo tions. Jus t ta ke a fe w mi nute s to thi nk about what you’re U L L I take tim e to enjoy feeling. If it’ s a good feeling, it and consider areas show major components of the limbic system The shaded sta te af fects your thi nking. how your go od emotional Do yo u deep brain. the within unde rs tand more and ge t ideas about what you mi ght do wit h ion you’r e learning? If yo u do n’ t like the way the inf ormat puts yo ur brain into survi val mo de, whi ch bl ocks entry of any ve you’r e feeling tim es you’ ve fel t a simi lar negati , thin k about new inf ormatio n into yo ur pr efr ontal co rtex. you What emo tion (li ke anxie ty or lonel iness). has helped off badl y. Yo u ove r- se your day starts Fo r exa mpl e, suppo in the past ? retur n to a bette r mood slept , ha d no ti me fo r br eak fast , and hav e to o many thi ngs to Eve n th oug h you’r e not sl eeping, yo u can thi nk of such your fri ends do be fore sc hoo l. Yo u’r e worried ab out whether the y let your brai n brain br eaks as “sy n-na ps” because will si t with you at lunch ki d in your and af rai d that the mean we’l l reple nish neur otrans mitte rs li ke dopa mi ne (which cla ss wi ll sa y hur tf ul thi ng s to you. disc us s sh or tly ). As you beco me awa re of yo ur em otions, you It ’s not onl y your body that suf fers on thi s kind of da y: Your build brain networks that he lp you co ntr ol your act ions wit h bra in is also stre sse d. Thi s stress cl oses off the pathways your think in g bra in. It al so hel ps to do som et hing act iv e thro ugh the RAS and amy gdala that di rect info rmati on int o during a sh ort br ea k—s uch as toss a ball bac k and forth wi th a your th ink ing brain an d memo ry centers. Unl ess you re st ore a clas sma te, say ing a wor d relate d to yo ur lesson each ti me you posi tiv e mo od, yo u won’t learn much on thi s parti cul ar sc hoo l catch the bal l. day. But if you can turn thi ngs ar ound to beco me cal m and foc use d, yo ur amyg dal a will “deci de” to send new info rma ti on :You r Emo ti ona l Core Th e Lim bic System to yo ur pre fro nta l cortex. on co ming in through your senses Aft er th e informati gets cent ers of thro ugh th e RAS, it trav el s to the sens or y intake your brain . New infor mat io n tha t becom es mem ory is eventu - W u C a n D o Yo at h  cort ex ar senso eas lo cated in brai n lobes that ally st or ed in the ry Slow do wn and ta ke a mo ment to ref lect instead of rea ct whe n are each spe cia li ze d to analyz e dat a fro m one of your five you ta ke a te st at sc ho ol or face soci al co nf licts wi th frie nds. senses . These data mu st first pa ss thro ugh your brain’ s in a ta ke a de ep breath and vi sual ize yo urself You might cor e, the and amygdala syste limbic , whe re your emo tional m ue that he lps yo u choose wha t peaceful pla ce. Ano ther techniq i h ppoc amp us ev al uate whe the r this inf orm at ion is useful can do— ng only humans to do with yo ur em oti ons— somethi beca use it wil l hel p you physicall you y surv ive or bring is to im agi ne yo u’ re dir ecti ng yoursel f in a pl ay. You are the pleas ure. dir ector si tti ng in a balco ny seat watchi ng an acto r (the emot iona l you) on stage bel ow. What advi ce wo ul d you gi ve T he Amygda la the emoti on-f ill ed acto r on the stag e if he or she had be en The amyg dal a is lik e a centra l tra in-ro uti ng st at ion; it’ s a pushe d by a cla ss mate and wanted to hit back, fo r exam ple ? sys te m for rou ti ng inform atio n ba sed on your emoti onal state. yo ur react ive Thi s te chni que he lps you mo ve aw ay fro m using Whe n you exp erie nc e nega tiv e emo ti ons li ke fear, anxiety, or bra in and ta p yo ur thi nk ing brain, wher e mem ori es that might eve n bor edom, fil ter takes up exc ess ive your amygdala’s help you are sto re d. nut rie nts and oxygen. This amo unts of your bra in’s ava ilable set up lessons Your te ache rs pl ay a rol e too . If your teachers E 2 AT I O N AL L EAD ER S HI P / ASCD DUC

3 op am ine : Fe elin g Go od He lps You Learn to include D fun activ ities so that yo u feel good du ri ng a some le sso n, your amy gdala will add a neuro chemi cal enhancement, Dopa mi ne is one of the brain’ s mo st impo rtant neu ro - chi p, tha t strengthens of any lik e a memory the st ayi ng power ans to new info rmati on tra vel m t it t r . Me ssa ges co nnected s er in fo rmation pr esente d in the lesso n. Peo ple actually rememb er from ne uro n to ne uro n as ti ny el ectri cal currents . Like elec - more of wha t the y hea r and read if the y ar e in a posi tiv e But the re ar e tric it y, the se me ss ages need wiring to car ry them. emo tional sta te when they hear or read it. the branches , between s pse na sy gaps, called ct nerv e that conne ca l neur o- cells and the re’s no wiri ng at these gaps. Chemi T he Hi ppocam pus messages ac ross the transmi tte rs like do pami ne carry el ectrical mp Next to th e amy gda la is the hipp oca us . Here, your brain gap from one ne uro n to ano ther. This transmi ssi on is cruc ia l to lin ks new sen sory input to both mem ori es of your past and your brain’ s capa city to pro ces s new inf ormati on. kno wl ed ge alr ea dy sto red in your long -term mem ory to make Yo ur brain re lease s ex tra do pami ne when an expe ri enc e is new l memo ries . These new mem ories are now ready lat re iona do pami ne to tra vel to enj oy able. As posi ti ve emot io ns cause g in your prefr ontal cort ex . for processin mor e pa rt s of your brain, additi onal neuro ns ar e acti va te d. ns hi ghl y Your prefr ontal cort ex contai Thus a boost in do pami ne not onl y develop ed nerv e communication inc re ase s yo ur own sens e of ple asure , network s that proc ess new inform atio n but also inc rease s other neurotra nsmi t- Neurot ra ns mi tte r Ve ssic le s un thro ugh what ar e ca lled execut ive c - f te rs, suc h as acetyl chol ine , tha t enha nc e io s, analysi ng judg ment, , includi ns t alertne ss, me mo ry , and ex ecut iv e func - synap se , probl em solv ing, pla nning, orga nizing . ti ons in the pr efront al cortex and creativi funct io n ty. The exe cutive network s ca n con ve rt shor t- term re la - ou Y t ha W Do n a C  S I L L I es in to long -term tio na l memori memo - Cer tai n activ iti es, such as intera cti ng W L U A and in a rie s. Wh en you ar e focused with friends, laughi ng, phy si cal act ivit y, P F O Y posit ive or control na l sta te , led emotio liste ning to som eo ne read to you, and S E T R U yo ur executi can mo re ve functions acti ng kindl y inc rease do pami ne leve ls. O C N O I suc cessf ully or ga niz e newly code d Yo u’ ll bo ost yo ur learni ng if you get T A R T S synap tic rece pto rs edge . memories in to long -term knowl the m into yo ur day . U L L I Expe rienci ng pr ide at acco mpli shi ng carry Neurotransmitters dopamine like so me thi ng is also corr el ated wi th hi ghe r You t W Do an C a h the synapse. across messages  do pa mine . It will incr eas e yo ur le arni ng g an d pra cticing ng Reviewin somethi po wer if you pur sue acti vi ti es tha t giv e d help s. Nerv e cell s yo u’v e learne Thi nk about you a se nse of accompl ishment. l yo ur persona (n eu ron s) for ge inf orma tion int o me mo ries by sending str eng ths, suc h as artisti c ab ilit y, leadership, hel pi ng classma tes mess ages to ot her neuro ns thr ough bra nches —called ax ons res ol ve conf lic ts, athleti c sk il l, or even quali ti es li ke opt imi sm , and dendri of each neig h- t almos t to uch the branches te s—tha kindne ss, and empa thy . Use thes e sk ill s to do proj ec ts you borin g neur on. It takes lots of co nnect io ns between neurons to want to do —a nd do them well —and yo u’ ll fi nd yo u ca n use rela te each neu ron’ s tiny bit of inf orm at ion to that of other nt s and ul ly to make your brain po wer mo re successf judgme neu ron s so tha t al l the bits add up to a compl ry. et e memo Whe n you revi ew or practice so met hing you’ ve learned, sol ve pro ble ms. ac tu al ly grow between nerve cell s in the network den drites Yo u no w ha ve the pow er to use your mo st po werf ul tool to tha t hold s tha t me mory. achi eve the go als yo u cho ose. Congratul ati ons on the de ndrit es Each time yo u rev ie w tha t kn owl ed ge, thi s me nta l man ip ula - you’ ve gr ow n along the way ! s between the conn ection tio n incre ase s activ ity along cells. nerve r exa mple , studyi ng the ti mes tabl es Repe ated sti mula tion—fo , pr acti ced neur Jud yWi ll is, MD ol ogy for 20 years; she many times —makes st rong er, just like muscl es the network e School in Cal ifornia curr ent ly teaches at Santa Bar bara Middl th e be co me st ro nger whe n you exerci se th em. And that makes She is the and conducts pr ofessional de velopment workshops. memory stay in your brain. Pra ct ic e ma kes permanent . hing ng aut hor of T eac t he Br ain t o Read: Strategies for I m pro vi When you re vi ew new learni ng throug h act io ns, usi ng the ary, and Com uency, 20 08) ; V ocabul pr ehension (ASCD, Fl so lve probl em s, or appl y it to kno wl ed ge to cr ea te something, com ; jw illi sneur www.R ADT each. .com. [email protected] ano ther su bjec t (s uch as using the tim es tabl es to measure the This ha nd out was cre at ed to acco mp an y the art icle “How to Te ach are as of pai nting s for framing the m), thi s mental mani pulati on E ona , ti St uden ts Abo ut th e Brai n,” by Ju dy Willis , uca d l L ea d er shi p and yo ur brai n becomes pathways s the neural stre ngthen ev en (4) . Copy right © 2009 ASC D. 67 more eff icientl y wir ed. E DUC AT I O NA 3 L E A DER SHI P / ASCD L

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