During the course of this class, I have gained an understanding of how the brain of both adults and children functions, from the areas of the brain that effect language, to the difference between the male and female brains. Throughout each week, I have attempted to take what I learn in this course and apply it directly to my work in the classroom.
As an early childhood educator, my students are at a point in their development when their brains are growing rapidly. Synapses are forming and children are wildly curious about the world around them (Wolfe, P. 2010). I have aimed at providing as many discovery opportunities for the children in my class as possible. This class has helped me make sense of the developing brains of my children and guided me through their brain development and learning process.
In her book, Brain Matters, Wolfe discusses the concept of “sensitive periods” of learning for young children. Many parents and educators believe that children have a period of brain development where it is easier for them to retain certain skills, such as language. Wolfe claims that during this time, a normal environment with plenty of adult interaction is all that is needed for children to develop properly. I encounter many parents who believe that children need extra stimulation to aid in brain development and learning during these times. I am now able to point to research that suggest otherwise and better able to provide the best environment for children to grow.
Along the topic of a sensitive period of learning for children, I am able to reflect on the idea that there is a difference between brain science and educational psychology. The topic of a sensitive period for learning is better categorized as the latter. Most of the educational philosophies followed by teachers today stems from research in educational psychology rather than brain science. Advances in brain science will bring us educational solutions such as how to cure autism, strategies for fighting learning disorders or preventing them all together. I sincerely hope that these advances come soon as they will add a new level of clarity to the field of education.
I think the most useful portion of this class has been the chapter I read on the three levels of learning in Wolfe’s Brain Matters. Wolfe describes the three levels of learning and how children create networks based on different subjects. They eventually begin to connect these networks to create a large web of knowledge. The best that I can do as an early childhood educator is to continue to expand these networks for children and help create new connections. When we discuss a topic in class, it is my job to expand on it in as many ways as possible, exposing children to new ideas and new pieces of knowledge for their network. I have taken this to heart during my lessons each day and I work hard to answer questions, explore new ideas, and even google things with my children.
I enjoyed spending time reading through Brain Rules by John Medina and have even recommended it to a few of my friends. Both the book itself as well as the presentations created by everyone helped explain a lot of why people function as they do. My assigned chapter was on gender and how males and females brains are different. The highlight of this chapter for me was the explanation of why women tend to be more emotional. Medina claims that women’s brains are more often than not hardwired to remember the details of an emotional situation, where men tend to remember the gist of something. This generally concerns only emotional reactions to situations. Therefore, men and women respond to high stress or emotional situations the same, women are perceived as more emotional because they have more emotional data to recall than men. This, admittedly, was very validating as a woman, but also helpful as an educator. Young children tend to have emotional responses on impulse and having a better understanding of their brain’s emotional response to stressors helps me better equip myself to handle various situations. It has helped me when dealing with girls interacting vs. boys interacting. The boys in my class might fight with one another, get mad, walk away, and several minutes later they are back together again building. The girls however, are an emotional mind field as they play together. I often hear choruses of “you’re not my friend” or “they don’t like me” in the back if the classroom. A better understanding of how girls deal with things has helped me handle those situations and, more importantly, helped me explain to parents exactly what is going on with their daughters.
Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pears Press.
Wolfe, P. (2010). Brain matters: Translating research into classroom practice. Alexandria, VA: ASDC