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Neuroscience Blast!

posted Oct 11, 2015, 4:10 AM by Julie Bassi

Neuroscience…for kids!

whole-hearted concepts/strategies to ponder...




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Our Mindset about Student Behavior Shapes our Responses


  • All kids learn better in environments that make them feel safe and understood

  • Behaviors tend to be symptoms of what’s going on in their lives

  • Brains are constantly evolving based on survival needs and needs for connection

  • Under good enough circumstances, it takes about 25 years for the systems for regulating thought, behaviors, and emotions to be fully developed

  • We can assume that a given misbehavior occurs because the child can’t quite do it on his own yet and/or the situation is beyond what her current brain structure and coping toolbox can handle alone

  • When a child is connected with someone supporting and caring—through the social synapse—the capacity for coping goes up significantly

  • Skills of self-regulation develop through loving, trusting and attuned safe relationships through a process of co-regulation

  • When consequences are a part of helping a child learn healthy self-regulation, it’s the processes of attunement and co-regulation that are doing the heavy lifting

    • Attunement: in any caring relationship, the dance of “are you ok? Am I ok? Are we ok?”; the process part of empathy

    • Co-regulation: using our affect to help a child regulate hers

  • Brain cells are like muscles... the more they are used the stronger & more efficient they get

  • When neural networks form, they can become self-fulfilling prophecies - for better or worse...if the neural network is “I hate school,” it’s hard to turn back

  • We can either work to provide experiences that confirm that network and make it fire and make it stronger,  or we can provide disconfirming experiences that begin to build a “school’s not too bad” or a “school is pretty cool” network

  • Past experiences are coded in a way such that we expect our current experience to be like our past experiences, regardless of what is really happening

  • Both have survival value, but, when school feels threatening, it makes it very difficult to learn in general AND makes it difficult to change a pattern of responding

  • Any disconnection is threatening, so we cannot help but feel unsafe when...

    • Being judged, evaluated

    • Given feedback (even constructive criticism)

    • Another’s agenda seems more important than mine (e.g., redirection, being asked to wait)

    • I’m competing with others to get my needs met

  • There are dozens, if not hundreds, of situations that can trigger feeling unsafe at school and home every day

  • If we consciously and continually work to help children feel safe:

    • We turn down fight or flight responses

    • We build trust and with trust, less energy needed to scan for safety and more is available for learning and connection

    • We open up capacity for connection and collaboration

    • We open up possibilities for joyful and playful learning

    • We begin to lay down the foundation of a “school is not so bad” “homework is not so bad” neural network

    • We’re more likely to find meaning and satisfaction in our lives - as parents, teachers, leaders of young people





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