You’ve probably heard that our brains have a left and a right side. The left side of the brain is the one responsible for organizing our thoughts and makes us think logically. The right side of our brain is the emotional half; we have it to thank for our feelings. What does this mean for us, and for teachers, parents, caregivers, our children and their development, and the way we teach them?
There are things in life we do automatically, like washing dishes, doing laundry or making a sandwich. When we perform these activities our brains use “implicit memory”; the ability to recall a specific learning. We have done these activities so many times that our brain is ready to respond. It’s amazing how our brains can go from 0 to 10 in mastering an activity just by repetition.
I have a very vivid memory of when I started driving, since I learned relatively “late” at 23 years old. Prior to my early twenties, I didn’t “have the need” to learn to drive. My parents, friends, or relatives would drive me anywhere I needed to go. Even though I didn’t “have the need,” I really wanted to have my own car, and experience the independence that comes with having your own transportation. I started saving money from every paycheck and making decisions that every unmarried, child-free, still living at home, young adult will consider as “sacrifices”. I stopped going out every weekend with friends and buying clothes. Having almost saved enough money for a down payment, I realized that I needed to learn how to drive, so I started receiving classes from professionals and my parents. There were moments where I felt very desperate, insecure, and scared that I wouldn’t achieve a specific task at the pace I wanted (which was right away). It took time and practice, repetition and correcting mistakes. But my goal was very clear: I wanted to buy a car and in order to do so I needed to have my license, learn to drive and pass the driving test.
When I think about this experience, I know that the right side of my brain (the one experiencing feelings and emotions) was helping me overcome these obstacles. The desire and excitement to own a car was connecting the left side of my brain (the logical one) which was learning to drive the car. This connection, this “teamwork”, is what neuroscientist calls “an integrated brain.” An integrated brain is able to achieve much more than its individual parts alone. Thanks to this “full brain” activity I was able to thrive.
Taking these examples into consideration, we can understand what a powerful learning experience is involved with both the logical and emotional sides of our brains.
From birth to 3 years old, the right side of the human brain dominates. Children this age live in the moment and are controlled by emotions and feelings. They are not yet thinking logically since their left brain is still developing. Adults should use this time to their advantage by helping to connect new skills with emotions.
When we provide learning experiences that are positive for our children, we create a stronger foundation in their learning. Laughing and having fun with your children while they learn and play makes learning a fun and positive experience.
Think about things that you would like to see your children thrive within and find importance in. Think about the skills you find important for them to master to achieve school readiness or to be successful in school. Now, think about how you, as a caregiver or parent, have the most important tool: a relationship with your children. You can have a direct impact in their learning and the way they perceive learning. Make it count, make it fun, make it a positive experience.
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