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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Social Animal: #6--Learning

Learning: High school is a classic social learning lab. Just look at the cafeteria and who sits where to understand the sociology of this environment. Geeks sit in one place, football players in another, socialites in another, and Goths in another. Cliques and “gangs” form. They always will—whether in schools, at work or in prisons. During high school the brain begins pruning unused areas of neural activity. Notably the last part of the brain to get cleaned up is the prefrontal cortex—the executive center of the brain. That’s the part that uses good sense to control outbursts and govern the actions of people. It’s one reason that juvenile records are sealed…we know intuitively that kids will act out and don’t want that to affect the rest of their lives. During this period of “hormonal hurricanes,” girls strongly react to relationship stress but boys (with all that testosterone) relate to “status assaults.” Even when boys are fully grown they have arguments about whose car is faster or whose job pays more. Enter good teachers. They possess equal parts of caring and discipline for their students. They force kids to learn, even at the risk of being less popular. They praise students for hard work, never for being “smart.” Such directed praise keeps kids curious and less likely to protect their “smart” status by always opting for the safer choices. Good teachers expose students to stories, narratives that allow students to hang new-found information on. Finally, good teachers give students a pathway to learning that includes reading, thinking, sleeping on it, reflecting, writing, even using teaching itself.

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