Saturday, March 1, 2014

Who's Driving the Bus - Neuroscience and Teaching

Neuroscientists have now discovered that between 95-99% of what we think is unconscious.

When we understand how our brains work we know that with every thought there is a corresponding behaviour or reaction. So what are the implications if the majority of our thinking is out of our awareness?

Maybe like me you are thinking this means that the majority of our behaviours and reactions are not only automatic but are preprogramed by pour brains. Added to this we have no idea of why we sometimes behave the way we do. Well the good news is now you know why you sometimes behave in ways that are unproductive to yourself and others. At the base of all your behaviours are a bunch of thoughts. Now before we move onto what we can do about this let's take a moment to look at the implications to teaching and education that this can have.

If the majority of your behaviours are unconscious and consist of a lifetime of thinking both good and bad how might this affect your teaching and interaction with your students. Before continuing let me share an interesting study they did in USA some years ago. Researchers in the study followed around for an entire day 100 school children and monitored the number of positive and negative comments they received. The results where 694 negative comments to 72 positive comments. What this shows us is that we are conditioned from an early age to think more in negative terms than positive ones. To test this theory think about what happens when you get out of bed of a morning do you say to yourself wow this is going to be fantastic day and I know everything is going to be just perfect. Or do you think I better hurry up or I will be late for work or I wonder if I am going to get stuck in traffic again or I just bet X is going to give me a hard time today or Oh no I have to attend that meeting don't really have the time and I am not prepared. I could go on but I will spare you the drama. If we are truly honest with ourselves most of what we think is more in terms of negative outcomes rather than positive ones.

So the real question is what are you bringing into your educational environment each day and how is this impacting on students and work colleagues? If again we are truly honest with ourselves then we will start to realise and understand that the majority of our interactions are not based in the present moment but in the past and that past is shaped by negative influences. Now if we take this down a notch even further and start to reflect on our problematic students and work colleagues we would see that sitting behind those interactions are thoughts and beliefs that have negative based thinking. To test this out now compare the thoughts about students and work colleagues that you don't have issues with and ask yourself are the thoughts and beliefs positive. Why is it that we have positive thoughts towards some people and negative thoughts towards others? Yep you guessed correctly it is all part of that 95-99% of thinking that is unconscious to us and to add insult to injury it is a by product of our past experiences.

So getting back to our students how many are being adversely affected by the fact that we are unaware of the majority of our thoughts and beliefs? More importantly are you prepared to do something about it? You need to realise that this isn't personal we are not bad people because our brains have been conditioned to behave and react in less than perfect terms. In fact it is quite liberating to know that it is just a fact of life and the way our brains are built that we behave in less than productive ways. It has nothing to do with you as a person but the way that you brain works and the less than perfect environment we live in.

What is a measure of your character is whether you are prepared to do something about it. Do you want to take back control of driving the bus or will you continue to let your programmed brain run rampant?

Here are a list of suggestions for taking back control.

1. Start to become aware of your thoughts especially when things are not going the way you want them to.

2. When you realise that your thoughts are giving way to unproductive behaviours stop and ask yourself if I had to see this situation in positive terms what would that look like. Once you have a vision continue to hold this until the situation changes.

3. Surround yourself with positive minded people. Don't get into the habit of speaking negatively about other and situations. This will only reinforce the neurological connections that are causing you to be behave in unproductive ways. If you don't have a group which is solution orientated rather than problem centred create one.

4. Read and listen to inspirational quotes, stories and visualisations.

5. Get tough with yourself and decide if you are happy with your thinking and make a commitment to change it. Use the power of emotion and passion to change your thinking to envision outcomes that create extraordinary performance in yourself and your students. Your brain is very powerful and when used correctly all things are possible.

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