I am sometimes what could be considered an educational "nerd". I've been watching this new show this fall, something about the Big Bang, whose premise is two physics geniuses (often labeled as "nerds") befriending a beautiful blond across the hall and the inconsistencies in their social skils. This week, one of the physicists dressed as the Doppler Effect for Halloween and while he was quite excited about it, other people were more amused at his excitement as opposed to his creativity. I can relate to what's-his-name since I often get the courtesy nod when I am off and running about educational research. It's not that others are not interested, I'm just a nerd and act like I have received my Limited Collection whatever-would-be-cool to other people when I get educational journals or when I find interesting research online. I was like a kid at Christmas when I got my copy of the current Handbook of Learning Disabilities and squealed like I'd seen a mouse when I found an Educator's Diagnostic Manual (the educational version of the DSM). . . . I get groupie-like when I hear names like Sam Kirk, Levine, Lavoie, Lerner or other names that I've read in journals or textbooks. Working with LDA of MI, I have been fortunate enough to meet many folks I have read or who have been the "backbones" of LD or educational research and I admit I tend to be amazed to meet the people behind the names. I realize they are all people, mere humans, but these are people who often inspire me in my profession. These are the people who challenge my mental sets and provide me with tools for continually improving my practice. They are my "teachers" in a sense.
This fall, I have been practically glowing because I had the opportunity to one of my top favorites: Dr. David Sousa. Of course, I have to admit that my glowing was tempered with hope, because there are times when you meet some of your idols and it's not as pleasant as you would hope. Chalk it up to stress, jetlag, focus on their work,or simple personality differences, but it can be disappointing to meet someone you admire and realize that you admire their work more...
Well, Dr. Sousa spoke at the Learning Disabilities Association of Michigan's Annual Conference at the end of October and I was not disappointed in any fashion. Dr. Sousa was a fantastic and educational speaker as well as a friendly and gracious person. I consider myself fortunate to have heard his keynote and was inspired when he defined the necessity of having good educators. He said that educators "changed brains" and that only educators are expected to change brains daily as part of their job. Even neurosurgeons are required to take a certain amount of hours between brain surgeries so their bodies can return to a healthy pattern of regulation.
What a powerful statement! Learning is a process of developing, or changing, the brain and (hopefully) training it to work more efficiently as we work to gain larger knowledge bases. As educators, this presents us with what can be an overwhelming responsibility, but this responsibility is also exciting. We are changing brains daily and classroom teachers are working with the same brains daily which is an honor not many professions can claim.
If educators have the responsibility for changing brains, then we certainly have a responsibility to understand the brain to the best of our ability. I have to admit, I am a huge fan of Dr. Sousa's so I am slightly biased, but I am a student of his work because his work makes sense.
As a teacher, and as a parent with children in Montessori classrooms, my other favorite part from his keynote address that day was: What types of teaching methods are we using? How old is our knowledge of the brain and how it works? We are now living in 2007 with PET scans and MRI's. Children are coming to school with 2007 Brains. What brains are we teaching to?