Do students need to know how their brains work?

Patty McLain
Brain science may seem confusing or difficult to many people, but the truth is that a basic understanding of how our brains work can help students in so many ways - especially for students who struggle with self-regulation.

After watching a student who was labeled as the “worst” student in his school have a major breakthrough about his own behavior, I realized that there are some important reasons that we can and should help our students understand their nervous systems a little better.
  1. Once students realize that their nervous system is built for survival and not compliance, they can better understand how they can unintentionally get themselves in trouble.

  2. After they understand that their nervous systems are built for survival, they can develop a deeper understanding of why that does not (and cannot) get them out of trouble.

  3. They can then leverage their understanding of stress and survival responses to notice warning signs and develop skills and habits that will allow them to slow down, regulate, and get to a place where they can think clearly and make good choices.

  4. Last but not least, they can be empowered with an understanding of neuroplasticity so they know that they are not “stuck” in any particular way of being.

Empowering students with a basic understanding of brain science can help students go from “there’s something wrong with me and I’m broken” to “this makes sense even though it isn’t working for me and I can do something to change it.”

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