I have a slightly bizarre fascination with the brain. I have always loved the study of anatomy, and I especially love learning about how the brain develops and all of the intricacies of the brain. It's also why I love being involved in education and child development. What and how kids are able to learn is, excuse the pun, mind-blowing! Recently, I finished listening to the book When Breathe Becomes Air. As part of the story, the author describes some of his operations that he conducted as a neurosurgeon. Here is a section from the book:
“Once, I was doing a late-night case with one of the neurosurgery attendings, a suboccipital craniectomy for a brain-stem malformation. It’s one of the most elegant surgeries, in perhaps the most difficult part of the body—just getting there is tricky, no matter how experienced you are. But that night, I felt fluid: the instruments were like extensions of my fingers; the skin, muscle, and bone seemed to unzip themselves; and there I was, staring at a yellow, glistening bulge, a mass deep in the brain stem. Suddenly, the attending stopped me. “Paul, what happens if you cut two millimeters deeper right here?” He pointed. Neuroanatomy slides whirred through my head. “Double vision?” “No,” he said. “Locked-in syndrome.” Another two millimeters, and the patient would be completely paralyzed, save for the ability to blink. He didn’t look up from the microscope. “And I know this because the third time I did this operation, that’s exactly what happened.” Neurosurgery requires a commitment to one’s own excellence and a commitment to another’s identity. The decision to operate at all involves an appraisal of one’s own abilities, as well as a deep sense of who the patient is and what she holds dear. Certain brain areas are considered near-inviolable, like the primary motor cortex, damage to which results in paralysis of affected body parts. But the most sacrosanct regions of the cortex are those that control language. Usually located on the left side, they are called Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas; one is for understanding language and the other for producing it. Damage to Broca’s area results in an inability to speak or write, though the patient can easily understand language. Damage to Wernicke’s area results in an inability to understand language; though the patient can still speak, the language she produces is a stream of unconnected words, phrases, and images, a grammar without semantics. If both areas are damaged, the patient becomes an isolate, something central to her humanity stolen forever. After someone suffers a head trauma or a stroke, the destruction of these areas often restrains the surgeon’s impulse to save a life: What kind of life exists without language?"
As I was listening to the above passage as well as a few others, the phrase "well it's not like it's brain surgery" kept jumping into my head. The author certainly did a great job of explaining how specific and painstakingly detailed brain surgery truly is. Can you imagine the stress of a job like that? Just the slightest mistake and you take away someone's ability to speak. One millimeter too deep and you paralyze someone. I just don't know if I could handle the stress of a job like that. But then I started thinking...
What if we as educators started thinking of our jobs the same way that neurosurgeons think of their jobs? What if teaching really was viewed as brain surgery? A brain surgeon has a bad day, makes a millimeter mistake, and a person's life function is forever changed. An educator has a bad day, doesn't connect with a student, doesn't give his or her all to teaching and learning, and a child's life is forever changed. We really are responsible for molding kids' brains. Our actions, our words, every day, thanks to neuroplasticity, have the power to positively impact and get synapses firing or negatively impact and disrupt those synapse connections.
The responsibility that is in the hands of a brain surgeon is tremendous. Guess what? I would argue that the responsibility that is in the hands of every educator is even greater. And here's the tough thing. A person might only have one instance in his or her whole life where they have to trust that a neurosurgeon will not make a mistake, will not change them forever. But a child has to trust that every year, every day, the teacher (and all of the other teachers that they will have) will not make a mistake, will not change them forever.
Some may say "well it's not like it's brain surgery" when referring to the teaching profession. I am going to have to disagree. Educating children is like brain surgery. We are molding their brains. They are trusting us to take care of them and their amazing brains. They are counting on us, all of us, to make the right decisions, to be focused and precise, to be prepared to go the distance for them, to not make a wrong move, but instead make all kinds of right moves in order to help those beautiful, amazing, delicate, fascinating brains grow.
So get ready! You are needed in the operating rooms more commonly known as our classrooms. There are complex brain surgeries to perform. There are kids who need you to commit to giving them nothing but the best possible care.
Are you ready to scrub in?
I am still really enjoying listening to The Power of Moments. And it's giving me lots of ideas for future blog posts. I highly recommend that you check out this book when you get a chance, lots of great stories within it. I love this new picture book I just bought: Malala's Magic Pencil. It's a great book about a little girl who works hard to turn her wishes into reality. I am looking forward to reading it to different classrooms on Thursday.
I am also very excited about a new book purchase called Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children's Literature as an Adult. In this book, the author revisits classic children's books, such as The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Charlotte's Web, and The Cat in the Hat, and explores the backstories of the books and the authors that wrote them.
Monday - 3rd grade team meeting @ 2:45
Tuesday - Teachers need to have report cards completed, School Council meeting @ 8:00, 4th grade "Wonder" field trip
Wednesday - 2nd grade team meeting @ 8:15, 1st grade team meeting @ 8:30
Thursday - Kindergarten team meeting @ 8:30
Friday - Curriculum half day, 12:15 dismissal, no lunch served, K-2 math focus, 3-4 ELA focus
Great things I noticed last week:
- Loved seeing high school students helping our students with Hour of Code activities!
- Caught 2nd graders working on their basketball moves with Ms. Kinneen in the gym.
- Thanks to the PTA for bringing Melissa Stewart to our school! Loved popping into her sessions over the 2 days that she was with us. Can you believe she has written 191 non-fiction books! And many of them are in our classroom libraries!
A friend shared this video clip with me, pretty great story about the power of one caring adult: