I don't have training in brain chemistry or biology. But sometimes, people act like I should. “You're teaching, right? And you don’t know what the hippocampus does?” Neither do the people asking that question, but they still have a point. I need refreshers on the structure of the brain, which is why I have this article bookmarked. It quickly describes how the brain works and gives a quick example of that in the classroom.
I am a big fan of science and data. Tell me an anecdote about something, and I'll enjoy the story. Show me the science behind the anecdote, and I'll believe it’s real. TED talks are great at doing both. They tell stories, but they focus on research and science. When researching the middle school brain, I stumbled across this video. MRIs? Actual studies? Such things help me remember how adolescents are different.
People wonder about how tough it is for middle school students to deal with their emerging sexuality. As their teacher, I worried more about how their brain was changing — mostly because I didn't have a clear idea of what was happening. Then I discovered this article. It made a big difference in how I viewed my students. For example, knowing abstract reasoning suddenly made social anxiety much worse helped me empathize with them.
When I told people I was teaching middle school students, some reacted as if I were going off to war. “Just think of all those hormones!” I never thought it was a big deal, but I could never explain why it wasn't a problem. Last year, I found this article. I wish I had known it sooner, but now I just ask people to read it. After a quick piece of brain growth, it lists concrete suggestions for how to teach middle school minds better.
I've said it before. While I appreciate details, narratives, and research, sometimes I just want to know what I can do tomorrow in class. This article does a bit of both. I loved how it started with the parts of the brain activated by the learning process, but then it goes into eight specific tips I could use with my students. When I introduced “syn-naps” in my Language Arts class, students both behaved better and learned more.
I don't agree with people who think middle school is especially hard to teach, but I won't deny that it’s different. I remember having one 7th-grade class that was particularly hard to teach. I looked online for help and stumbled across this .PDF article. Wow, did this make a difference! It mostly helped by turning my own thoughts around. Instead of seeing annoying pre-teens, I saw immature people who needed extra help.