skip to main content
Understanding the Student Brain: Learning Brain vs Survival Brain

Understanding the Student Brain: Learning Brain vs Survival Brain

February 13, 2019
At ELS, students thrive in smaller classrooms, and enjoy the freedom to learn which includes permission to not always get it right.  Perhaps you have a memory of being in a situation as a learner where expectations felt heavy? One mistake can set you up for the risk of ridicule, leaving you never wanting to volunteer again. View this video for more thoughts on the brain, success vs. trauma...
I remember being in a large classroom with an overtired teacher in the sixth grade. It was my first day at a new school. I was excited and ready to engage. My teacher had passed out our English books and asked us to write a paragraph describing the cover picture. After a few minutes she asked for volunteers to read what they had written. I was the first to raise my hand.  To my surprise and decided shame, my colorful reading was not met with praise or constructive criticism, but rather harsh tones and mocking giggles from my new teacher and classmates.  She really didn't like my description of people in the market place 'walking to and fro from table to table. "To and fro! To and fro!" she repeated. "What kind of a phrase is that?!"  

I wanted to run and hide.

Now I know that what I experienced was a form of trauma. Our brains process trauma differently than they do success and security (The Whole-Brain Child by Dr. Dan Siegel and Dr. Tina Payne Bryson). If we think of our brain as a hand, it can either be open and ready or closed into a fist.  When we are feeling safe in our learning environment, the hand is open and ready to receive. If we feel threatened or unsafe, new information has a difficult time coming into grip because our hand is balled up in fear.  Many students struggle in school because of fear. Fear of failure, rejection, and sadly even fear of relationships they're dealing with in school or at home can grip us into places of isolation.  School should be a safe environment, a refuge where all kinds of children can come to learn and focus on positive growth every day.  School should be like a garden where beautiful minds flourish and enjoy the rich soil of experimentation and imagination.
At Emmanuel, you can know that your child is not only well tended and cared for, but also surrounded with encouragement and freedom. Freedom to take a guess, give it a try, share their thoughts, love to learn and ask questions! Freedom OVER fear, is a large component to everyone's success. We would like to invite your child to come inside, take a seat and get ready to soar.
For more thoughts on the brain, success vs. trauma, watch this video: