NCGE #1 Joann Deak is my hero.

I, as you may know, have very low expectations for conferences.  I have found about 1/2 of the ones I have attended to be total crap.  Of the other half, about 1/4 have some quality sessions and some bad, and the last 1/4 or so of conferences have been solidly good.  I am hard to please.  I want amazing information that is directly applicable to my school/classroom, information that I didn’t know before or, at least, to make lasting connections with other participants.  Due to what are apparently ridiculously high standards I leave most conferences disappointed. I have instead decided to hope to come out of them with just one thing that I can bring back, just one morsel of something that I didn’t know before.

So as I left the hallowed halls of my school and boarded the plane for the National Conference on Girls’ Education I was mostly excited for the adventure of traveling and less so for actual conference.

I was wrong. I am being surprised. Amazed, even.

I’ll talk about the sessions I went to in a later post but instead I want to tell you about Joann Deak, the first keynote speaker.  Joann Deak is a psychologist. I will now attempt to explain what I learned from her:  Our brain is full of rubberbands, hundreds of millions of rubberbands, some of them bigger and some smaller all based on genetics. There are windows of time in our lives when we have the ability to greatly stretch those rubberbands.  So say you are genetically inclined to be a verbal learner, your mom and or dad is a verbal learner and it is just the easiest way for you to learn, from age birth to 10 (possibly a smaller window I don’t know exactly) you should do as much learning in ways that you are not naturally inclined to in order to stretch those rubberbands.  Her research (in my mind) should absolutely change the way that we are teaching children from birth to ten.

Craziest fact from her talk:  They have narrowed down the window for learning to make sounds in a different language (i.e. rolling your r’s) to 8-10 months meaning speaking to your child in a different language at that age is going to great enhance their ability to learn that language later because their rubber bands were stretched at the right age. (Also crazy, this only works if the person is in the room.  The baby’s brain does not respond to video or sounds, even if it is the mother’s voice.)

Here’s the video for her new book which explains this whole concept better than I could:

The other part of her speech may be a little bit more controversial.  She made a statement that when people make it usually pisses me off but then she quickly followed it up.  She told us that women’s and men’s brains are different (part that makes me angry) but not all women and not all men(okay, I’m back in).  There seems to be an 80/20 rule that rule basically says that 80% of women have typical women brains her example of what makes”women brains” was most women have language centers on both sides and men only have language centers on one. Again, not all women. So, even teaching at a single sex school I do not teach only one type of brain.

Then she went on to speak about how women are neurologically programed to not want to make mistakes.  Think about eggs vs. sperm.  Women get all the eggs we are going to get when we are born.  That’s it, you don’t get any extra.  Men on the other hand make millions of sperm each day.  I laughed at this when she said it but it makes a lot of sense. We are genetically designed to feel as though we don’t have room for mistakes.  This totally screws us up as mistakes are the best possible way to learn.

Alright, main points for those of you who have found this post long and rambling:

  • There are windows of time where you brian elasticity is the at it’s most
  • You should challenge yourself most in those times
  • You can change your brain til you die (it’s just harder outside the windows)
  • Boy and girls brains are different (not all girls not all boys)
  • Lastly, we are creating lopsided brains with all the visual stimulation we give kids at such young ages (I think this is hugely important)

Up next (this post is much to long for more) Senator Kirstin Gillibrand’s speech and how I want to be her best friend.

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3 thoughts on “NCGE #1 Joann Deak is my hero.

  1. Glad you are writing again…interesting stuff. I FINALLY started the blog I have been thinking about writing for the past year (doingmathematics.com). Hope all is well with you.

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