Learning and the Brain: Executive Functions Part III


“It’s impossible.”  “It’s too hard.”  “I want to give up.”  “I don’t think I can do it.”

Do any of those sound familiar? All of us, at some point in our lives, have likely heard that voice in our head say things as we begin a task that challenges us beyond the norm. For some, that task could be learning algebra or chemistry; for others, it could be learning how to drive or how to juggle.

Heather Clayton, our Director of Learning, hosted her third Learning and the Brain lecture of the school year this week, during which she challenged parents to learn how to juggle. Those internal excuses above (the ones about the task being impossible and wanting to give up) are what parents said ran through their minds when Heather challenged them. SMUS-LearningAndBrain-JugglingBalls

“It’s pretty hard to get going when you feel that way; to initiate a task when you feel that way. So let’s think about some of our kids and ‘math is not my strong point.’ I’m imagining that some of the things that go through their head aren’t much different than what we’ve just articulated,” Heather tells parents.

The third Brain lecture centered around Task Initiation, Sustained Attention and Goal-Directed Persistence. Beginning with definitions of each, and how they apply to students of all ages, Heather offered strategies for parents to help their children work through the mental roadblocks that come with starting, working through and finishing something that may be overwhelming; all this with an eye on developing your child’s executive functions (those necessary qualities that help us negotiate life more smoothly). The full session is below.

This lecture was the last Heather will lead this school year, but SMUS will host more Learning and the Brain talks in the Spring, during and after our annual Brain Awareness Week (April 13-17).

For more information on the Learning and the Brain Series, including videos from many of the previous lectures, go to our Brain portal.

More Resources for Parents

Motivated to Learn: A Conversation with Daniel Pink – Educational Leadership

Inside Your Teenager’s Scary Brain – Maclean’s Magazine


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