Summer is here!!! Well, actually for me I still have 8 more weeks to go because summer doesn’t arrive until August in Japan. I am really enjoying all of your summer pictures on Facebook though. When August does get here, I fully intend to continue improving my teaching by reading. I love reading, in fact, I read every day rain or shine, busy or not. My day simply does not feel complete unless I have read at least a few pages. I read a lot of books about teaching English as a Second Language but I also read books in lots of other fields. Often I find that those books give me insights into English teaching that are profound and help shape my teaching practices. I want to share with you some of the books I have read this year that are not specifically written for English teachers and how they have either changed how I teach, or changed how I think about teaching. So, go on, grab one of these books and head to wherever you find peaceful and conducive to reading.
How I became acquainted with this book
Long before I read this book, I came across a TED talk entitled “I am my Connectome” given by the author. I loved how he was able to explain incredibly complicated concepts in a clear, easy to understand way using metaphors and a great sense of humor. I showed the talk to my father who then found the book and introduced it to his book club. When they were finished, he sent it to me.
What you will learn by reading this book.
This book is all about the brain, and I love reading about the brain. It was written by a neuroscientist who is studying how the brain is wired together. So far, they are examining a mouse brain and discovering just how complex it really is. It explains how our experiences and thoughts cause the neurons in our brains to form branches and connect with each other causing us to learn. These branches can multiply or die depending on how much we use them and what we either choose to practice or are forced to endure. Every single one of our experiences causes our neurons to change shape and connectedness with other neurons and all of this put together creates our identities. No two brains can be the same because even if we experienced the exact same things at the exact same times in our lives, we experienced them slightly differently. For example, if we are both looking at a leaf blow in the wind, I will be seeing it from a slightly different perspective that you will be seeing it from. My favorite metaphor in the book is that our connectomes are like stream beds. They guide our thoughts just as a stream bed guides the waters of a stream but just as the water of a stream shape the course of the stream, our thoughts also shape our connectomes.
How this has changed the way I think about teaching
This book really made me think about teaching differently. As teachers, we are not just helping students learn something, we are physically changing how our students’ brains are connected together. In doing so we are changing who they are in significant ways. When we encourage our students to read for example, we are expanding and strengthening that area of the brain; when we ask our students to solve problems, memorize vocabulary, listen for different phonemes, all of those things are changing the way our students think.
This is similar to what a surgeon does when he goes in and changes what is happening inside someone’s body and it is important. Teaching is not something to be taken lightly but rather something profound that can have lasting effects, both positive and negative, in our students' lives. By changing the way someone thinks, even in a small way, we are changing who they are and the decisions they will make in their lives. This is profound. I will never again think that what I do doesn’t matter. Teaching is a great joy for me, but it is also a great responsibility and I feel privileged to be doing it.
2. The Spark of Learning: Energizing the College Classroom with the Science of Emotion
Hi, I'm Kia.
I help ESL / EFL teachers create fun, effective courses that students love.