Stress and Learning

Oak tree stand with path and bench park

There are things I wish I had actually realized, and not just known, a few years back.  This is one of them – The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning  While they are talking about tests and the stress put on students in conjunction with them, I read it in light of a parent of kids who had early childhood trauma.  No THAT is stress, and it does have an affect on kids of all ages.

When Jack and George were young I wanted to make sure they were not missing anything in any areas, academically and socially.  Early Intervention was called in early on, and George was enrolled in the Early Childhood program in our area.  If you had been a bug on our wall, what you would have heard around here might have sounded like an episode of Home Speech Class 101.  We talked in shorter sentences, encouraged the correct pronunciation of words, over exaggerated the sounds of certain letters, spent many evenings on the porch naming the kind and color of vehicles going by, etc.  I am pretty sure it would have been quiet entertaining as my husband and I are NOT speech therapist in any sort of way.

There were other areas we were trying to work on, but speech was top of the list.  That in itself was enough.  The stress our kids were going through at that time was more than any kid should have to go through.  Being taken from all you know and moved (several times) in a short time frame between people you do not really know, to then end up in an area that is unknown to you, in a family that has different routines and expectations … it is enough to stress out even an adult.

I knew trying to reduce stress was the most important factor to any kid learning and retaining information.  Even now I am fully aware of how extra stress will lessen the amount of information that can be retained.  What I did not realize was how little the stress needed to be.

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain’s learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments.

Even neurotypical kids are affected by the levels of stress in a class room when it comes to test taking.  But the research did not stop there, thankfully.  They used this information to find ways to combat and reduce this stress level.

With brain-based teaching strategies that reduce classroom anxiety and increase student connection to their lessons, educators can help students learn more effectively.

This is what I am looking to accomplish with both our kids.  The stress after school, along with a very tired brain, makes doing homework with George very challenging.  With Jack, add in sensory issues that increases his stress levels, and the school day can be one big battle if we are not careful.  (After all, that is what was happening in public school for him.)

Knowing that adding pressure to the situation will only back fire on what you are trying to do, actually alleviates that situation some.  It means that I do not have to be more of a drill sergeant or require more practice at some things, though there is a time and place for that.  Sometimes it means that we need to look at the environment and see how we can make the kids more comfortable, relaxed.

This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are motivating and engaging. Positive motivation impacts brain metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses through the memory areas, and the release of neurotransmitters that increase executive function and attention. Relevant lessons help students feel that they are partners in their education, and they are engaged and motivated.

Positive motivation.  Now that is a goal I would like to work towards in the upcoming months.

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