On September first, I had a dream come true. I was given the opportunity to present to all of the middle school teachers and principals for the entire Hillsboro School District here in Oregon – something over 170 people if I remembered the number right. They filled the tables of a middle school cafeteria.
It was my dream because I know that teachers MUST understand the development of the brain’s executive functions in order to support student success, especially at the middle school level. This is the place where so many students begin to struggle because their EF development is unable to meet the rising demands of the middle school curriculum.
As I stood on that stage, I had so much respect for all of those teachers. Good teachers work hard. I also realized they were a potentially “tough audience.” Having been a classroom teacher, I knew that these teachers were mostly dreading having to sit there for a speaker when they longed to get back to their classrooms to set up for students starting the next week.
So, I gave them my all, promising them that in ninety minutes they would learn at least three things that would have lasting value. I gave them information about executive functions, brain development, and then a few strategies they could use in the classroom to support their students. When I present, I want learning to happen, so I always have pause points where I have the audience write down key ideas and then ask them to turn to their neighbors and share. It was so gratifying to hear the buzz of all those teachers sharing their insights. Before my eyes I could see them change. They were learning. They were excited about their learning. And many were eager to learn more.
I especially remember the teacher who shared that she was feeling awful about all of her past students that she had misunderstood because she lacked knowledge about the brain and behavior connections. I told her not to feel guilty. You shouldn’t blame yourself for something you didn’t know. Now however, going forward, she will look at her student’s behaviors with different eyes. It was an honor to present to all of them.
If you know teachers who are ready to be excited learners, check out our professional development options. This fall we have two courses especially for teachers: Building Executive Functions in the Classroom, our newest course that was very well received by the first cohort to complete the class. One teacher told me, in front of her peers, that it was the best class she had taken in eleven years! And we have a special section of the Teaching the Seeing My Time Program, oriented for classroom teachers. It is being offered on Mondays after school for the Pacific time zone folks and evenings for those on the east coast. Hillsboro teachers will be part of this class.
My hopes with these classes are to pass on knowledge of executive functioning to every teacher who wants to learn. Please consider joining us!
Marydee Sklar is the president of Executive Functioning Success and the creator of the Seeing My Time Program®. She is an educator and author of three books on executive functions, as well as a trainer and speaker. Marydee has more than twenty-five years of experience working with students and adults with executive function challenges.