Update: sleep, schedules, Zull

As some of you may already know, I am a guest blogger at SharpBrains.com. (You can see my various posts here.) My past two posts have each garnered comments, and each post had one comment, in particular, to which I replied. The topics are important enough to garner their own update on Neurons Firing.

I have written here about sleep and about school calendars. My September 5th SharpBrains post, Reorganizing School Schedules: Start Times, Light, Scheduling, received a comment from a parent who is concerned about the impact of her children’s school schedule on their ability to focus. As a result of her inquiry, here are some resources about school schedules, which include discussions of block and flexible schedules.

  • The National Middle Schools Association – research summary about flexible schedules
  • The Principals’ Partnership Research Brief on High School  Schedules


    My most recent SharpBrains post is a review of James Zull’s book, about which I have also written here. (You can use the search bar in the upper right to find all of my posts about Zull.) The author of the comment was a bit miffed at what he considered the trivial conclusion that “Teaching is the art of changing the brain”; I was compelled to respond with the following:

    Hi Michael,

    Yes, anything and everything in which we engage can change our brains. Indeed, most teachers are hoping for change that lasts and is substantive, not superficial. However, I am willing to bet most teachers do not consciously stop to think about what they do in terms of physically changing the brain of the learner.

    Zull’s book does an exemplary job of explaining what happens in the brain as it learns and changes. Teachers appreciate tools and explanations that are useful, understandable and immediately applicable. By placing the biological results of learning front and center, Zull provides an account of what is happening in the brain, giving teachers an insight into the (hoped for) results of their efforts. This may help some understand why what they do works, and may provide others with a fresh toolbox for figuring out ways to make an impact on a learner’s brain.

    The conclusion may seem trivial to those well-versed in biology, but to those whose lens is filtered by a room full of children or young adults, thinking of teaching as the art of changing the brain may seem rather empowering.



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