Learning About Our Brains
Helena Farrell

By Louisa Fish-Sadin '08, 9th Grade Dean

The 9th grade team has three goals for our advisory program: 9th graders will know one another and be known by the community, 9th graders will master academic skills needed for success in high school, and 9th graders will receive coaching and tools for social-emotional health and age-appropriate development. During our twice-weekly advisory meetings we meet these goals through games, activities, and workshops on topics ranging from Identity to Time Management Strategies.

This week we are in the midst of a mini-series on the brain. First, our High School Learning Specialist, Debbie McLaughlin ’83, led an interactive workshop on The Teenage Brain. She used her expertise to keep kids engaged for 45 minutes, incorporating videos, interactive polls, images of the brain, and anecdotes. One student wrote that the workshop made her think “about how my decisions and habits right now will impact my brain in the future.” I found it powerful to hear Debbie reframe the teenage brain from its oft-maligned position as an impulsive hormone factory to a “gift to the human species,” whose passion and creativity benefit us all.

This week and next I will be leading workshops on the nervous system, introducing students to the Fight/Flight/Freeze response and how to leverage mindfulness and self-awareness to get our frontal lobes back online when our “freaked out” amygdala starts driving the bus! We’ll tell stories about what “freaking out” feels like in our bodies and practice some simple embodied strategies for resetting our nervous systems when we get into those pesky F/F/F responses.

I love having these conversations with 9th graders—there is an empowerment that comes from knowing what’s happening inside our body, learning to let go of the parts we can’t control, and discovering ways to manage the parts we can!