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Mirroring Your Students, A Way to Gain Their Trust

This not an specialized piece about educational psychology but the result of a reading we have been into during these days. After many years in the classroom, and working primarily with teens, watching them the very little interest they have on academics other than music and personal care, I've come to the conclusion that teachers need to walk the walk and let students do the talk.

How many brains do you have? The answer is a bit tricky but if you took college biology, you know the answer isn't one but three. Human brain has three layers: a primitive reptile layer, an evolved mammal layer and a final primate layer.

In this set of interactions are the mirror neurons. It was in 1990 that Italian neuroscientists Giacomo Rizzolatti, Vittorio Gallese, Leonardo Fogassi and their colleagues at the University of Parma, found that a monkey's brain could transform the actions of the experimenters into motor programs that the monkey would use to perform the same actions. That's what Christian Keysers, part of that team, calls mirror neurons.

If we are able to manage these two simple manifestations, we can get our students attention. Mark Goulston in his book Just Listen, writes: "You cringe when a coworker gets a paper cut and cheer when a movie hero gets the girl." This happens because you are mirroring those actions to think that they actually occur to you, which in a way, it really happens.

If we avoid the 'amygdala hijack' in these hyper active young people, our students, you are now playing the role of a teacher, watching but listening, working but mirroring their necessities. if they feel loved and cared, they will return the same amount to you. And if they cooperate, there are plenty of reasons to conclude students would like to copy your behavior and ultimately reproduce what you are doing in the classroom. Teaching and learning.

Have you succeeded being kind to your students, or is it, that being rude has been a better choice.

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  1. This is an excellent exercise in stepping into each others shoes. It is important that we are empathetic to each other's plights. We often get so mired in our own ways and interactions that it is hard to understand the other side of the coin. Great reminder.