What Are You Paying Attention To?

The brain is a wonderful organ and it can be programmed by us and by others. The words that people say to us and the things that are done to us can produce a private logic that can either be believed or stricken from our conscious mind as being just or untrue. Your Reticular Activating System (RAS) is the automatic mechanism inside your brain that brings relevant information to your attention. The RAS is a filter between the conscious mind and the subconscious mind. Let’s say you are sitting in your classroom and in the distance, you hear sirens. Your subconscious mind may say, “police, fire, first aid.” You are busy concentrating on something else, so your conscious mind focuses on the task at hand. But, then you notice that the sirens were from a fire truck and the truck pulls in front of the school. Your RAS immediately kicks in and those sirens that you heard earlier are now relevant to you. If you start to smell smoke well, now it really has your attention. A student may come to school with his/her conscious mind already programmed. He/ she may have let so many negative thoughts in that they may have become part of his/her belief system. The student may have been bullied at home or punished for small mistakes. His/ her siblings may have picked on him/her to the point that his RAS now allows only negative thoughts in. But worse yet, he/ she now believes them. Negative words and treatment are the things that get his/her attention and they begin to form his/her self-image. His thoughts become actions. The order of the day is to create a climate in your classroom that is kind, caring, respectful, and responsible. Think about the best teacher you’ve ever had, and how he/she got your attention. Keep a smile on your face and do your best to provide an equitable distribution of your passion and understanding to all of your students. Maybe we have to realize what gets our attention and how good it feels when a smile comes our way.

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