It’s Great to NOT Be Special (Day Six: Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

P6290031As you get older, you may find that enabling the dreams of others is even more fun. -Randy Pausch

I’m part of that generation of women who were told we could have it all and actually believed it.



Day Five: Read the textbook and work the problems. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

Easter April 4 2010 Met with M and H 013My mom deserves the credit for this one.

When I was a kid math was not my forte, and in eighth grade I was struggling and failing at algebra. So my mom went to the local bookstore and bought me a review book (picture the mid-1970’s version of Algebra for Dummies).



Day Four: Memory is not accurate. Nope, not even yours. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

P8050102Our memories can seem so vivid and realistic, it’s hard to believe they’re not literally true! But memory doesn’t work like a video camera.

For one thing, due to our limited powers of attention (see Day One) we never get the whole story to begin with. Then, every time we recall an event our minds edit and interpret and embellish, like a fish story.

And we do an especially inaccurate job on emotionally loaded events; we freight those memories with so much emotional baggage that they become personal fairy tales more than actual recollections.



Day Three: Willpower is limited. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

Pantheon & Pompidou Centre 2 18 2011 048Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening. Sleep in the night. -William Blake

When I get home from work, which can be as late as 10PM, I am soooo done! I don’t want to do anything besides kick off my shoes, fling my coat over a chair and grab something good to read (my way of relaxing) until bedtime.

I’ve spent most of my life beating myself up over my evening slacker ways, until learning that, in fact, I’m not unusually lazy. Willpower naturally fades as the day wears on.



Day Two: Emotions affect reasoning. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

Pantheon & Pompidou Centre 2 18 2011 069People use words as weapons, to defend themselves. It is common for people to attack with anger when they are afraid and to become insulting when they are hurt or jealous.  -Dr. Shirley Glass

When we are anxious or angry we can’t think straight. This means we ought to avoid taking action or having heavy conversations while immersed in these mood states.

The emotions of fear and anger trigger our internal fight-or-flight mechanism, which sends epinephrine (adrenalin) gushing through our bloodstream. Our heart races, our blood pressure shoots up, our platelets ready themselves to clot in case we are injured…and our higher-level thinking skills shut down. After all, it doesn’t take a lot of brainpower to run from a saber-toothed tiger.



Day One: Attention is everything. (Twelve Days of Wisdom)

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

Versailles #2 2 16 2011 055Your life is the sum total of what you chose to pay attention to. So choose wisely!

Although we move through our days believing we are awake and aware, there are severe limitations on the amount of data our brains can process. This means that we miss out on all but a tiny fraction of what goes on around us.

…it is possible to process at most 126 bits of information per second…It is out of this [limited amount of available attention] that everything in our life must come – every thought, memory, feeling, or action…[and] in reality it does not go that far.  -Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow, pg 29

Enter a party in progress and it sounds like a random, muddled buzz, until you choose to join one conversation; then, miraculously, the background noise tones down and you can engage with your companions. You may even manage to eavesdrop on another conversation or keep an eye on an attractive person across the room, but that’s about where your attention capacities will hit their wall. Everything else happening at that party will pass you by as if you weren’t there.

So creating a happier, better life for oneself begins, very simply, with being selective about how you choose to spend your attention.

…the information we allow into consciousness becomes extremely important; it is, in fact, what determines the content and the quality of life.  -Flow, pg. 30

Here’s a sampling of articles and videos, each exploring ways …



Twelve Days of Wisdom

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

PC250048If I ever write my memoirs, I’ll devote one chapter to each of the books that changed my life, by authors including Dan Ariely, Judith Rich Harris, Steven Pinker, Martin Seligman, Shirley Glass, John and Julie Gottman and Haim Ginott.

I’ve always been a reader and a learner, and it’s no coincidence that I wound up in the education field. I believe in the power of knowledge to solve problems and make life comprehensible and happier.

I love this time of the year; time to think about a fresh start and renewed goals. For the past two years I’ve curated collections of favorite TED talks, which you can view here:



Why Vocabulary and Facts Are So Important

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 4 min read

Getty Center July 17 2010 024How do you know all the words without looking at the back of the cards? 

A fifth grade student was amazed that I knew every word on the American Heritage Dictionary’s Top 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know  list. She only recognized five.

I assured her that soon she would also know these words, because we were about to begin learning them now.The authors explain why knowing these words is so important:



Don’t Fall Off the Physics Bus!

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read
Group 1 020My kids attended Indian Springs School in Birmingham, Alabama, where their wonderful physics teacher started off every school year with his infamous warning: Don’t fall off the physics bus!

He was playfully reminding students that physics is a cumulative subject, in which you’ve got to make sure and master the material all along the way.

If you don’t thoroughly understand and gain fluency in each chapter, especially the early ones, you won’t have built up the foundation of knowledge and skills needed to handle the later material. Month after month, chapter after chapter, that physics bus will keep on rolling down the physics road, and if you fall off you’ll have a heck of a time catching up with it.



How to Study: 5 Basic Practices for Academic Success

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read
Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Fall is the time when first-quarter grades come out, and many students would like to improve.

Many students complain that they don’t know how to study, so I’ve compiled this short and sweet page of the basics.

Perhaps now, as the first grading quarter winds to a close, is a good time to read down this list and get back on track with these five essential good-student behaviors:
How to Study
Five Basic Practices for Academic Success

  1. Do all your homework, on time, every day. Teachers assign homework so as to give you the practice you need to learn and remember the material. The single most important thing you can do to understand better, remember more, and score higher grades is to always do all your homework thoroughly (even the “optional” stuff) and on time.



 
 

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