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.



The Perils of Instant Gratification

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

Redding. LSM, Wpt, etc for posts 074As the economy gets ever better at satisfying our immediate, self-serving needs, who is minding the future?

So asks the cover article of the fall edition of American Scholar magazine, entitled Temptation, Inc. It’s a long, wide-ranging, provocative piece that explores the many ways in which consumer technology is getting better and better at exploiting our natural impulsiveness and cravings for immediate rewards and pleasure.

As a parent and educator, it was the first few paragraphs that really grabbed my attention, this profile of a young man addicted to the online game World of Warcraft:



A Student Discovers The Joy of Reading

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 1 min read

 

The original Winnie the Pooh and friends on display at the New York Public Library

The original Winnie the Pooh and friends on display at the New York Public Library

Dear Friends,

The other day I had a wonderful conversation with one of my older students. He was brimming over with enthusiasm for his senior-level College Reading class.

It’s really more a structured study period than a class, in which students come in every day and spend the entire 48-minute period silently reading a book of their choice. When they’re finished they write a brief summary of the book and then select another.

The whole point, of course, is to get college-bound seniors used to the discipline of sustained, focused reading. And this particular student was loving it!

As soon as he left I grabbed my notebook and jotted down everything I could remember of what he had said so I could share with you this glimpse into the head of an older, more mature student. (Read on, dear parents of tweens, and take heart!):



So I Got My Test Back; Now What?

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • 2 min read

P9160353Dear Friends,

It’s such a shame that in our culture testing has such a bad name.

The dad of one of my students is a physician; he recalls that:

Medical school is all about being tested. We were constantly quizzing, taking tests, and flipping flash cards (each flash card is a tiny test). We were tested multiple times every day. All that testing made our minds sharp, plus it kept us aware of the areas we still needed to work on. It was a powerful way to learn.



The Back-to-School Fresh Start

By Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS • Less than a min read

P9160357Dear Friends,

Back-to-school time is the perfect time to start fresh routines and establish healthy habits. These are the ones parents and I have been talking about the most:

  • First of All, Plan for Adequate Sleep: Most kids don’t get enough sleep. Students learn better, feel better and behave better when they’re properly rested. Check with your pediatrician and find out how many hours of sleep your child ought to be logging per night (chances are good you’ll be shocked at the large number), and then set the appropriate bedtime and enforce it.
  • Limit Electronics: Computers and cellphones and anything else with a glowing screen (including TVs and video games) need to be turned off one hour before bedtime to allow the mind to calm down for good sleep (this applies to adults, too!). And do establish cellphone-free chunks of time during the afternoon and evening; students need to read, study and eat dinner in peace. Interestingly, parents have been telling me that their kids often seem relieved to be given breaks from the relentless social pressure and privacy invasion of social media. I also felt this from my SAT class; students seemed to like my rule of collecting their cellphones before class!
  • Establish the Reading Habit: Before the school year becomes super-hectic, build in the habit of quiet reading for 20-30 minutes before lights out.
  • Don’t Overschedule: Too many sports and extra-curricular activities aren’t fun; they’re stressful!


 
 

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