School, Writing

You say dumb, I say pre-frontal cortex

A couple of years ago I did some professional development work around brain-based teaching.  One of the things I learned about adolescents is that their pre-frontal cortex, or the part of their brain responsible for long term planning and decision making, is still developing.  Talk about an “ah ha” moment.

Today, on a field trip, I watched a student run straight through a foot-deep puddle.  “I didn’t think it would be so deep,” he reflected while staring down at his drenched pants. “Don’t worry, ” I told him.  “Your pre-frontal cortex is still developing.”  Not really.  I mostly just shook my head and gave him that wide-eyed teacher stare.

The lack of development in the pre-frontal cortex is why, when I assign a book project and give the students three weeks to do it, so many of them get this gleam in their eye.  Great, they’re thinking, I don’t have to worry about this for three more weeks!

This relates to writing YA because I find that I read a lot of posts about what adults think teenagers would or wouldn’t do.  It’s important to remember that most teenagers have a brain that is different from our adult brains.  Things that make perfect sense to adults, do not necessarily compute in the world of a younger person.  Adolescents often make decisions based on their emotions; more specifically the emotional state they’re in the moment a decision is required.

Sometimes the results are heroic, amazing, tragic, disastrous.

Sometimes your pants get wet.