Teenage Brains, Freshmen Year Jitters and Middle School Concerns


I do not encourage Freshmen or middle school students to think about college.  That is my job. The knowledge gained Freshmen year, and in middle school, is essential to all future learning. These years are especially important when the student has significant demands on his or her time that are not academic in nature.  The Olympic Valley Academy works with parents and students to ensure that your student is really learning and growing academically, not just getting grades on a report card or allowing valuable parts of their brain to atrophy.

Physically and mentally, young teens are in transition between childhood and young adulthood.  Yet, this period of life lasts so briefly that I believe that young people should enjoy fully what they are doing, when they are doing it, rather than planning for the future.  Learning can and should be fun, and it can and should be connected to the lives of students, not just studied in books or in isolation.

Jay Giedd, a neuro-scientist, is part of break-through research that found through MRIs that there are disconnects in the teenage brain, and it is growing in response to whatever a young person is doing.  If you have ever wondered why your son’s or daughter’s brain does not seem to connect on basic tasks in school or at home, you’re right!  Giedd says that  the “part of the brain that is helping organization, planning and strategizing is not done being built yet … [It’s] not that the teens are stupid or incapable of [things]. It’s sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision making before their brain is finished being built. …”

Giedd has also discovered the “Use it or Lose it” principle applies to teens, and not just to their aging parents;).  In an interview on the Frontline website, he said:

“But the pruning-down phase is perhaps even more interesting, because our leading hypothesis for that is the “Use it or lose it” principle. Those cells and connections that are used will survive and flourish. Those cells and connections that are not used will wither and die.

So if a teen is doing music or sports or academics, those are the cells and connections that will be hard-wired. If they’re lying on the couch or playing video games or MTV, those are the cells and connections that are going [to] survive.”

Parents, teachers and college advisors need to work together closely to organize, plan and strategize for young people who may not have the time or the synapses in place to do it themselves.  We must make full use of the energy and focus that our children put into their activities, like ski racing, and connect that to useful learning skills, rather than allowing them to “muddle through” their academics because it does not connect with their passion for ski racing.

Read more at pbs.org

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