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Buds and brains

Buds and brains

Imagine a 9-year-old child having to wake up at 3 in the morning, wailing in distress over her math homework. This child, a 4th grader, was so overwhelmed by her inability to solve the math problems that she woke up in the middle of the night, crying uncontrollably. Her father came to console her hearing the sobs. He reassured her that it was okay not to complete the homework if she didn't know the answers, which helped her to return to bed, albeit still uneasy. Despite this, she experienced severe stomach pain at school the next day and had to be taken to the hospital.

How tragic and distressing this situation is! How could one instill such fear and anxiety in a child? Who gives teachers the right to damage young minds?

In another instance, a 5th-grade student was thrown out of class for forgetting to bring his textbook. The embarrassment was so intense that he refused to attend school for two weeks. Concerned, his parent met with the school principal, who responded, "If you saw how the kids behave in this school, you would understand that we have no choice but to act this way." This principal literally justified his barbaric and unethical approach by claiming that harshness and punishment are necessary to manage students rather than love and affection.

Isn't this pathetic? Teachers are themselves indirectly teaching children that rudeness and punishment are the ways to get things done, rather than using compassion and understanding.

It is often unnoticed how seemingly minor actions can significantly impact a child's fragile mind. What some may view as a small gesture to correct a child's mistake can, in reality, completely destroy their confidence for life. Even if a child's behavior causes frustration, it is the teacher's responsibility to consider the child's psychological aspects and respond appropriately. Such experiences never leave the brain. It retains and stores impactful experiences, embedding them in the subconscious. When something deeply affects a young mind, it doesn't simply fade away; it stays, shaping the child's future thoughts and behaviorConsidering numerous psychological factors, it is crucial for teachers to avoid placing excessive academic pressure and stress on students due to its significant negative impacts on mental health and cognitive performance. It's important to explore the mental impacts that academic pressure can create. It is to be taken into consideration as young minds are soft, and taking care of it, is taking care of the future.

Anxiety and Depression: High academic pressure is strongly correlated with increased levels of anxiety and depression among students. Chronic stress can lead to long-term mental health issues, impacting students' overall well-being and ability to function effectively in daily life. This may be ignored many a times by adults. However, it is vital to not expose little minds to unwanted stress and pressure.

Burnout: Constant pressure can result in academic burnout, characterized by emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and a feeling of reduced accomplishment. Burnout severely hampers a student’s motivation and interest in learning. A child who has gotten into a number of backlashes from teachers, is likely to get a feeling of distrust and that things are not going to work out well.

Impaired Memory and Learning: Stress hormones like cortisol can interfere with the brain's ability to encode and retrieve memories. Cortisol hormones are the ones released when one is stressed. An increased production is likely to cause health issues. High levels of stress impair the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, one of the last places in the brain to mature, also known as the “personality centre”. It is the region that processes the present moment in the surrounding by comparing it to past experiences. This part of the brain is crucial for higher-order cognitive processes like problem-solving and critical thinking.

Reduced Academic Achievement: Contrary to the belief that pressure can drive performance, studies show that moderate levels of stress can be motivating, but excessive stress often leads to a decline in academic performance due to the aforementioned cognitive impairments. Once a student loses his/her confidence, it takes a lot to regain it back. Losing one child's confidence is losing one potential future.

These actions can also lead to the development of Negative Coping Mechanisms:

Avoidance and Procrastination: Students under high stress may develop avoidance behaviors or procrastinate, further compounding their stress levels and academic difficulties. Which literally means that children start giving opposite reactions. Not only do these harsh actions help them excel, but it gives an opposite reaction of a bad performance.

In the book "The Brain: The Story of You," David Eagleman explores how the brain develops and functions in response to various experiences, including stress. While being compassionate towards students should be reason enough to avoid excessive academic pressure, Eagleman's scientific evidence reinforces the point. This evidence shows that the detrimental effects of stress on the brain are not just based on "excessive love and affection," but on solid scientific findings.

1. Neuroplasticity: Eagleman discusses how the brain is highly adaptable and capable of change (called neuroplasticity). While this adaptability is beneficial, chronic stress can negatively impact neuroplasticity, leading to difficulties in learning and adaptation. Stress can "shrink" the hippocampus, a brain region crucial for memory and learning, thereby impairing students' cognitive abilities.

2. The Role of Emotion in Learning:

Emotions play a critical role in learning and memory formation. Positive emotions facilitate better learning outcomes, while negative emotions, such as those induced by excessive stress, can hinder the brain's ability to process and retain information effectively. When students experience joy, curiosity, and excitement they are more likely to be highly motivated and engaged in a subject. On the contrary, negative thoughts such as fear, frustration, and anxiety can mess up with the learning process thereby causing impaired concentration and drop down motivation.

3. Balance and Well-being:

Eagleman emphasizes the importance of balance and well-being for optimal brain function. A supportive and low-stress environment enhances the brain's ability to learn and grow. Therefore, creating a positive and supportive academic environment is crucial for students' cognitive development and overall brain health.

Based on psychological research and insights from David Eagleman's work, it is clear that excessive academic pressure and stress can be detrimental to students' mental health, cognitive performance, and overall well-being. Teachers should strive to create a balanced and supportive learning environment that promotes positive emotional experiences and minimizes stress, thereby fostering better educational outcomes and healthier brain development for students. Overall, the logic is simple, just treat students how you would treat your own soft soul. Teachers as well as parents must work together towards this approach. It is because teachers are the creators of beautiful minds. Nobody forgets the teacher that influenced and touched their life. The influence of a good teacher can never be erased. As someone once said, “the greatest asset of a school is the personality of the teacher”. They are the pillars of morality in a child. The way a good teacher can touch a child and make a difference in a child, is unexplainable. And the child forever remembers and carries the goodness of them throughout their life. There is nothing more precious than being remembered for kindness. So teachers, be the change maker!

The same student who was embarrassed to go school, never fails to give a greeting card or a small treat to Mrs Babitha on special occasions. He says Babitha ma’am is his favourite teacher. When I asked why was this teacher the favourite, this student gave the world’s most simplest answer: “because Babitha ma’am loves me”.

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TAGS:Articlebalance and burnoutDavid Eaglemanneuroplasticity
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