The Glory Years: Ages 2-7

When one talks about The Glory Years we typically refer to those times in our past that are remembered for great success or happiness. Maybe it’s your 20s, 30s or even your 50s. Most people probably don’t think it’s when they were a toddler.

However, the years from 2-7 are when our brains are best primed for learning — so, from a learning perspective these are indeed The Glory Years.

The evidence on this remarkable learning time is clear (e.g. Edutopia: Why Ages 2-7 Matter So Much for Brain Development. Neural connections, and hence learning, increase when we are young, but not in a uniform progression.

The first critical period of rapid brain development happens around ages 2 to 7 — the second and final one happens during adolescence. Between the ages of 2 and 7 the nerve connections between brain cells (called synapses) actually double in number, accelerating learning. After age 7 the brain begins to ‘trim’ its neural connections to focus on the areas most useful for daily life. So, it’s during the early years that learning things like languages, interrelationships between concepts, and the mastering of physical tasks like running or riding a bike happen with greater ease.

Albert Einstein

If you are familiar with Albert Einstein, the extraordinary scientist from the early part of the 20th century, you may also know that his childhood was anything but normal. He struggled to even speak as a young child, and had some significant issues in school including being expelled. But, as difficult as his early years were, he was incredibly successful in some areas such as playing the violin, studying magnetism, and being able to think in pictures rather than words. His well known adult accomplishments can likely be tied to his diverse childhood experiences.

(More on Page 2)

The Survival Brain – Let’s Talk About Trauma

This post is about TRAUMA and how it affects us – all of us — whether we’ve experienced it ourselves or we know someone who has lived it.

I am by no means an expert on the topic, but as I have done dozens of times in my blog, I search out those who are expert and lean on their wisdom. The topic of trauma resonates with me — as a lived experience within my family, as a district leader, but more importantly, simply as a human being who is seeking to understand others and what they may be experiencing.

TRAUMA is often misunderstood — and sometimes not even considered as the possible underpinnings of a child’s behaviour. In education, we continue to explore trauma, how it can affect the classroom experience, and how we respond to it. We refer to this reflection and action as Trauma Informed Practice.

The Effects of Trauma can be Significant

I am hoping that today’s information might make you pause and reflect on an observed behavior that seems odd or misplaced — that you might instead take the path of seeking understanding.

The reality is that trauma affects all of us at some point in our lives — whether we’ve experienced it or seen it in others. When it does happen — how it affects us today and how it may affect us tomorrow can be different. This is another reminder to me that, as educators of children who may have experienced trauma, we need to remember that there is always a story behind the behaviour — whether it is trauma based or not.

So, when we see something that does not appear to fit, let’s pause and ask ourselves some questions:

  • Why do their actions seem out of step within the present context?
  • Why do they appear elevated / withdrawn / emotional / quiet / angry / sad?
  • Is there something I am doing that may be contributing to their current expression?
  • Am I being aware and present to the possibility that at this moment they may be having emotional responses grounded in traumatic experiences?

(More on Page 2)

The Struggle is Real

A typical moment in my professional life:

I’m at my desk deep in thought — maybe it’s a budget issue, perhaps a community concern, or maybe an organizational dilemma that needs a creative solution. I’m stuck.

It can feel like my brain’s gears are seized or conversely like my wheels are spinning in mud — it’s an immovable tension of struggling to find a solution.

Neuroscientists have learned that the act of struggling is actually an important part of the learning process. Struggling with a problem results in increased neural connections being formed in your brain. The act of struggling forces your brain to develop new networks — bridging the old to the new.