Posts Tagged ‘Brain’
The Myles and Simpson article and the discussion therein about the Hidden Curriculum made a great impression on me. How clear it now seems to me that we “normally” developed human beings learn effortlessly when to make a comment and when to withhold one. How we intrinsically know how to judge when a situation that seems similar to one we have previously felt comfortable asking questions during is now a situation that requires we withhold the questions simply due to the tension level in the room. All this serves to point up to me just how absolutely insurmountable it must feel to children with communication disorders to have any hope of successfully negotiating the minefield that social situations must present to them every day. I saw many of my former students in the examples given of complete and utter social faux pas experienced by the subjects of the study, and felt that pain once again, the pain that comes from the awareness that I did not understand my own special needs students enough during my time at my last teaching job in order to give them what they needed. I fervently wish I had the increased knowledge and understanding I have gained this year when I was working with them. I know that my heart was in the right place, and that my ideas were all positive and well meaning, but my lack of understanding the brain mechanics involved with their disorders and my lack of formal teaching training and experience which caused me to fail to be able to put my lessons and ideas into successful play haunts me still.
Cognition and the Arts
The report of actual scientific wondering about cognition and the study of the arts was really an eye opener to me. I think that in one way I was surprised, as doesn’t everybody know that study of the arts increases cognition in so many ways? Is it possible that this is a new concept to people? But of course, while I have been insisting that this is true, and writing about how it is true and seeing signs in my children and my students that it is true, er…perhaps my opinion is not going to convince anybody. And so I guess I should be grateful that the actual neuroscientists are going to look at this and now discover actual scientific facts about the correlations and causations of how the arts help with developing useful pathways and other connection in the brain, but in a way, it makes me sad. Because I feel that it is possible (am I doubting now?) that the world of science will not be able to prove the connection between being an artsy kind of kid and improved cognition. And then the arts will go back to being the last picked, first cut subject they so often are in school programs.
But I am also surprised that there is an actual Arts and Cognition Consortium to begin with! This in itself seems a very hopeful thing. Because the merging of the two types of professionals – the artistic and the cognitively trained – says something very positive about the use of scientific methods to try and nail down actual data about these positive effects (that we theatre folks have known and seen all along.) If these two teams are now cooperating, and if they do find the links between the arts and cognition we are hoping they will find…but what will happen then?
Perhaps I am being a little too gloomy about this. Perhaps I simply can’t believe that it is possible that this will have a good outcome for the arts. Perhaps my middle age cynicism is kicking in. I hope not! I will proceed as if I have neither entered middle age nor a cynical phase of my life…
I love the idea that it is possible that the high state of motivation performing arts students feel for their subject and the learned sustained attention they develop for their projects in that domain can possibly shown to improve sustained attention abilities in other areas. Though I must say that in my case, as a student for whom attention to uninteresting subjects was excruciatingly hard to come by, I would not be a useful addition to this study. In fact, as a child I always wondered why it was only my drama projects for which I could muster that kind of attention. I wanted it to prove that I was not a hopeless student; that I had some value as a learner, but I never got the impression that was the case, from my parents or from my own soul. Is it not enough for children who find that this incredible motivation exists for them in this one area to understand that if they are engaged in something they are going to be able to feel the necessary motivation? And I know this is probably not going to please educators or scientists to hear me say it, but can’t we use the arts to make the difficult subjects engaging, and isn’t that enough?
I did think the report very clever in pointing out that in order for the causation between Arts and Cognitive improvement to be a strong one, there would need to be more proof than to simply show improvement on cognitive testing. I was quite interested to read about a need for the actual brain pathways and mechanisms to be identified as being the source for the improvements in cognition, and these hopefully identified mechanisms and pathways and the way they overlap and interact might be viewed with imaging as well as studied by other methods. Imagine! To find the proof for these theories in actual physical images…then maybe nobody could argue against it.
So perhaps the anxiety this article spurred in me is for naught. Perhaps they will find accurate and positive and scientifically documentable facts about the study of Arts and Cognition.
But if they don’t – and perhaps here again I am being cynical in my distrust of the system – does this mean that what we have seen in our work with the children is not valid? Is it possible that what happens to children who study the arts, the positive ways they are affected emotionally and the ways in which they grow in their humanity as a result of the effects of their experiences, might not be seen on an MRI? Will we be able to prove then that such children grow cognitively because of an increase in the emotional and aesthetic quality of their existences?
Perhaps we will not. But we as Theatre Educators will continue to see and know these things to be valid. We have seen the changes the arts can bring about in a child who feels lost and unsuccessful, the joy and the feeling of accomplishment that then transfers to other aspects of the life of that child. For science it is not enough.
For me it is. I already believe.
And so it begins! I had exactly two classes Thursday and came home completely exhausted, overwhelmed and scared. Such a big place! Everybody is even younger than they used to be when I was in college and they were really young then! And the technology the professors talk about – crazy! And one of my classes is an online class…what is that about?! No face to face?
And so those were my worries when I got home Thursday. And what I really needed to do was to simply start on the work, which I did, and to remember to take things one step at a time, which I am trying to do, and to remember it is as if the grad program is a full time, 9-5ish job and to to treat it as such. Let it go at the end of the day.
The other grad students (lol – younger, more energetic grad students ) tell me to remember it is all about time management. Unfortunately I have no time management skills, so when they said this it was far from comforting. But I know, I know, it is time for me to learn this too. And in my Developmental Psych text book – this is the online class which I am finding quite fascinating now that I have bravely begun to work on it – it says that even as older people we can develop new skills and new pathways in the brain and even new synapses! New Synapses!
I’m going for it! I’m gonna need a lotta new synapses…
This week I officially become a USC grad Student in the Theatre department, though I will start rather inauspiciously with some diagnostic testing on The Glass Menagerie and Death of a Salesman. Odd but true, apparently all of the Theatre grad students are to take this testing, and since those plays were – thankfully – both a part of the very first college college theatre class I ever took, and both are plays I am fascinated by, and since I did a lot of research on Tennessee Williams a couple of years ago when I directed three of his more obscure plays, I feel comfortable that I have a fine outcome of this exam. (Can you tell from that last sentence that I have been listening to The #1 Ladies Detective Agency CD’s again? – I love that series!)
Still, I will re-read the plays, and watch DVDs of productions of the plays. The program director has said that this exam doesn’ t count against us in any way Which is lovely, but the goal of the test escapes at least this Grad Student. No matter, the project will be an interesting one, and my brain is chomping at the bit to begin sponging up all the new and renewed information and knowledge and theories and philosophies it can sop up.
I feel so lucky, and so ready. And so grateful for this opportunity.
How odd to be gearing up for school again - me going to school I mean! Getting all the necessary ducks in a row, and ordering books – the psych book alone was 155.00 – this seems ridiculous to me! I had thought professors would be more cognizant of the amount students have to spend on books and consider a cheaper edition, but this is perhaps not the case…or perhaps not possible.
But still, I am looking forward to that class, though it is an online class, my first, and I am sure I will miss the “face to face” as dear Ann in VT calls it. But the idea that I will be able to arrange my involvement with the class to suit my schedule is tempting, I must admit.
I am most looking forward to the text analysis class, as I find that sort of thing fascinating. And the Directing workshop, which is not only for the MAT students, but is geared toward directing high school students. And ok, the process drama class, which has a component in the schools and will surely give me ideas for how to reach and teach children of all differnt ages in a way that does not have as its purpose any sort of performance stress at all.
Ok, I admit it. I can’t wait. My brain is raring to go and I can’t wait to get back to using it.
I have been on vacation far too long.