Friday, December 31, 2010


There were many interesting points in this book but I liked the Portfolio sections the most. I love the opportunity to make the book’s points come to life in my own life. From the Design Portfolio my all around favorites were “Put it on a Table” and “Be Choosy.” The “Riff on Opening Lines” and “Play Photo Finish” from the Story Portfolio would be a fun activity in my Drama Unit. As you can imagine being a Music teacher the Symphony section included a lot of activities that I was interested in. Two of my favorite activities from that section were “Do Some Real Brainstorming” and “Celebrate Your Amateurness.” The “Play the Cartoon Captions Game” is a great activity to play with the kids and myself. I will be incorporating “Say Thanks” and “But Out” in my class and in my life from the Meaning Portfolio.

As you may have noticed I left out the Empathy Portfolio. I saved this section for last because I spent a lot of time taking the online tests from the book and also from other online sites to determine where I stand. In my Systemizing and Empathy Quotient it was interesting to see that I scored exactly the same on the books sites as on the other online sites. In the end the tests showed my brain type was Balanced. (Some people would question that) My Empathy side was much stronger than the Systemizing though.

I picked 12 out of 20 correct expressions in the “Spot the Fake Smile” test. I scored a 24 in “The Mind is the Eye” test. That score was a typical score for the test.

When I was in my 30's I had tested out to be Integrated-right in the left/right dominant test. I took 3 online tests which 2 of them came up totally integrated and one was more Right Dominate. I then went to a site from Scholastic ( and read about teaching styles and being right and left dominant. The following was taken from the site.

“Those who are middle-brain dominant tend to be more flexible than either the left- or the right-brain folks; however, you often vacillate between the two hemispheres when you make decisions. You sometimes get confused when decisions need to be made because, neurologically speaking, you could do most tasks through either a left-brain or a right-brain method! Our neurological profile essentially guides the way we teach our classes, meaning that left-brain teachers tend to teach in a "left-brain style," right-brain teachers typically teach in a "right-brain style," and middle-brain teachers tend to vary their teaching between the two approaches.”
It helps to explain who I am and how I tick.

The book was good, but what I learned about myself was what I liked the best.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Reflection on “A Whole New Mind: The Six Conceptual Senses and Education”.

I found the title of this book to be intriguing and wanted to read how the idea that using the right brain would increase a person’s chance of success in the future. I teach science so using the left brain has been the norm. Yet, personally and as a teacher I didn’t think that using only half of your brain or the main focus on the left brain was ideal. Every teacher knows that students all have their own learning styles and different types of intelligences. I found many of the ideas in this book to apply to education and teaching styles.

I enjoyed the first part of the book where the author discusses being able to read or judge people’s reactions to different pictures. Knowing how to read body language is an important skill for an educator. I find myself watching to see if a person’s smile is joyful or just a put on smile. I know that some of my students do not understand how to read a person’s body language very well and it may be the cause of conflict with others at times. Maybe we should spend some time teaching how to read body language? It made me wonder what type of body language I use with my student’s. I’m going to be more aware of my body language especially when dealing with student discipline issues.

I think the main idea or concept of this book was that we need to become aware of and use all of our senses. For true success and well being both sides of the brain have importance. The author encourages the reader to start focusing on the attributes of the right side of the brain and even gives examples of how to develop those senses. He wants us to become more insightful humans. This is a trend that I think we have been striving for in education. The idea of the teacher just standing up in front of the class and talking has given away to the teacher as a guide, a facilitator, not just learn these facts. This is where telling stories to your students will help them to get involved in learning the required material. According to the book’s author, telling stories help people to remember the information better if it’s linked to a story. I like to use stories in my teaching to make the concept more real world for my students. It helps the students to make sense of the concept and to give it meaning. Students have a hard time finding meaning in much of the material that teachers are told they have to teach. After reading this book I find that it’s okay to spend some time on right brain skills instead of just the left brain focus of the past. I can have my students spend more time using their creative side in order to make meaning of a topic.

Teacher student relationships have become the key. A teacher needs to have empathy with his or her students. Students have a lot of things to deal with and it helps if the teacher has empathy. The students will be more willing to learn from a teacher that they feel understands them. I think that playing with your students will also help as well as give them a safe, relaxing atmosphere to learn and develop who they are. Playing and teaching science go well together. There are all types of new ideas to wonder about, to discover. I try to use humor whenever possible when teaching; it makes students more willing to take risks when learning new skills. As a teacher I find that a class I can laugh with gets more accomplished and is more willing to try new things. I’m going to try and play more with my students. One of the ideas I’m going to try and do next semester is have my students develop learning games for a difficult topic or chapter. I’m especially interested in seeing how using these right brain skills with my tougher classes will work. I think it will greatly improve the classroom atmosphere.

I did not have a great deal of input into the design of the school or even the classrooms that I teach in. However, I have tried to improve on the classroom design to make it a friendlier more welcoming learning environment. A design area that I can improve on is my teaching materials. I am taking a look at how I design power points, and handouts. I am trying to use my right brain to analyze how I arrange the text, or add a picture to improve on the design of these materials. I have begun asking some of my students how they create the designs they have used on their projects in hopes that I can borrow some of their techniques.

Symphony is taking all the parts and putting it together to create the whole picture. I think it comes down to attitude, the book talks about the difference between a maze and a labyrinth. If the teacher looks at learning as a maze that just has to be gotten through then the students will just hurry up to do the assignment and learning will be short changed. However, if the teacher encourages the students to see learning as a journey (a labyrinth) they will be happier and more willing to look in-depth into a topic. Learning will improve and both the teacher and students will find more meaning in the process if care is taken to use both sides of the brain, especially using the many skills and attitudes from the right side. I hope to use these right brain skills to improve my teaching as well as my personal life.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Life and Work Enhanced by Pink's Six Senses

As I began to read this book, I was increasingly excited to discover that the 'right brain' strengths are becoming more valued in today's world. The author is quick to clarify early on in the book, though, that both sides of the brain are working best when working in tandem, and that one without the other would be disastrous. Still, as a creative and artistic person, I am bolstered by this turn towards those gifts that I treasure in every day life.

Before I talk about section two of the book, I have one observation of myself as a person who likes to use her 'whole mind' to get a task done. Even as I reviewed the book from beginning to end after reading it, I sat down to make an outline and reviewed the logical sequence of new ideas presented to us - a very left-brain thing to do. This linear action then allowed me to re-visit everything we've been presented with and then start synthesizing it into a big picture reflection - one with which I can be creative. Using both sides of my brain, I am writing a reflection that makes sense (hopefully) and also creatively adds further thought to the pool of ideas Mr. Pink has given us.

The 'Six Senses' idea speaks to me very much. It's how I live, as it turns out. As I read about each of the senses, I connected with each of them.

A classroom with order, but also beauty (design) in it, is a very easy place for me to teach. A home that is clean and neat, but also aesthetically pleasing is very important to me. Chaos and lack of artistic value (both artwork and music) makes it very hard for me to focus, feel comfortable or be motivated. When I'm stuck on a project either at home or at work, I find that if I create a mood or atmosphere that appeals to my senses, I am able to move forward more easily. Right now, Josh Groban's beautiful singing, a comfortable chair, a quiet house and candles burning makes it easy for me to think and write.

Finding the story in the pieces we sing in my choir classroom brings the experience of the musical pieces more tangible and enhances the performance greatly. Each semester I take one of the pieces we're singing and ask the students to journal or write an essay on the text of the song, investigating on their own, what the song is telling us. Inevitably, this is the piece that is their favorite at the end of the semester. Something about knowing in depth what the story is behind the piece, enhances their experience of the song. In my personal life, I'm always looking for a good story book to read, and am anxious to hear the stories of my family members' experience of the day. I find ways to make story enrich my life every day.

As we begin to work on a new piece in class, we first sight sing through the whole song to get the big picture, taking a glance at how all the aspects fit together (symphony), how they all - tempo, dynamics, major/minor key, rhythms, text, etc. - contribute to the synthesis of a great piece of music. When it's time to take care of each detail, there is then already an understanding of how the smaller considerations contribute to the whole. I find, too, that in life, it helps me to know what makes people tick. Many times I find myself wanting to know a person's background and daily experience so that I can understand the ways they act and interact, especially if their actions don't make sense to those of us around them.

Inside the choir classroom, we build relationships with each other and we learn to care about those we sing about, and many times those for whom we perform (empathy). In addition, as we sing songs from the cultures throughout the world, we foster understanding and respect for the global community. Each culture has its own timbre and feel to its music. Many times, the stories and feelings are the same, but musical pictures and stories are presented in very different ways. Empathy carries us a long way in our personal lives, as well. Understanding, but also knowing from first-hand what it feels like, and just plain being willing to feel emotions alongside someone who needs us makes all the difference in the world to our friends, co-workers and family members.

Within both rehearsal and performance, we try to take the time to enjoy each other, have some fun, and make our audiences smile (play). This is essential to a positive experience in my classroom, I feel, and ultimately enriches the way that we perform together, and the way the audience experiences our ensemble. Taking a laugh-break in both the classroom and at home binds us together in another valuable way, just as a good talk or a good cry would.

Finally, songs with meaning have the most impact upon my students. As much fun as we have with lighter pieces - the jazz and the pop - most memorable for my students are those songs that speak to their souls and move the audiences. Each school year I am pleasantly surprised by the answers I get when asking them which pieces they most enjoyed performing. Almost always it is the richest, most complex, and deepest texts (meaning) that make their choral experience most memorable. Both singers and audiences long for and need this type of experience. In my personal life, I can easily dispense with light conversation and surface talk. It feels like a waste of my time. Conversation and discussion about something meaningful is what I look forward to in meetings and gatherings with family and friends.

I find "A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future" rings true with me and my experience of professional and personal life. This is a book I keep finding myself recommending to colleagues and friends. It's inspiring, informative and refreshing. Daniel Pink's enthusiasm for investigating and making educated observations regarding this subject prompts me to take a good look at how I function in life and in the classroom, and then to be creative with the way I teach and how I relate within my family and all my relationships. This read was time well spent.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Whole New Mind: The Six Conceptual Senses and Education

First, I have to say that I enjoyed reading this book. I was pleased that this was the book I selected. I also think it is important for all teachers and other people in the educational profession to think of students and the different learning styles. This book really talked about the right-brained activities, yet I think it is more than just this. It is about letting students reveal their strengths and knowledge in a variety of ways.
Design: I think that we need to seriously consider designing schools that look less institutionalized. I would love to have a room that looked more like my living room with soft color hues that are soothing to students (and teachers). I also think that fluorescent lighting can be a distraction for some students and table lamps and natural light would be the best.
Story: I think that we do remember stories. It makes things real. Stories make a connection for kids. It is sometimes easier to help students see an emotion or action in a character in a book than in a more abstract way.
Symphony: Classical music helps the mind and helps create links. I cannot listen to music with words when I am studying; it is too much of a distraction. I do like to listen to wordless music, and attention must be paid to the tempo for students. I also think it is good to expose students to classical music. If I had music playing in the background during math, I would try to have the same music playing if they were going to take a test. (Perhaps it will remind their brains.)
Empathy: Don’t we all have students who need some of this. The last thing on their minds is school work, yet school may be the safest place for them. We need to remember that children are young and they are not little adults. They will need extra explanations and we have to be careful of assuming that they understand.
Play: Yes, we all need recess! It is interesting to watch students play on the playground. I also think we need to laugh more. I am not so sure about the laughing club, but a child’s laughter is contagious. (In a good way!) Perhaps through play we can show our students how to be even more productive as suggested in the book.
Meaning: Shouldn’t students find meaning in everyday work. We as teachers hate busy work, yet we are all guilty of assigning some of it. (Hopefully not often!) We cannot teach religion in the public schools, but we do need them to understand t hat it isn’t the “stuff” that makes them important. We need to give them the opportunity to discover who they are. It would be interesting to build or paint a labyrinth so children who are having difficulty can walk through the situation. This may help with children with attention issues, but also kids who have difficulty communicating.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Importance of Meaning in Life

As we move on to the final section of this amazing book, "A Whole New Mind," by Daniel Pink, we are asked to consider the increased effort of the population to find meaning in life. It seems to be at an all time high, according to the author.

We are first re-introduced to Viktor Frankl, an Austrian psychiatrist in the early1940's, who was developing some new thought on what brings about psychological well-being. Throughout his sufferings and trials in the concentration camp at Auschwitz, he pens his wisdom about what exactly gives life meaning. These thoughts eventually are compiled in the famous work "Man's Search for Meaning." He encourages us to consider that life can have meaning whether we are experiencing abundance or want, that we can find meaning even in the midst of incredible suffering. Mr. Pink suggests this: "Freed from the struggle for survival, we have the luxury of devoting more of our lives to the search for meaning. Surely if Frankl and his fellow prisoners could pursue meaning from the work camps of Auschwitz, we can do the same from the comfort of our abundant lives." Perhaps our general health and well being does allow us to take more time for consideration of what means the most to us, and to pursue what's most important.

One of the most interesting comments Mr. Pink provides from this section of the book was this: "Meantime, technology continues its unrelenting march, deluging us with data and choking us with choices." He seems to not be complimentary of our tech-savy age! What does it really mean? The ensuing statements to continue with a list of reasons we are more compelled to pursue finding meaning. Though I feel the statement has merit, it seems a little out of the context of the subject being discussed at this point in the book. Still, it rings true for me, as I ponder my own experience of having so much information at the touch of a key. It brings to mind this drive I have-to take advantage of so many learning opportunities since it's all there at the push of a button.... or two. In a way, it's exhilarating and freeing to be able to research, browse and investigate to my heart's content, all the things I've wondered about and wanted to learn, but at the same time overwhelming, as I sometimes don't know where to start and how to organize it! It feels frantic in some ways. It would be interesting to hear how other readers felt about this particular passage in the midst of the discussion of the pursuit of meaning.

And so we are at this point - there are many people who have plenty in their material lives but are left wanting, because it hasn't fulfilled their desires as hoped. There is a deeper desire, a deeper need that is not taken care of by material things. This book suggests the desire is fulfilled as we pursue spirituality and happiness seriously. Much research has been done that supports the thought that those who engage in spirituality in the form of meditation, prayer, church attendance and the like have a much better sense of well-being, are healthier and live longer. Daniel Pink warns us to keep a whole-minded approach, which is a healthy mix of "L-Directed reason and R-Directed spirit." Even the medical field is jumping on board with this focus, beginning to make note of people's spiritual history as well as medical history when looking into a patient's health issues. Corporate America, as well, is joining the band, per se, in paying attention to these areas in people's lives. Pink suggests that 'we are likely to see a rise in spirit in business" as well as a "continued rise in spirit as business."

The final paragraphs of the book focus on a commentary about happiness and its benefits for people's lives. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman is quoted several times with regard to how happiness is gained, including what constitutes the "Good Life," the"Pleasant Life." Living a positive, unselfish life, giving generously, forgiving, deciding to be hopeful, being of service, and serving a higher calling brings about happiness. As contentment settles into our lives because of the positive way we live, we are able to see in a more vivid way, what gives our life meaning.

There is much discussion of the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, with regard to how we feel about our lives. I truly enjoyed these comparisons that demonstrated the benefits of living life with a stop into a labyrinth once in awhile as opposed to stepping into a maze for a time. A maze "will lead to dead ends."..."objective is to escape".... "as quickly as possible." "A labyrinth is a spiritual walking course....your goal is to follow the path to the center, stop, turn around, and walk back out - at whatever pace you choose." "You can get lost in a maze; you can lose yourself in a labyrinth." "Mazes engage the left brain; labyrinths free the right brain." I love this stuff!

Labyrinths seem to be popping up everywhere, and it seems to be an indication of people's need to find one's center - the quiet part of themselves that helps them see what's truly important, and to settle peacefully into that knowledge as we attain it - spirituality and happiness. "The purpose of life is the journey itself."

Final thoughts included suggestions such as remembering to say thanks, considering if you would stay at your current job if you didn't really need the money, measuring the level of your spirit, erasing the word "but" from your vocabulary, using a "Sabbath" - a day per week to rest and reflect, if nothing else, - read some good books on happiness and spirituality, visit a labyrinth, inventory how you use your time, make your work mean something by connecting it or dedicating it to something/someone important to you and, finally, picture yourself at ninety. What do you see? How do you feel?

Sunday, December 5, 2010