Brain Rules: Chapter 8

Rule #8:  Stressed brains don’t learn the same way.

1.  Stress affects us in physical ways.  Folks who are stressed are “3 times more likely to suffer from the common cold.” (Medina, 177)  This explains why I was sick so often during my first 2 years of teaching.  New germs and new stress overwhelmed my system.  After almost every concert I missed school.  It was not just the sniffles but a real lay in bed all day kind of cold.

2.  Stress is helpful in the moment as it prepares the body to be active but stress that goes on for days and even months is what pulls the body down.  Perhaps this is why music teachers with a little more experience don’t get sick quite as often.  During my first few years of teaching I often felt like I never got a break!  At this point in my career (starting year 13) I understand that the months leading up to the concert don’t need to be super stressful.  If I plan well it’s just a matter of executing the steps of the plan.  I know the kids better now.  I have a firmer and deeper understanding of what is a challenge but still doable in a given amount of time.  How did I acquire this knowledge?  The University of Illinois began the process.  But I added to those four years of learning with 12 more years of practical experience and reflection.

3.  How I personally deal with stress is in some ways genetic. (Medina, 181)  So while I can do things to make myself more aware of how I am handling stress I can not change how I am wired.  I need to know my limits.  I am not the teacher that can teach all music grades k-12, have a HS musical, have a MS show choir, be in charge of 2 sets of Solo and Ensemble and Organizational Contests, direct the church choir and be a well adjusted human.  I’m just not.  Many of the leaders in my life (pastors, principals, etc) wish I were because they perceive me to be good at what I do.  But I’m not and wishing won’t make it so.  I need to be cognizant of when to say no.  And I’m happy to say that I think I’m getting closer to that balance every year.

Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School (Book & DVD). Chicago: Pear Press, 2008.

Brenda Muench

music educator tech integration specialist

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