The Little Book Of Big Stuff About The Brain

Jul 27, 2010

Category: Words    Tags: , , ,

What do you know about what you teach?

Not what subject you teach (that you have an excellent grasp of your subject matter is a given), but what you teach to.

What do you know about that part of your students you’re directing your questions, examples and activities to? What do you know about the part of your pupils that you expect to change, grow and become more complex as you teach daily? What do you know about how their brains work?*

*Or, for that matter, your own.

If most of us are being honest, the answer is hopelessly little. Or at least hopelessly little considering it’s our job to teach to the things!

Was it covered in your teacher training degree? (it wasn’t in ours). Has it been provided as an INSET course in your school? (we haven’t come across it very often). And yet, we expect this incredible part of the human body to hold all the information we decide to throw at it (in whatever way we decide to throw it!)

Isn’t time to start understanding how this learning organ of ours works?

That’s where The Little Book of Big Stuff About the Brain (hereafter known as ‘Big Stuff About the Brain’!) comes in.

Its author, Dr Andrew Curran, has a tough job. How can a paediatric neurologist (very clever) write a book about the brain’s workings (very complex) in a way that is accessible to us (not too clever, not at all complex!)?

He manages it by blending the tough stuff with an easy-to-read style and the sort of doodles that you can imagine all consultant paediatric neurologists might scrawl in their spare time…

Rather than being a dry read (as you would imagine most anatomical works might be to the non-medical reader), Big Stuff About the Brain is a vibrant piece of writing, filled with relevance to the classroom. As well as working as a consultant at Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Dr Curran has been involved with Manchester University in researching the use of emotional literacy in classrooms and worked alongside Independent Thinking Ltd. The author has a professional and personal interest in making a difference in education and it shows.

Big Stuff About the Brain is a sort of Haynes manual for educators — a handbook for people who work with brains, enlightening us about the very things that our pupils bring to school every day in protective shells, expecting us to develop and unlock the potential of.

An interesting thought occured after finishing this book… Are we simply teaching to a bunch of connections, chemicals and firing synapses every day? Percentage-wise, we’re mostly water, but isn’t there something more spiritual about learning and who we are?

Dr Curran touches on this,

…just sets of circuits firing to produce reactions in our bodies and minds. I say ‘just’, but of course this isn’t a ‘just’; this is a dance of unsurpassing beauty that chimes with the music of the heavens

‘The Little Book of Big Stuff About the Brain’ by Andrew Curran

…as well as Ian Gilbert in his foreword…

If our brains were simply to understand them, we would be too simple to understand them.

Ian Gilbert’s foreword to ‘The Little Book of Big Stuff About the Brain’ by Andrew Curran

These unencompassable little brains that we teach to every day are part of a wonderful creation. More powerful and complex than any computer, they can think independently, create, inspire and be inspired. It’s our job to develop their full potential. What a challenge! What an honour!

Is it too much trouble to find out how they work?



Emotional Intelligence in the Classroom by Michael Brearley
The Big Book of Independent Thinking edited by Ian Gilbert
The Magic of Metaphor by Nick Owen


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