It seemed like I studied the brain a lot in college.
There were the psychology classes — general psychology, abnormal psychology, developmental psychology, personality theories and educational psychology. As a biology minor, I recall several classes that made a brief reference to the human brain. One professor told our class that our entire brian, from our memories to our personality, were nothing more than a bunch of chemical reactions inside our head.
After I graduated, with a degree in education, one of the popular trends of the 80’s in education was applying what we know about the brain to classroom instruction. So I took a graduate level course titled “Applied Brain Growth Theory.”
I still have the book at home on a shelf.
I remember a few things from the course — like you can’t make people learn things before their brain is ready, people remember better when they have to dig the answer out of their own brain, peoples brains are different and so are their styles of learning.
I occasionally find strange things that trigger my memories. When that happens I wonder that if I could only find a way to create those triggers purposefully, perhaps I could be the world’s smartest, and maybe richest, man.
For example, a few years ago I was watching the St. George television station, the one that with all the old reruns.
They were showing an old 1950s Superman show with George Reeves.
I loved Superman as a kid. He made me feel safe. If I ever got in trouble all I needed to do was shout “Help! Superman!” and he would fly to my rescue.
After one minute of watching the show, I could remember the whole plot.
It was the one where the little bald people climbed out of the well. They had a ray-gun machine that looked like my grandmother’s vacuum cleaner with a funnel glued on one end.
It was the only two-parter of that series of Superman that I recall. And I had nightmares waiting to see the second episode. But guess what, in the end Superman saved the day.
I was only maybe 5 years old when I saw that show the first time. But now, at 60 plus years, I could remember the whole thing.
And I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff in those 55 plus years between five and now. If I only had a brain.
I had a student in a class once that wasn’t doing too well. I talked to him after school. He said he just wasn’t good at “remembering stuff.”
I knew he liked the modern day noise that students at that time called music.
I gave him a blank sheet of notebook paper and asked him to write down all the names of musical groups he could recall, one on each line.
He filled the sheet in no time.
Then I asked him which group was his favorite. After a short discussion with himself, he chose one.
No, I don’t remember which one it was.
I gave him another sheet of notebook and asked him to list all the names of songs that that group had recorded.
He quickly filled the sheet.
Next, I asked which two of those songs were his favorites.
Again, after a short discussion, he picked two favorites.
I gave him two sheets of paper and asked him to write the lyrics to those songs, one song on each sheet.
While quietly singing, he wrote the lyrics for both songs, easily.
I then placed in front of him the list of musical groups, the names of songs, and the song lyrics.
“There’s nothing wrong with your brain,” I said. “You just need to put what you need to remember to music.”
His performance on tests improved after that.
I don’t know if he was singing the answers, but I expect his improvement was the result of a changed outlook.
Instead of telling himself, “I can’t do this” — he realized that he could.
A smart man once taught me that people are rarely successful at doing things they know they can’t do.
I don’t know who wrote it, but I do remember the last stanza to this poem that hung on a hand calligraphed piece of faded white butcher paper with curled up edges in the training room in my high school’s locker room: “Life’s battles don’t always go to the stronger or faster man, but sooner or later the man who wins is the one who thinks he can.”
So “Great Casear’s ghost,” give that brain of yours a little rest and a lot of credit for its ability.