This is a lesson given to the Elementary children as they are learning about the brain and how it works:
Do you know why the work in our classroom gives you so much practice asking questions, solving problems, organizing things?
Because we’re working with the pre-frontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that helps you make a plan, figure out what the steps of the plan are, and then follow through and carrying out all the stops until you do the thing that you want to do.
When I was your age, I sometimes thought being a child was really frustrating. Sometimes, I would have an idea of something I really wanted to do but I wouldn’t be able to do it. Because it felt like it was too hard. Because it felt like it had too many steps. Because I didn’t think that I could remember all of the steps in order to get it done. Because I didn’t think that I could stick with it long enough to finish the really cool idea that I have. Do you ever feel like that?
Do you ever feel like an adult asks you to do something and you want to do it and you want to do a good job but you forget to do it or you get distracted while you’re doing it and then you don’t finish or you don’t do it really well? And then, you feel mad at yourself? Or, the adult feels mad at you?
I’m working on helping you with that. Do you know how I’m helping you with that? All the lessons I give you and all the follow up work we decide upon is helping you to build up your pre-frontal cortex.
Do you know what the pre-frontal cortex does? This is the part of the brain that helps you make a plan, decide what the steps of the plan are, and finish the thing that you started.
But not only that! Do you know what else the prefrontal cortex does? It helps you to pull yourself back to your work when you get distracted. Then, you don’t need any adults bothering you or reminding you to go back to your work. Because you can do it all by yourself.
Do you know what else the prefrontal cortex does? It helps you get stickwithitude. Do you know what that is? It’s the attitude of not giving up, of pushing through when things are hard, of staying with some thing until the job is finished.
You have some stickwithitude already. I’ve seen it. And little by little, every lesson you get, and every follow-up work you complete, helps you to get a little bit more of it. Then, the next time you have a big beautiful inspiring idea, you will trust yourself to go for it. Because you know that you have stickwithitude. You know your pre-frontal cortex is strong and is going to help you get the job done.
That is why I am so insistent with you that you use your work time well. That you fill your work time with as much work as you can, because every Bit of work is making your pre-frontal cortex stronger and stronger.
Just like a brain with muscles.
Your Fantastic, Elastic Brain (book)