Guest Post: A Short Story

Here’s something a little different by my friend Justin Vawter, Co-Founder of NuMinds Enrichment.

Educator Justin Vawter

Educator Justin Vawter

The rise of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI)—and its ability to see our brain’s activity in real time—holds unlimited potential for scientists and researchers. Martin Lindstrom, in his book Buyology, even discusses the current research and implications of neural imaging in market research. For example, do choosy moms really choose Jif peanut butter, and if so, what subconscious processes are driving their purchasing decisions?

As an educational researcher, I love daydreaming about using fMRI to better understand how humans think, learn, and build new knowledge. Imagine in Piaget had access to one of these machines! What happens on a subconscious level as students are engaged? Is blood flow increased to various areas of the brain that allows for heightened neuro-receptivity? Why do some kids “get” the material while others are left dumbfounded?

However, the prefix “sub” means below/hidden/beneath, and many of us would prefer for our subconscious to remain right where it is—hidden and beneath the visible surface. I admit, I learned a lot in my junior high history class, but that was because I had a huge crush on my teacher. If she could have run a real-time fMRI brain scan on me…well, either she’d be really flattered or I’d be expelled. Either way, let’s leave that pubescent fascination out of my report card, thank you. This example highlights why we may or may not want to go poking around in the subconscious.

As advocates of neural imaging increase, the opponents of so-called “brain probing” gather together to voice their concerns—and no, the majority do not consist of junior high boys. The argument goes: if we know what makes the subconscious work, what keeps us from manipulating reality to control the subconscious? It’s a slippery slope, but a valid ethical conundrum that accompanies most scientific discoveries and anomaly shifts.

This is an incredible topic, and it’s fun to look at both sides of the implication coin. However, I am neither smart enough nor well-versed enough to provide a definitive answer about the use (or misuse) or fMRI. Instead, I prefer to keep my contributions to daydreams and silent reveries. I offer this narrative piece as a simple “what could be.” What would school be like if students were required to where actual “thinking caps” that visibly show their brain’s activity? No more daydreaming, but instead, complete and regulated engagement.

*********************************************************************************************

It’s 11 minutes after the bell as Yuri slides through the door and into his seat. Teach looks, but just jots it down and moves on. Yuri is closed to being finished—everyone knows it.
He unloads his bag and puts his school items in place: bun-board, isoscope, wax frog figurine—the usual. Yuri places the thinking cap on his head and presses his table’s on switch. After the initial wince, he’s ready. Sucking in a deep breath of air, he expels a low, droll tone between puffed cheeks, slowly deflating into his seat.
The diodes on Yuir’s cap fade in the front, flicker, and with decaying pulses, shift into a dull, throbbing light at the base of his skull. Just two minutes and already he isn’t paying attention.
Now, we all knew, you didn’t bother Yuri for those first few minutes. You didn’t ask where he was or why he was late. But Yuri was close to being finished, and Teach wouldn’t miss an opportunity like this.
Right on cue, just like every time Yuri’s lights fade to the back, Teach begins to move to the far side of the room, skirting the windowsill, making her way methodically towards Yuri.
As she moves, closing in on a daydreaming Yuri, thinking caps about the room begin flickering blue and red. Excited orange taints the stream of engaged green. We aren’t listening to the lecture; we want to know what’s going to happen to Yuri. Sensing the change in color, Teach turns her attention and gaze back to the class:
“As we do in good order. Right, children?”
We murmur “Yes, ma’am,” and the oranges and blues are gone, replaced by green thinking caps. Teach glances around at the engaged learners; satisfied. She closes in on Yuri. I focus forward, desperately putting my full attention to the lesson splayed on my bun-board. I can see the green reflection in the screen, letting me know that my mind is in the right place.
But what’s going on? What’s going to happen? Teach is still moving. I turn to look back at Yuri and jump. There’s Teach less than three feet away and moving my direction. I must have flicked a frightened yellow, because she flits a reassuring smile before brushing past my desk.
Her smell. The smell of dust, decay, and cold, dead smoke. I’m sure my helmet is an array of colors. It doesn’t matter; she passed, and was close enough to Yuri not to mind a flicker amidst the fading greens around the room.
Looking back, there’s Yuri—the front of his thinking cap still a faint maroon, while the back of his head beams whites and purples. His colors are so bright they splay the back wall of the room like a floating orb.
Rarely did a cap glow as bright as Yuri’s; too bad it was always on the wrong side.
“Yuri-oh-mo!” A yellow band of light beams from his head, jumping in scattered directions. Greens grappled with white: a sensory overload.
“Pay attention!” All of Yuri’s lights dance yellow, then blue, and then…instead of settling on green where they should, they suddenly go out. Black. Pissed-off black, we call it. Teach notices, and the color purple carpets the white walls of the entire classroom; no one is engaged. Teach freezes—processing the boy before him.
“Yuri! How dare you think as such? In my class? In my school?” Teach presses Yuri’s desk off. Another wince as the magnetics release their hold. “You are dismissed.”
Yuri stuffs his backpack and walks out of the room. He would leave school, and we wouldn’t see him until the following day. There would be no after-hours playtime for Yuri. No socialtime. No development trainings. Yuri is done for the day, and would return tomorrow for much of the same, until he either learned to stay engaged, or gave up entirely.

Justin Vawter

http://betanumien.com/

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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William & Peter

William & Peter

Michael & Julieth

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This post was written by guest blogger Cheryl Tillery, GT teacher at West Mesquite High School. What a wonderful testament to this family and to Cheryl’s work as a GT teacher!

In the spring of 2010, Brown University accepted the first of three siblings, Onyebuchi Michael Udozorh, eldest son of a Nigerian-born family living in Mesquite, TX. Attending West Mesquite High School, Michael walked into my GT English class in August 2006, with the firm idea that he would be valedictorian, attend Harvard University, and become a doctor to save the world from disease. An exceptionally dedicated student, he worked well with others and was more than willing to help, but he could not understand why other students did not work as hard to achieve their very best, as he did. He was old enough to remember his life in Nigeria and understood his parents’ sacrifice to leave their home and travel to the United States for a new life. He felt he must strive for nothing less than quality work. I watched Michael grow from a young freshman to an outstanding young man as a senior. I watched that stubbornness evolve from med school to law school to a double major in health and human biology and visual arts with honors. I watched his artistic side create paintings, sketches, and designs for art, edited and encouraged his developing writing skills, and cheered for him at the Regional Academic Decathlon Competition. I must admit, I loved and admired Michael as if he were my own son.

In 2008, Michael’s sister, Chimezie Julieth, walked into my GT English class. She was six when she left Nigeria so she did not remember as much as Michael. However, she also wanted to become a doctor. Julieth, with her strong personality, was a different student. She was more than willing to help others, if they asked for help, but mostly, she scared the other students. If a student made a mistake, she had no problem letting him or her know exactly what the mistake was with a solution to fix it. Although a tough cookie, she had a loving, caring side underneath the harsh side. It wasn’t often that others were able to see it, but I did. I was expecting my second child, and Julieth did her best to take care of me by making sure I received lots of gifts for the baby. My girls continue to adore the gifts, even today. She even fashioned a book with poems about mothers. It was such a sweet gift that I treasure still. On a visit to the school while on maternity leave, she watched over the baby and wouldn’t allow anyone else to hold her. I felt she was quite protected. Juliet, my daughter from another country and family, also has a special place in my heart and always will.

In 2010, the third sibling, Kelechukwu Peter, walked into my GT English class. Peter never really talked as much about his plans for the future. I believe med school has always been an idea, but he didn’t vocalize it as much as the others. As far as a student, Peter was a combination of Michael and Julieth. He was very demanding of his classmates and could be seen as scary as Julieth. His classmates even dubbed him “Best Future World Dictator.” Like Michael, he allowed his emotions to come out in his art. To me, his dark style evoked his internal struggle with being a member of a family with high expectations. His brother was valedictorian, his sister was salutatorion, and he was ranked third in his class. Peter even wrote a speech about being in third (school rank and family rank) for a competition, the same competition Michael won first place and Julieth won second. Was it destiny for Peter to come in third place in the competition too? It doesn’t matter because he too will always have a special place in my heart.

In 2014, Peter graduated high school on a Friday night, and Michael graduated from Brown the next day. Their proud family was torn between two important graduations, full of excitement.
Peter will be attending Brown in the fall with his sister, a junior, whose major is public health & international politics. Michael is planning his next educational endeavor at UT Law School.

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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What happens when gifted kids grow up? That question has big implications for both children and adults. What are we doing to prepare our gifted youth for adulthood? How do we perceive gifted adults?

I think sometimes we put giftedness in the category of the tooth fairy. It’s fun to play around with it as you’re growing up. Adults celebrate it and reward it in children. Then once the child has all his/her permanent teeth, we stop paying any attention and assume the process is complete. I wonder if we’re missing out.

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Here’s an interesting conversation starter. What do you think?

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Is that OK?

What if we were more careful about the semantics? Is there a word for “highly capable but possibly doesn’t see things as other people do which can be highly frustrating to self and others”? Or “feels out of place much of the time and doesn’t want to be in school”? If we had words to accurately describe the state of being gifted, would the above problems take care of themselves?

I don’t know, but it seems like it might be worth a shot. To borrow another line from Shakespeare, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.”

 

 

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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We’ve still got a long way to go when it comes to finding gifted kids, don’t we?

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

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Intimidated by Twitter? Here’s a great place to start!

Kay Shurtleff

Kay Shurtleff

Although my day job is educational consultant for GT/Advanced Academics and ELAR, I also spend ridiculous amounts of down time drinking tea and reading, blogging, tweeting, and playing with language. Writing is a natural outlet, mode of thinking, form of entertainment, and illuminator for me. I'm working on a PhD in gifted education right now, and I appreciate having this forum in which to kick around ideas. Thanks for stopping by G/T-time!

More Posts

Follow Me:
Twitter