Write It Down For Success

Technology does many things, but it doesn’t help us remember.  Our Google calendar can remind us of a meeting, or Facebook may alert us about a friend’s birthday, but neither example includes remembering. They just enable us to show up.  I use Google calendar, however, I also use a calendar where I write it down.  Why?  As an occupational therapist, I know that writing something down helps me to remember and integrate the information more fully than if I type it.  Typing involves subtle differences between the keys, but writing uses completely different motor patterns that help us to store the information that we are trying to remember.  The article, Writing and Remembering: Why We Remember What We Write, does an excellent job of describing why this is the case. Basically, our brain has areas of specialization, including language, vision, motor movements, planning and execution.  Writing helps to access all of these areas, thus increasing the neural connections with the information.  Think of it as a highway system.  If a town has only one road to it, a good rainstorm could leave the town unreachable.  However, if there are multiple ways to get to the town, then a flood or other unplanned event won’t leave the town stranded.  Information in the brain works the same way. More pathways to the information means that it is easier and faster to retrieve.  That information is also more likely to be linked to other information stored in the brain.  So whether you are studying for a test, or preparing for an important meeting, put it in writing.  You’ll do more than just show up.  You’ll be ready to impress.

History is Written By the Winners

Chinua Achebe (Author) — ‘Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. The power to tell a story is one of the most indelible marks of ruling class culture. The teller of the story identifies the hero, and the victim.  I work with a population of mostly refugees who have lived their lives as the victims of our stories but the heroes of their own.  There are mostly the same stories either was, the facts only change slightly, but the ability to assign the caps and masks as each group sees fit profoundly changes the moral ( or morality) of the story. Teresa Strong-Wilson’s Bringing Memory Forward is a groundbreaking book in the study of how stories can be central to curriculum, and how stories influence our ways of being, especially in relation to being or not being an “Other”.   Research tells us that white teachers are among the most stubborn learners when it comes to challenging memories and experiences of privilege and race.  White teachers often have difficulty recognizing and critiquing their understanding of difference and this profoundly affects the ways they relate stories to their classrooms.  Achebe tells the story of realizing that Joseph Conrad had cast people who look like him as the villains in Heart Of Darkness and the profound effect that had on his sense of self.

I Knew It Yesterday

Stress can negatively affect memory.  We all know the feeling.  The boss asks us for important detailed information in a meeting, while everyone stares at us waiting for a response.  The information that we knew better than our husband’s favorite food, is gone, poof.  How can we prevent this from happening?  First recognize that the body is engaging in protective behavior that puts the focus on the muscles that can fight or run away.  The information is there, in your mind, especially if you wrote it down.  Focus on lowering your shoulders and taking a good deep breath, this helps to communicate to your limbic system, the area of emotional reactions, that everything is fine.  Then then think about what the information looks like,  where you were when you reviewed it and any other detail to help you start to travel down the road.  The Center for Human Studies has many other ideas to help manage stress. to decrease it’s likelihood of affecting memory.  After the meeting, share the story with someone and have a good laugh.