We See What We Look For

Ian North

“Children whose teachers capture their imagination and inspire them to pay attention will be able to learn and build a scaffold of knowledge about the world and themselves. Attention is the driving force of change and growth.”
 
- Daniel J. Siegel in Pocket Guide to Interpersonal Neurobiology
 

When you arrive at your home and walk into the door, what do you notice first? Do you see who is or isn’t there? Do you notice a pet running out to greet you? Does the room temperature cool your skin?

If you had traumatic experiences in that home, you might notice a whole different range of things. You might check to see if other family members made it home. You might notice whether or not adults in the house were sober. You might make plans for how to get out of the room if something went wrong.

A healthy mind notices an amazing range of things, from sensory impressions to sequences of events to our own emotions. But children who grow up experiencing instability, racism, abuse, or hunger learn to pay attention to one main thing: threats.

The good news is that healing is possible in healthy, safe community.

As our mentors check in with them, our students learn to pay attention to their own feelings and needs. When we ask them whether they want a wave, fist bump, or hug, they learn to notice their own boundaries and agency. When we point out things we love about our students, they begin to notice and love those things too.

Over the years, these shifts in attention teach our students to know that they matter and have something good to share. Their brains build new connections and they experience their world differently.

Our staff has started reading “Befriend Your Brain” together and working to embody and share good health with our students. We’d love it if you could join us on this healing journey!



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