Editor’s Note: In conjunction with the 20-year anniversary of BrainSMART, we are sharing some of our educators’ stories. All of the featured educators earned their Master’s in Brain-based Teaching curricula and/or the Minor in Brain-based Leadership, co-developed by Dr. Donna Wilson and Dr. Marcus Conyers, co-founders of BrainSMART. Below is a synopsis of one of those stories.
Maureen Ryan, known as “Coach Mo” to her students, credits BrainSMART’s Thinking for Results model for helping her to reach the “courageous learners” in her class.
The Thinking for Results model emphasizes that there is not a one-size-fits-all strategy when it comes to teaching and learning. Instead, Coach Mo always reminds her students to “Never question ability, always improve strategy.”
“With a lot of my courageous learners, the challenge has been for them to learn that there’s somebody who cares and somebody who’s willing to take the time to listen and work with them and be positive and optimistic,” Coach Mo said when sharing her story with the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students. “I think too many times our courageous learners are already getting the sense of defeat before they’ve ever started something. I always want my students to know that I’m one of their biggest fans.”
Coach Mo teaches health and physical education at Jasper County Middle School in Monticello, Georgia. She has both an M.S. degree with a Major in Brain-Based Teaching (Concentration in Learning and Teaching) and an Ed.S. degree with a Concentration in Teacher Leadership.
One of Coach Mo’s most meaningful accomplishments, which also was an accomplishment for her students, occurred when they were challenged to create positive change within the school by helping to educate their peers about the effects of bullying behavior.
“I gave them the challenge of solving the problem on their own and let them create a schoolwide presentation,” Coach Mo reported. “All the teachers and the administrators came and watched, and the students did some phenomenal work using 21st-century skills. They created videos, wrote poems, and collaborated. Students who had never been speakers before talked about their personal experiences with bullying, either from the point of view of the victim or as the bully, and that was very empowering for the students to hear.”
As a result of the program, many students signed a pledge stating that they wouldn’t participate in bullying. “We wanted our student body to come together as a supportive community to inspire greater empathy within the student population, and they accomplished this goal with the heartfelt work that they did,” Coach Mo stated.
The collaboration and dedication to their work was inspiring at every grade level. “My courageous students’ work had me choking back tears of pride and joy,” Coach Mo recalled. “I know this was a memorable learning experience for all of us.”