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  • Ariel Sánchez Rojas

Teach your students how to gain control over how they think and behave (Strategy 4)

“Memory is a file cabinet where you can find labels for each moment of your life” probably you have heard of this, and it’s important for you to know that it does not work that way.

Actually memory is about associations when our brain processes something in the present moment (idea, feeling, smell, image…) and links that experience with similar experiences from the past. Memory is the way an event from the past influences us in the present; one experience causes certain neurons to run, and those neurons will wire from other similar experiences. Therefore, our past will shape our present and future. 


We have two types of memories: implicit and explicit. Latter one is our ability to recall an specific moment (“I remember when in english class Mrs. Sandra taught me how to write an essay”). Implicit one is when we do activities but don’t recall when or where we learn it (like playing soccer). Explicit memory is a conscious recollection of past experience; implicit is not, it starts forming even before we are born (our first eighteen months we only encode implicit memories). Implicit memory causes us to form expectations about how our life works, based on our previous experiences. 


Now, how can we use this information in our daily school tasks? 


For instance, when our students start reacting unusually unreasonable we need to consider if there is an implicit memory that has created a conduct in them, and it is an opportunity to explore why they behave in such ways. 


We as teachers or counselors must help them build the story; we must use narrative for their implicit memories to become explicit and full of meaning. Sometimes (many of the times) when students get into trouble is because an implicit memory is triggered, and if we understand where it comes from then we can fix it. 

This integration of implicit and explicit memory works on our “hippocampus”, our “search engine” or our “Google”. The hippocampus works with different parts of our brain to take all of the images, emotions, and sensations of implicit memory and draw them together so we create narrative that help us understand life itself. 


When we help our students integrate their past into their present, they can make sense of what’s going on inside them and gain control over how they think and behave. They will start developing their upstairs brain (remember strategy 3) and will take their troubling experiences that are impacting them without their knowledge (implicit memory) in memories that have meaning.


So remember: when you see a student struggling as a result of a past experience, just go and talk and help them retell the story of the experience. Help them take control of their story, behavior and feelings. 


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So we have learn four strategies:

  1. Retell the story of the frightening or painful experience so you integrate the left and right hemisphere and start healing. (link)

  2. Instead of command and demand, try to connect and redirect: working left with left, and right with right (Horizontal integration): (link)

  3. Engage and instruct, don’t fall into anger (vertical integration). 

  4. Integrate implicit and explicit memory to make sense of what’s going on, and gain control l over how we think and behave. 




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