Day 10: What is the Amygdala?

I am fascinated with the human brain.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, I spent a few minutes this morning thinking about one of the most fascinating and important parts our brain, the Amygdala.

The Amygdala is the part of our brain that assesses what we do when faced with danger. It works quickly, without our conscious awareness, because speed is vital in protecting ourselves against any perceived to be a threat. Some people have a more developed Amygdala than others. Therefore, danger looks different to everyone. For some, it means being terrified of a roller coaster and others walking down a dark, unlit street at night.

The Amygdala was even more important in the early years of man. If people waited for the cerebral cortex, responsible for devising rational thought, to warn us of danger, then the human race would most likely be extinct. It’s too slow. It’s not good for making snap decision. Think about all the possible dangers facing man in the early years of pre-civilization. Imagine how destructive the discovery of fire could have been to man-kind. It was the Amygdala that prevented people from severely burning themselves.

So, why am I telling you this?

Well, I attended an 8 am webinar this morning. It was a crash course on getting us ready to serve as an Administrator for the PARCC test beginning tomorrow. The webinar was like an open faucet, pouring out an abundance of information that I was uncertain what to do with it. I felt powerless. I felt as if I didn’t have a receptacle or cup to retain the water. The information washed over me. How in the world am I going to do this?

As I looked around the room, not surprisingly everyone over forty had a similar type of trepidation, shuffling papers, pressing buttons on their key boards doing everything they could to make sense of everything. Like me, they seemed to have no cup to hold the pouring water.

At this moment, I knew my Amygdala was working. It said danger. Run. I quickly assessed the risk. Run or stay? Well, my over forty colleagues and I didn’t run. While we may have taken on a lot of water, I know my colleagues, under 40 and over 40, and I will figure it out. That’s what teachers do. We figure it out, even when we don’t have a cup.


One thought on “Day 10: What is the Amygdala?

  1. First, well written. Non-fiction veering over to personal narrative.
    Second, I am so glad I don’t have to do the PARCC!
    Finally, I just got back from the 6th session of my bee-keeping class and I am feeling as you did- so overwhelmed that I wonder if I can just avoid the whole thing! Your description of not having a cup- a great metaphor. I think it happens when we don’t have enough background experience to scaffold our new learning. Not a great feeling.
    It makes me wonder- when do I make my students feel that way?


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