Dr. JoAnn Deak, noted author, educator, and psychologist, spent Thursday with the GPS faculty and staff, explaining the good and bad of the adolescent brain and offering advice for generating mindful, not “mind full” learning in the classroom. Dr. Deak’s presentation at GPS was a gift from interim Head of School Dr. Sue Groesbeck.
Dr. Deak is the author of four books: How Girls Thrive, Girls will be Girls, The Fantastic Elastic Brain, and The Owner’s Manual for Driving your Adolescent Brain. “Your job as a teacher,” she told the GPS faculty, “is to extend each girl’s uni-focus as much as possible before she leaves.” Multi-tasking, she said, costs time, leads to mistakes and a deteriorating laser, or uni-, focus in adolescents, and develops a brain that “habituates an increased need for multi-stimulation.” Much better, she said, is a deep, linear focus that “leads to profound thinking.”
In addition to demystifying brain research and the differences between the genders, Dr. Deak stressed what she calls the “IPO method of teaching.” According to her, a teacher should devote 20 minutes on the input of information, two minutes on deep processing of the information, and a similar amount to the output by the student. “You need to teach girls to fight through problem-solving and ambiguity and help them fight to figure something out. They need to use, or stretch, every part of their brain.”
Explaining that a girl needs “connected” teaching, a belief that a teacher cares about her, she advised teachers to use the word misstep rather than mistake and to acclimate girls to giving an incorrect answer. “Missteps are less costly in a girls’ school,” she said. “When girls can work together, they take more risks, face conflict, and come out sturdier.”
She received laughter and a smattering of appreciative applause when she said the “teachers of adolescent girls should make more money than professional athletes.”