As we all were able to see so clearly in Andrew Watson's presentations here last week, learning thoroughly, to retain new information as long term memories, involves physical changes to our brains. First electricity must course through our neurons, then chemicals must carry the signals across synapses; new receptors are unveiled, new arms grow on our neurons so they become "octopus neurons, " and reach their arms out to grasp hold of others and create large webs of interconnected neurons. When you study and practice, you are growing octopi in your minds, and weaving their arms into webs: an odd image to be sure. But I hope you are struck by the physical dimension of this image of learning: it is changing you, extending your brain cells, inter-weaving them. It literally changes your brain when you learn. It changes who you are.
This also highlights the idea that you must be willing to change in oder to learn effectively. Learning makes us into more complex beings. Probably there are circumstances in which people are forced to learn things we wold rather not know, where we learn against our will, but there can be no doubt that openness to growth and change, to seeing and grasping new things, to looking for connections is a characteristic of successful learners. So as we celebrate the achievements of the very successful learners at our school, let us think about what we want to learn this spring and about increasing our openness to learning from every situation and person we encounter. We will grow legions of tiny octopi in our minds and encourage them to reach out and clasp hands in a great dance in our minds!
By the way, I was so struck by the image of octopi that I did some research and discovered that there are a numbers of reasons octopi make a good metaphor for increasing intelligence:
-they have 3 hearts
-they are more intelligent than any other om vertebrate, and possess both short and long term memory
-2/3 of their neurons are in their arms, and they can detach arms, and change their colors so that they appear to be a predator's worst enemy!!
-they learn nothing from their parents and figure everything they know out for themselves
-they have been known to board vessels and open holds to get at the food inside
Speaking of food, octopi consume fish, mollusks, and marine eels. And I happened to look up food that your brain needs for learning, and it turns out you need Omega 3 acids, found in fish, to form new brain cells. You need vitamins C, B6 and B12 to form neurotransmitters. B12 is found in fish! (and breakfast cereals). And your brain needs a lot of water.
So treat your brain as you would an octopus, and your brain will teem with octopus neurons!!!