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.
time as a special education teacher with Bartow County Public Schools in
Cartersville, Georgia, D’Jon McNair used BrainSMART teaching strategies
supporting the concepts of state, meaning, attention, retention, and
transfer to help students improve their performance in the classroom.
was excited and stunned to learn that cognitive skills can be learned,”
he said in an interview for the BrainSMART publication, Effective Teaching, Successful Students.
“Teaching kids cognitive skills has been instrumental in helping them
feel successful in what they’re doing and getting them motivated to
Mr. McNair, who went on to
become an assistant principal at Woodland High School, recalled how
focusing on cognitive assets helped one struggling student improve his
academic performance. The teacher worked one-on-one with the child,
reading to him The More You Do, The More You Can Do to underscore the
importance of hard work and persistence to achieve one’s goals.
addition, Mr. McNair tied the student’s personal interests into
classroom lessons, asking him, for instance, to consider what it would
have been like to fly a prop plane as an explorer in the 1800s during
America’s time of territorial expansion. “I had to allow him some
literary freedom to write about what it would be like to fly over a
covered wagon,” he explained. “He could tie necessary facts to something
Because the student didn’t read on
grade level, he was significantly behind. Mr. McNair allowed him to do
verbal lessons. The results of that differentiated instruction were that
the student “went from being reevaluated for a behavioral disability to
learning what he needed to learn and even won an award from a local
civic group in only nine weeks.”
Mr. McNair has applied
the BrainSMART content in other ways, such as designing an activity to
help students hone their math and living skills by going shopping to
find the best bargains. His class studied advertising flyers from three
stores to compare prices and calculate how much they could save with
coupons and two-for-one offers.
“My philosophy is this:
Regardless of who the kid is, what their family circumstance, what
issues they bring to the school, positive or negative, once they enter
that door, they’re ours,” Mr. McNair said in his ETSS interview.
“We have to do everything we can possibly do in the five or six hours we
have them to help them achieve to their potential.”