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Mind-Body Connect: Dr Pramila Kudva

Let me start by telling you a story. Tom a 17 year old was driving home after his soccer match. Out of nowhere came a car from the front straight into him. Brakes screeched. Tom was flung out of his car into a neighbouring compound. While he was in the air he remembers seeing his left arm still sitting in the car. He was a left-hander.





What happened next is eerie. Even after recovery from the hospital, he could still feel the presence of his arm. He would extend that arm to pick up the phone, tuck his brother into bed and start getting fearful and paranoid.


Philadelphia physician Silas Mitchel described this phenomenon after the American civil war and called it a phantom hand. The frayed and curled-up nerves in the stump that supplied the limbs get irritated and inflamed and send signals to the brain centres which believe that there is a limb.


Neuroscientist Dr V.S. Ramachandran is internationally renowned for uncovering answers to the deep and quirky questions of human nature that few scientists have dared to address. He has dealt with the phantom concept In his book Phantoms in the Brain. Strange but true.


This brings me to my topic Human mind and body connect.


Before I delve into the topic let’s try to understand what is a brain and what is a mind. Are they the same or different?


Each learning, each person, and every single experience is represented in our brain by a network of neurons.

The denser the network, means more synaptic connections there are within that network,- the stronger that information is, the easier we will recall it.





Put a person in a positive supportive environment and our brain will learn that we can trust others. To ensure that the school and home are safe environments. When you teach theme teaching or use an integrated approach, the neurons make connections and the memory is long-lasting.


Teaching, therefore, cannot be done in silos but linked to the earlier concepts taught.


Now put that same person in a fearful environment subject to physical or emotional harm and he will learn this as well.


This is due to the neuroplasticity of the brain. But, this gift of nature has far-reaching consequences.


Not only should we be aware of it but we have a duty to choose wisely whatever we decide to dedicate our lives to.


Let's take for example, A soldier risking his life serving his country he will have developed the same set of skills as a terrorist plotting the destruction of his sworn enemies.

Neuroplasticity of the brain has no moral compass.


What then is the mind? Is it different from the brain?


1. The brain, the most intricate organ in the body, has about 86 billion active neurons, which interact with each other to create circuits and exchange information.


The mind is a concept that has been debated and explored by scholars, scientists, and theologians for centuries. It can be defined as the complex network of thought processes and consciousness that arises from the neurological activity of the brain.


2. Mind skills can be trained, while brain function cannot be changed.

It can be rewired in the sense that if you try to button your shirt with the non-preferred hand, over a period of time the brain gets adjusted to do it. Research has found that pilots can fly virtual planes even when they are seated upside down! Mind skills such as decision-making, problem-solving, creativity, and communication can all be trained over time to increase the effectiveness of a person's mental processes.


Your mind is in fact an ongoing construction of your brain, your body, and the surrounding world.


3. Things in space have a position, at least, and a height, a depth, and a length, or one or more of these. Mental entities, on the other hand, do not have these characteristics. We cannot say that a mind is a two-by-two-by-two-inch cube or a sphere with a two-inch radius, for example, located in a position in space inside the skull. Actually, the average male had a brain volume of 1,274 cubic centimetres (cm3) and the average female brain measured 1,131 cm3.


Let's move to some incredible work done by neuroscientists which indicates the power of the mind over the brain.


Krishna Shenoy a Professor in the School of Engineering, a professor of electrical engineering and, by courtesy, of bioengineering, neurobiology, and neurosurgery at Stanford University, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on how the brain creates movement in the rest of the body died at a young age of 54. Battling pancreatic cancer for 12 years. What he did brought smiles to the faces of several patients, students and colleagues.


He along with his team, implanted in the brain paired chips with algorithms which could decipher the chatter between neurons, allowing people with paralysis to control computers and mechanical limbs with their thoughts.


Dennis DeGray, a 69-year-old man paralyzed from the neck down who, aided by Shenoy’s technology, was able to control a computer cursor and to shape letters on screen by simply visualizing himself putting pen to paper. Was it the brain or the mind that made this possible? I leave it to you to decide.


When can brain be in control of the body?


Let me give you an example: Suppose you are an animal roaming the forest and you see a blurry shape in the distance.


Does it have value for you as food,? Is it worth spending energy to pursue it? The answer depends partly on the state of your body – if you’re not hungry, the blurry shape has less value. It also depends on whether your brain predicts that the blurry shape wants to eat you. Flight response will then get triggered.


When we ask our children any question after they finish their exams. The answer would be NIL. Let me explain this with an interesting anecdote.


Bluma Zeigarnik a Russian psychologist went out for dinner with her friends. The waiter was amazing. He took the order, did not write it and knew exactly who ordered what. Bulma forgot her overcoat on the way back. when she returned to the restaurant she was surprised to find that the waiter did not even recognise her. When a task is completed, our brain hits the delete button. And our memory gets wiped clean. Our short-term memory struggles with space to retain information. So it keeps only the unfinished tasks alive. And the minute a task is completed it hits the delete button. And that's why waiters at restaurants will remember every little detail of your order. But only until the bill is made.


The Zeigarnik effect explains why at a bank’s ATM, you are now required to pull your card out before collecting the cash. They know Zeigarnik will be at play and once you collect the cash, the task is finished and good chance you will forget to take your card back.


It's something we can all put to good use. Look at what Netflix does. You will find through all their serials, every episode ends tantalisingly. That 30-minute episode ends at a point where you will say ‘Wow, what happens next’? You want to know, you want to come back. There is no closure at the end of that episode and that's what brings us back all the time.


It might be in order to say there is no mind without the brain and mindfulness improves connections in the brain.


Harvard University research points out that Mindfulness meditation improves connections in the brain. Mindfulness practice positively impacts the areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, emotional regulation, empathy, compassion, perspective-taking, and stress response.


Mindfulness meditation is a mental discipline. It takes practice. Some meditaion practice at the beginning and /or afternoon may be useful.


Let’s look at the Educational implications.


Each child should be able to explore and discover, thereby developing critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Children also get opportunities to collaborate with each other, learn to manage themselves, ask questions, inquire, and thereby learn. All these are critical life skills not only for schooling but also for adult life.


1. NEP - In the first three years of the Foundational Stage, for ages 3 to 6, there should not be any prescribed textbooks for the children.

The thematic approach is a way of teaching and learning where many areas of the curriculum are connected together and integrated within a theme. children are helped to make meaningful connections through a theme and explore different topics or aspects within the theme. The synaptic connections of the network of neurons make it easier to recall and help to understand the connections better.

2. The arrangement and organization of the learning environment are very important for the Foundational Stage. Children in the Foundational Stage, learn most effectively through manipulating and engaging actively with the material world around them using all their senses. To enable this rich sensorial experience, carefully chosen TLMs [teaching learning materials]play an essential role in classrooms.


3. Concepts formed in the Foundational Stage are largely perceptive and practical to but not theoretical (e.g., colour as a spectrum of light) Let the children measure the shadow of objects, shadow in the morning, afternoon, and evening and discuss. Learning and knowledge start from there.


4. Content should be derived from children’s life experiences and reflect the cultural, geographical, and social context in which the child is developing and growing. Day-to-day activities of working, cooking, traveling, folk songs and stories, festivals, and rituals in a community or group are also worth knowing and experiencing systematically.


5. Content should move from familiar to unfamiliar, simple to complex, and from self to others. Young children can handle and are interested in objects and events in their immediate environment - things that they can relate to themselves and are simple.


6. Learning by doing / experiential learning is critical in early education. –Art Integrated learning – Sr. Kg class went out on a nature walk. They returned with a smile. Did the caterpillar walk?

7. Stories are one of the oldest tools of communication. In our culture, stories play a very important role in binding together our families and communities.

Stories, through involving children directly in their learning process, help them build their own vocabulary.

I had introduced the concept of teaching maths through fairy tales. It is elaborated in my book From Chalk to Talk The Art of Teaching, which is available on Amazon.in. Of course the negative elements need to be deleted and it becomes a modern fairy tale.


Teaching in the vernacular has its advantages as well as limitations. What will be the mother tongue of a Gujarati married to a Bengali? What would be the plight of a central govt employees children if the parent has a transferable job?

Let me tell you about the experiment 'Hole in the Wall' by Sugata Mitra…..

Children have an uncanny way of learning languages much faster than adults. When thrown into the mode of a discoverer they can do wonders. The plasticity of the brain enables this.


It is also true that the Bharatiya concept has to be ingrained into children. If August 15 falls on a friday, the Bombay Pune Experss way gets into traffic snarls.


Role play is a very useful method to involve students.

SEL with ethics can be introduced through stories / through dilemmas


Art Integrated Learning - AIL- is another powerful way of teaching. Check out this link - analytical geometry through dance.


The teacher's voice should be in tandem with the student's voice and choice.

But the biggest anxiety that we feel is that the vision is excellent. The Plan of Action should echo the vision. Implementation needs to be looked into with greater depth and monitored.


Rural and urban area teachers have a wide gap in pedagogical knowledge. The implementation process cannot be the same for both. Looking at the differentiation concept, the treatment may have to be different. This should be studied thoroughly.

Covid has led to a brain loss of at least 2 years particularly in the lower strata. This has to be looked into. There should be an Individualised Academic plan.

The NEP and NCF have placed a lot of emphasis on the teacher to deliver the learning outcomes.

I end with a quote, “It takes a village to raise a child”

THANK YOU.


About Dr. (Mrs.) Pramila Narendra Kudva :


POSITIONS HELD


1. Principal, Pawar Public School Kandivali from Jan 2015 to March 2022.

2. Principal: VCW Arya Vidya Mandir, Bandra East, from June 2011 to Jan 2015.

3. Principal: Hasanat High School [ICSE] Marol, from Oct 2004 to May 2011.


Other Positions Held

I have worked as a school teacher, and lecturer in a B.Ed college, in the corporate at the middle management level and for 18 years as a principal of ICSE school.


QUALIFICATIONS


Academic

1. Ph. D. [Education] - Mumbai University, 1999.

2. M. A. [Entire Sociology], SNDT University, Mumbai 1988 - I Class

3. B. Sc. [Chemistry, Botany, Zoology], Bangalore University, 1970 - I Class


Professional

1. M. Ed., SNDT University, Mumbai, 1991 - I Class

2. B. Ed., Mumbai University 1986 - I Class

3. National level test for eligibility for lecturership [master’s level] June 1993.


Honorary Degree

D.Litt, South American University, March 2018.

AWARDS - INDIVIDUALS


Have received several awards, Some of them being:

· was awarded a plaque at the Annual Conference of ASISC held at Chennai for her contribution to the field of Education – 2019

· Rated one of the top 100 mentors in the country by AIM Awards 2016.

· “Best Educationist Award 2017” for excellence in Education by International Business Council, New Delhi.

· PLAN Leadership Award 2018 of “Principal of the Year”

· “National Responsible Educator” (Vatavaran Task) Award – 2018 -19 for outstanding community Service by Behtar India.


PUBLICATIONS


BOOKS PUBLISHED –

From Chalk to Talk, The art of Teaching, publisher Buuks.com, 2019

From Crust to Core The Alchemy of teaching, Publisheer The WWrite Order, 2022



Dr. Kudva has several Academic Publications both national and International to her credit.


Podcast

A story for your Query – A podcast published on a weekly basis. Season 3 is completed.


PAPERS PRESENTED

Have presented papers on various themes, which are research-based/general from academic areas of interest at both International and National Conferences.



AS A RESOURCE PERSON


Have been a resource person at several organizations / institutions at seminars, conferences and conducted workshops on varied topics of both general and academic interest at both school and university levels for students , parents as well as teachers.


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