The influence of a good teacher can never be erased

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We all know how important teachers are. We have met many of them, and some have managed to stay in our hearts. Some have broadened our minds, while others might have made us feel inferior. Since February I have been around in classrooms, having the honor to see how far teachers in Norway have come since I was a little girl, eager to learn. School today is not about rote repetition, it is about so much more: Learning life skills. It is also about learning HOW to learn, and awakening curiosity in eager minds. It is about helping children be kind towards each other and giving them positive feedback while also challenging them to think more deeply about issues. I have seen small tricks, like getting the children to clap their hands when the teacher does so, to make them stop and listen. I have seen teachers managing to remember who got to say something, and who did not. I have heard them talk about their worries, for example when a child keeps to himself. And their pride when somebody just learnt to read after trying for a long time. Teachers are amazing. They must be in the middle of thousand tasks, always caring and giving. They must engage the students, and encourage those who struggle to make sense of what they are supposed to learn. I only have respect for teachers. They really try their best to educate our future. And I know many of them go home, remembering the faces of children lighting up when they had yet another moment of mastery.


James Nottingham: How School should be

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Since I have started working with children with learning disabilities, autism, ad/hd and a plethora of other problems, I have learnt a lot about schools and teaching. I have three schools, and meet a lot of teachers and pupils. It is interesting to see how different the teachers and schools are. But what strikes me, is how warm many of the teachers are. They care about the children, and in addition to that they manage to engage them. But is there more the schools can do to challenge the children and make them learn? Next Monday I am going on a lecture by James Nottingham. We have prepared for this, by watching a movie about the learning pit and I have also read his book, and am inspired. He encourages teachers to make the children think. The following video will demonstrate his theory. I hope it will inspire people who work with children, and also parents. Children are our future, so we should do everything to equip them with the cognitive and emotional skills to thrive in their circumstances.

The Learning Challenge with James Nottingham from Challenging Learning on Vimeo.

Why I don`t like to cook

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I am a terrible cook. If somebody puts a knife in my hand to cut up vegetables, you can be sure that the vegetables will soon be on the floor. If you put a mixer in my hand, the content  will start decorating the kitchen walls.I am a terrible cook. I have even been on two cooking classes, but something always goes wrong. I burn what I am frying, overcook vegetables and add to much spice.

When I was at school, I was bullied when we were learning to cook. It started innocently, by a boy bringing to my attention that I had not set the table right. But it developed into commenting on everything I did: That I should not use scolding water when doing the dishes and that I cooked something for a minute to long. After a while, I dreaded those cooking lessons. I felt so stupid, and that is why I don`t like to cook today.

But two days ago, I decided to challenge myself after watching Masterchef, feeling inspired for once. So I bought in some new ingrediens for a salad and food for the grill. The weather was for once perfect so I could sit in the sun and chop to my hearts content. I tried to mix flavors that I was not sure would go well with each other, and chopped up the vegetables with just some minor accidents. No fingers were cut, instead heaps of  carrot, paprika and squash grew in front of me.  After 30 frustrating minutes of chopping, I was done and could eat the dinner I cooked for my boyfriend. Discovering that it actually tasted good, really surprised me. And my boyfriend, who cooks like a God, was satisfied too! A minor victory, but still an important one for me.

If you feel like giving up because you`re not good at something, don`t let that stop you. You might find you like it as you get better at it. Our sense of not being good at something, is too often linked with hopelessness. We often think there is no reason to try something we are not good at, because it feels frustrating to invest time and energy in something you feel you should do without any fuss. But that`s exactly why you should try. The feeling of mastery after struggling is indescribable. Nothingham describes this very well in his book “Challenging learning”. By doing the things we`re not good at, we grow. And even if cooking food won’t change the world, it will surely give me joy when I can start experimenting and actually produce tasty dishes that my friends can enjoy. And life is about these small victories. Its about reaching our potentials and learn as much as we can.

The Learning Challenge with James Nottingham from Challenging Learning on Vimeo.

James Nottingham 

16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School

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16 Things I Wish They Had Taught Me in School


I am 28 now. I don’t think about the past or regret things much these days.

But sometimes I wish that I had known some of things I have learned over the last few years a bit earlier. That perhaps there had been a self-improvement class in school. And in some ways there probably was.

Because some of these 16 things in this article a teacher probably spoke about in class. But I forgot about them or didn’t pay attention.

Some of it would probably not have stuck in my mind anyway. Or just been too far outside my reality at the time for me to accept and use.

But I still think that taking a few hours from all those German language classes and use them for some personal development classes would have been a good idea. Perhaps for just an hour a week in high school. It would probably be useful for many students and on a larger scale quite helpful for society in general.

So here are 16 things I wish they had taught me in school (or I just would like to have known about earlier).

  1. The 80/20 rule.

This is one of the best ways to make better use of your time. The 80/20 rule – also known as The Pareto Principle – basically says that 80 percent of the value you will receive will come from 20 percent of your activities.

So a lot of what you do is probably not as useful or even necessary to do as you may think.

You can just drop – or vastly decrease the time you spend on – a whole bunch of things.

And if you do that you will have more time and energy to spend on those things that really brings your value, happiness, fulfilment and so on.

  1. Parkinson’s Law.

You can do things quicker than you think. This law says that a task will expand in time and seeming complexity depending on the time you set aside for it. For instance, if you say to yourself that you’ll come up with a solution within a week then the problem will seem to grow more difficult and you’ll spend more and more time trying to come up with a solution.

So focus your time on finding solutions. Then just give yourself an hour (instead of the whole day) or the day (instead of the whole week) to solve the problem. This will force your mind to focus on solutions and action.

The result may not be exactly as perfect as if you had spent a week on the task, but as mentioned in the previous point, 80 percent of the value will come from 20 percent of the activities anyway. Or you may wind up with a better result because you haven’t overcomplicated or overpolished things. This will help you to get things done faster, to improve your ability to focus and give you more free time where you can totally focus on what’s in front of you instead of having some looming task creating stress in the back of your mind.

  1. Batching.

Boring or routine tasks can create a lot of procrastination and low-level anxiety. One good way to get these things done quickly is to batch them. This means that you do them all in row. You will be able to do them quicker because there is less start-up time compared to if you spread them out. And when you are batching you become fully engaged in the tasks and more focused.

A batch of things to do in an hour today may look like this: Clean your desk / answer today’s emails / do the dishes / make three calls / write a grocery shopping list for tomorrow.

  1. First, give value. Then, get value. Not the other way around.

This is a bit of a counter-intuitive thing. There is often an idea that someone should give us something or do something for us before we give back. The problem is just that a lot of people think that way. And so far less than possible is given either way.

If you want to increase the value you receive (money, love, kindness, opportunities etc.) you have to increase the value you give. Because over time you pretty much get what you give. It would perhaps be nice to get something for nothing. But that seldom happens.

  1. Be proactive. Not reactive.

This one ties into the last point. If everyone is reactive then very little will get done. You could sit and wait and hope for someone else to do something. And that happens pretty often, but it can take a lot of time before it happens.

A more useful and beneficial way is to be proactive, to simply be the one to take the first practical action and get the ball rolling. This not only saves you a lot of waiting, but is also more pleasurable since you feel like you have the power over your life. Instead of feeling like you are run by a bunch of random outside forces.

  1. Mistakes and failures are good.

When you are young you just try things and fail until you learn. As you grow a bit older, you learn from – for example – school to not make mistakes. And you try less and less things.

This may cause you to stop being proactive and to fall into a habit of being reactive, of waiting for someone else to do something. I mean, what if you actually tried something and failed? Perhaps people would laugh at you?

Perhaps they would. But when you experience that you soon realize that it is seldom the end of the world. And a lot of the time people don’t care that much. They have their own challenges and lives to worry about.

And success in life often comes from not giving up despite mistakes and failure. It comes from being persistent.

When you first learn to ride your bike you may fall over and over. Bruise a knee and cry a bit. But you get up, brush yourself off and get on the saddle again. And eventually you learn how to ride a bike. If you can just reconnect to your 5 year old self and do things that way – instead of giving up after a try/failure or two as grown-ups often do -you would probably experience a lot more interesting things, learn valuable lessons and have quite a bit more success.

  1. Don’t beat yourself up. 

Why do people give up after just few mistakes or failures? Well, I think one big reason is because they beat themselves up way too much. But it’s a kinda pointless habit. It only creates additional and unnecessary pain inside you and wastes your precious time. It’s best to try to drop this habit as much as you can.

  1. Assume rapport.

Meeting new people is fun. But it can also induce nervousness. We all want to make a good first impression and not get stuck in an awkward conversation.

The best way to do this that I have found so far is to assume rapport. This means that you simply pretend that you are meeting one of your best friends. Then you start the interaction in that frame of mind instead of the nervous one.

This works surprisingly well. You can read more about it in How to Have Less Awkward Conversations: Assuming Rapport.

  1. Use your reticular activation system to your advantage.

I learned about the organs and the inner workings of the body in class but nobody told me about the reticular activation system. And that’s a shame, because this is one of the most powerful things you can learn about. What this focus system, this R.A.S, in your mind does is to allow you to see in your surroundings what you focus your thoughts on. It pretty much always helps you to find what you are looking for.

So you really need to focus on what you want, not on what you don’t want. And keep that focus steady.

Setting goals and reviewing them frequently is one way to keep your focus on what’s important and to help you take action that will move your closer to toward where you want to go. Another way is just to use external reminderssuch as pieces of paper where you can, for instance, write down a few things from this post like “Give value” or “Assume rapport”. And then you can put those pieces of paper on your fridge, bathroom mirror etc.

  1. Your attitude changes your reality.

We have all heard that you should keep a positive attitude or perhaps that “you need to change your attitude!”. That is a nice piece of advice I suppose, but without any more reasons to do it is very easy to just brush such suggestions off and continue using your old attitude.

But the thing that I’ve discovered the last few years is that if you change your attitude, you actually change your reality. When you for instance use a positive attitude instead of a negative one you start to see things and viewpoints that were invisible to you before. You may think to yourself “why haven’t I thought about things this way before?”.

When you change your attitude you change what you focus on. And all things in your world can now be seen in a different light.

This is of course very similar to the previous tip but I wanted to give this one some space. Because changing your attitude can create an insane change in your world. It might not look like it if you just think about it though. Pessimism might seem like realism. But that is mostly because your R.A.S is tuned into seeing all the negative things you want to see. And that makes you “right” a lot of the time. And perhaps that is what you want. On the other hand, there are more fun things than being right all the time.

If you try changing your attitude for real – instead of analysing such a concept in your mind – you’ll be surprised.

You may want to read more about this topic in Take the Positivity Challenge!

  1. Gratitude is a simple way to make yourself feel happy. 

Sure, I was probably told that I should be grateful. Perhaps because it was the right thing to do or just something I should do. But if someone had said that feeling grateful about things for minute or two is a great way to turn a negative mood into a happy one I would probably have practised gratitude more. It is also a good tool for keeping your attitude up and focusing on the right things. And to make other people happy. Which tends to make you even happier, since emotions are contagious.

  1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

The ego wants to compare. It wants to find reasons for you to feel good about yourself (“I’ve got a new bike!”). But by doing that it also becomes very hard to not compare yourself to others who have more than you (“Oh no, Bill has bought an even nicer bike!”). And so you don’t feel so good about yourself once again. If you compare yourself to others you let the world around control how you feel about yourself. It always becomes a rollercoaster of emotions.

A more useful way is to compare yourself to yourself. To look at how far you have come, what you have accomplished and how you have grown. It may not sound like that much fun but in the long run it brings a lot more inner stillness, personal power and positive feelings.

  1. 80-90% of what you fear will happen never really come into reality. 

This is a big one. Most things you fear will happen never happen. They are just monsters in your own mind. And if they happen then they will most often not be as painful or bad as you expected. Worrying is most often just a waste of time.

This is of course easy to say. But if you remind yourself of how little of what you feared throughout your life that has actually happened you can start to release more and more of that worry from your thoughts.

  1. Don’t take things too seriously. 

It’s very easy to get wrapped up in things. But most of the things you worry about never come into reality. And what may seem like a big problem right now you may not even remember in three years.

Taking yourself, your thoughts and your emotions too seriously often just seems to lead to more unnecessary suffering. So relax a little more and lighten up a bit. It can do wonders for your mood and as an extension of that; your life.

  1. Write everything down. 

If your memory is anything like mine then it’s like a leaking bucket. Many of your good or great ideas may be lost forever if you don’t make a habit of writing things down. This is also a good way to keep your focus on what you want. Read more about it in Why You Should Write Things Down.

  1. There are opportunities in just about every experience. 

In pretty much any experience there are always things that you can learn from it and things within the experience that can help you to grow. Negative experiences, mistakes and failure can sometimes be even better than a success because it teaches you something totally new, something that another success could never teach you.

Whenever you have a “negative experience” ask yourself: where is the opportunity in this? What is good about this situation? One negative experience can – with time – help you create many very positive experiences.

What do you wish someone had told you in school or you had just learned earlier in life?

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How to remember: Tips from a memory expert

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I am lucky. In Norway it`s easy to work voluntarily and create projects that benefit people in different ways. Three years ago, I started a voluntary organization where I live, and through it I have planned different activities for people who like to do something new, or simply want to be social in different settings. This spring I have organized three events, and one of them has been a memory course for those who want to remember things better. The lecturer was Oddbjørn By, a memory expert who has won different competitions related to remembering for example numbers. But the technique (“Memo”) can be used to remember everything from events in history, names or events. One of the methods he uses, is “the method of loci”. This is one of the first things psychologists learn when they start studying. It consists of using visual imagery to remember what you want to learn, better. By association you create mental pictures that makes it easier to remember something that would easily be forgotten by rote memorization. Our brain is adapted to learn, but it can be hard if you don`t have any knowledge of the subject at hand, before you start memorizing. Let`s say you want to remember historic events for an exam. If you just sit down and try to remember different dates, it`s easy to mix them together and forget them later. Oddbjørn By use his mental map of different rooms or places, to sort the dates in ways that make it easy to recall after they have been learnt. He might use a house he knows well, to divide the dates in manageable units. The kitchen can be used for events from 1500-1550, and the living room, for 1550-1600. He then puts the events that happened in that period, into those rooms. If he wants to remember when someone won a war, he simply puts the relevant persons into the kitchen. This makes it easy to recollect when something happened, and to remember WHAT happened. When we were on the course, we learnt Italian verbs, the 10 largest countries and norwegian ministers in minutes. By repeating the visual memories one or two times, it`s easy to remember what you wanted to learn.

The method of loci

In this technique the subject memorizes the layout of some building, or the arrangement of shops on a street, or any geographical entity which is composed of a number of discrete loci. When desiring to remember a set of items the subject ‘walks’ through these loci in their imagination and commits an item to each one by forming an image between the item and any distinguishing feature of that locus. Retrieval of items is achieved by ‘walking’ through the loci, allowing the latter to activate the desired items. The efficacy of this technique has been well established (Ross and Lawrence 1968, Crovitz 1969, 1971, Briggs, Hawkins and Crovitz 1970, Lea 1975), as is the minimal interference seen with its use.[4]

The method used to remember digits

The sound of silent knowledge

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Communications | November 13, 2013

A new study by UA doctoral student Jay Sanguinetti indicates that our brains perceive objects in everyday life of which we may never be aware. The finding challenges currently accepted models about how the brain processes visual information.

A look inside the mind: Davi Vitela dons a cap used to take EEG scans of her brain activity while she views a series of images. Jay Sanguinetti’s study indicates that our minds perceive objects in everyday life of which we are never consciously aware. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)

Sanguinetti showed study participants images of what appeared to be an abstract black object. Sometimes, however, there were real-world objects hidden at the borders of the black silhouette. In this image, the outlines of two seahorses can be seen in the white spaces surrounding the black object. (Image courtesy of Jay Sanguinetti)

Jay Sanguinetti works with Davi Vitela to take EEG scans of her brain activity while she views a series of images for his study. (Photo by Patrick McArdle/UANews)

The presence of an N400 wave even in those cases where the study participants reported not recognizing the shape of an object suggests that their brain did recognize a shape, but didn’t forward the information to the conscious level
University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate Jay Sanguinetti has authored a new study, published online in the journal Psychological Science, that indicates that the brain processes and understands visusal input that we may never consciously perceive.
The finding challenges currently accepted models about how the brain processes visual information.
A doctoral candidate in the UA’s Department of Psychology in the College of Science, Sanguinetti showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides.

“We were asking the question of whether the brain was processing the meaning of the objects that are on the outside of these silhouettes,” Sanguinetti said. “The specific question was, ‘Does the brain process those hidden shapes to the level of meaning, even when the subject doesn’t consciously see them?”
The answer, Sanguinetti’s data indicates, is yes.

Study participants’ brainwaves indicated that even if a person never consciously recognized the shapes on the outside of the image, their brains still processed those shapes to the level of understanding their meaning.

“It happens about 400 milliseconds after the image is shown, less than a half a second,” said Peterson. “As one looks at brainwaves, they’re undulating above a baseline axis and below that axis. The negative ones below the axis are called N and positive ones above the axis are called P, so N400 means it’s a negative waveform that happens approximately 400 milliseconds after the image is shown.”

“The participants in our experiments don’t see those shapes on the outside; nonetheless, the brain signature tells us that they have processed the meaning of those shapes,” said Peterson. “But the brain rejects them as interpretations, and if it rejects the shapes from conscious perception, then you won’t have any awareness of them.”
“We also have novel silhouettes as experimental controls,” Sanguinetti said. “These are novel black shapes in the middle and nothing meaningful on the outside.”
The N400 waveform does not appear on the EEG of subjects when they are seeing truly novel silhouettes, without images of any real-world objects, indicating that the brain does not recognize a meaningful object in the image.
“This is huge,” Peterson said. “We have neural evidence that the brain is processing the shape and its meaning of the hidden images in the silhouettes we showed to participants in our study.”
The finding leads to the question of why the brain would process the meaning of a shape when a person is ultimately not going to perceive it, Sanguinetti said.
“The traditional opinion in vision research is that this would be wasteful in terms of resources,” he explained. “If you’re not going to ultimately see the object on the outside why would the brain waste all these processing resources and process that image up to the level of meaning?”
“Many, many theorists assume that because it takes a lot of energy for brain processing, that the brain is only going to spend time processing what you’re ultimately going to perceive,” added Peterson. “But in fact the brain is deciding what you’re going to perceive, and it’s processing all of the information and then it’s determining what’s the best interpretation.”
“This is a window into what the brain is doing all the time,” Peterson said. “It’s always sifting through a variety of possibilities and finding the best interpretation for what’s out there. And the best interpretation may vary with the situation.”
Our brains may have evolved to sift through the barrage of visual input in our eyes and identify those things that are most important for us to consciously perceive, such as a threat or resources such as food, Peterson suggested.
In the future, Peterson and Sanguinetti plan to look for the specific regions in the brain where the processing of meaning occurs.
“We’re trying to look at exactly what brain regions are involved,” said Peterson. “The EEG tells us this processing is happening and it tells us when it’s happening, but it doesn’t tell us where it’s occurring in the brain.”


Images were shown to Sanguinetti’s study participants for only 170 milliseconds, yet their brains were able to complete the complex processes necessary to interpret the meaning of the hidden objects.“There are a lot of processes that

happen in the brain to help us interpret all the complexity that hits our eyeballs,” Sanguinetti said. “The brain is able to process and interpret this information very quickly.”


Sanguinetti’s study indicates that in our everyday life, as we walk down the street, for example, our brains may recognize many meaningful objects in the visual scene, but ultimately we are aware of only a handful of those objects.

The brain is working to provide us with the best, most useful possible interpretation of the visual world, Sanguinetti said, an interpretation that does not necessarily include all the information in the visual input.

Jay Sanguinetti

Mary Peterson



The sound of turning pages

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I am listening to the “invisible man” by Wells, one of some classics I have been reading lately. It took far too long before I started on the classical road . I covered my lack of understanding with convictions: Classics were boring and unnecessary. I don`t know if I shall start criticize the school-system or myself for never checking if this was true (but I thought I had, since the few things I had checked out, were on Danish, hard to read and impossible for my undeveloped brain to understand)

I might have gone through my life without harvesting the fruit of beautiful language and stories. But luckily, I have these sudden things I have to do, and it feels like I’ve found a secret ladder up to magic heaven. It leads to territories were I can hand-pick new thoughts and integrate new ideas with old ones. This mental fruit energizes childish glee that let’s me fly again.


I will try to explore some of the thoughts I`ve had after walking the classical road in later posts, and will start here with exploring the subject of living a truthful life. Already at the university I soaked my curiosity in the question.
Behind the walls of cleverness we analyzes the importance of ethics and morality. Knowledge finally started to seep into my wisdom-deprived brain. Since then the importance of being true to one’s intelligence, knowledge, morality and personality have grown in seize. My role as a psychologist pinpoint that I shouldn`t preach what I dont`t practice. That`s why I work really hard to become more of the person I want to be, which means controlling emotions that don`t serve me, in addition to applauding thoughts that will be good for me AND others.

Classics I’ve read that revolve around this theme are: Anna Karenina, one norwegian book about men who rape their daug

I have also been moved by blog entries I`ve read. Many write remarkable stories, and I love the fact that it’s actually possible to interact with the authors. When I read magnificent stories written by authors 100 years ago, I’ll never get the chance to say how much I appreciated their work. Today, I can and it seasons my glee until it grows into a sofisticated feeling that warms me and make me happy. I’m happy for all who make an effort so that we are allowed to be true to ourselves.

Some of my favorite classics so far: The invisible man by H.G Wells, the autobiography of Benjamin Frankling and “the stranger in the mirror” by M. Steinberg.


World peace and other 4th-grade achievements

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English: peace
English: peace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)