Executive Functioning

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I recently attended a presentation on self-regulation and executive functioning.

Executive functioning is what it sounds like–those “managerial” things our brains do like organizing, scheduling, planning and impulse control.

If my sailor and I were to compete in a pageant, he’d win Mr. Executive Functioning hands down. He’s organized, articulate, analytical and never misses an appointment or misplaces anything–ever. I’d be crowned Miss Congeniality. Don’t get me wrong. I’m able to live, work and raise a child without supervision. It’s just that organization isn’t my strong suit. I’m better at comic relief.

Lately however, I’ve been doing stupid things–things that are negatively impacting my daily life.

A couple of weeks ago I lost my house key somewhere. I know I had it when I left for work because I locked the door behind me, but that’s where the trail goes cold. Despite retracing my steps and searching the front yard and interior of the car, the key’s location remains a mystery. I had to call a locksmith to get us inside and re-key all the locks.

Last week I locked my keys in the trunk of my car. In all my years as a driver, I’ve never done that. When I realized where my car key was my first thought was expressed in language far too rude to share on this blog. My second thought was–What’s wrong with me? Am I losing my mind?

At my seminar, I learned that anxiety floods the frontal cortex of the brain with chemicals which hamper its performance. You guessed it–the frontal cortex is the part of the brain that controls executive functioning.

In terms of education, anxious children are less likely to be attentive, well-behaved students. This will impact their school performance.

In terms of me, this is very good news. I’m probably not suffering from early onset dementia. I’m just anxious.

It’s also good news for my local locksmith, who’s getting some extra business because I worry so much.

RIP, Nimms

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As an itinerant teacher I’m often tucked away in odd little spaces to work with my students. In one Maritime high school, I worked in the attic. My students and I trudged up a steep, narrow stair case to find a spot under the sloping ceiling surrounded by shelves laden with dusty text books from the 70’s. It was a bit creepy.

At one of my current schools, I work in a tiny, windowless office that also houses the school rat. I admit I’m no friend to rodents. I recently put out a contract on a mouse in my attic. (He was never harmed. He moved on as mysteriously as he’d arrived.) This animal was different. Large and white, Nimms was a “specially bred pet-quality rat” according to the teacher who owned her.

Despite her long scaly tail, I found myself bonding with Nimms, filling her water bottle and even hand feeding her sunflower seeds and ominous looking “rodent pellets” every time I saw her. Yes, I even talked to Nimms, asking her how she was and what was new.

My students loved Nimms, too, and our sessions always began with some quality rat time.

One morning I arrived to find the cage gone, nothing but a half bag of rat chow on the floor to indicate Nimms had ever been there. I learned she’d suffered a catastrophic stroke earlier in the week and didn’t make it.

When my young student came in, she immediately asked about the rat. Where was she? What had happened to her?

“Nimms is . . . gone,” I said.

“Aw, Nimms is gone.”

“Well, rats don’t live that long.”

“What??? Nimms is dead???”

Sigh–I really need to learn when to stop talking.