What do you remember?

What do you forget?

Do you find that you sometimes remember the most silly things, facts and memories that have no meaning or effect on your life in the present tense? Why do you remember these random thoughts, yet, trying to remember how to spell “conscious” or “commitment” (does it have one t or two?) or what you just read in science class eludes you? (Turns out, with spell check, commitment is indeed, one ‘t’.)

My guess was, that memories get tagged with some sort of emotion or association. I’m not a psychologist, but I still like to think about brains. One book I’ve been reading off and on over the past few months is Daniel Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom. I say off and on because I’ve been reading many other books in my spare reading time – The Lacunaby Barbara Kingsolver, just finished Paper Towns by John Green, and Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. (And no, I don’t get any money from Amazon.com if you buy these books. Don’t buy them. Borrow them from me, with parent’s permission. Some of them are PG-13.)

So far, I really like Lacuna…but I can’t figure out how Kingsolver is going to end it…I’m two-thirds finished, and it already feels finished. What else can she do to that poor protagonist, Harrison Shepherd? And Paper Towns – I never warmed up to Margo Roth Spiegelman, though I immediately remembered her name, because Green uses it in almost mythological terms – her full, three-word name. She is an unlikeable character, in my opinion, but worshipped by the protagonist, whose name, um, escapes me now. And Night in Twisted River – darn it, Irving! Rehash, dude! But I remember everything, because it’s basically the same plot you’ve used for over twenty years. It’s engraved in my literary heart.

 (Get to the point, Love.) Books are like chance acquaintances. I don’t expect or desire that you produce that time-honored tradition of a book report. You can copy and paste those off of the Internet. But I do want you to be able to have some sort of memory, some sort of connection to what you read. So, when you read, take a moment and do your quick reflection. What did you like about it? What choices did the author make that you question? Do you like a character? Do you dislike a character? (Not a big fan of Margo Roth Spiegelman, obviously.)

Many of you ask me if I’ve read every book in my classroom library, and the answer is no. I’ve read most of them, though; I read them as soon as I get them,or over summer break. I want to be able to talk about these books, because when you’re looking to me to be your ‘book match-maker’ I want to find a good fit.

In Why Don’t Students Like School: A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom, the author does a very good job of explaining brain, learning, and memory in layman’s terms. (That means I can understand it.) Memories and learning that sticks with us usually has some sort of emotional trigger associated with it. That makes sense – we remember with our whole minds, our whole selves. If I spelled ‘commitment’ correctly at the local spelling bee and won $75 in prize money, I bet I’d never misspell it again.

I’m not suggesting that you use emotions to remember everything, or even that remembering everything is even important. There are people who can do that, and it drives them crazy. Literally. But, try to remember a few things. Remember the levels of knowledge, and be cognizant of your thinking.

And, you may be asking why I’m using Albrecht Durer’s image in this post. He was a 16th century artist/engraver/printmaker, and it was he who inspired me to pursue printmaking in college. He produced intricate engravings, and when he reached a certain master status, had his journeymen do the engraving in the copper plates. Beauty out of metal. He looks to be somewhat vain and egotistical, but hey, when you’re a rock star artist, you can look that way, too. I read everything I could about him, and wrote a graduate-level paper that received an A. I still have that paper, and I’m still proud of it. I remember that.


Remember your successes, too.