The Noble Role of Teachers:

Transforming Ourselves to Change the World


“Education with culture brings about the blossoming of human personality. Good thoughts, good feelings, and good behaviour together constitute culture. Man’s thoughts should be noble and refined. Man’s feelings should be oriented towards bringing about society’s welfare, nay the welfare of the whole of humanity. It is not sufficient if the student is endowed with the physical, scientific and worldly knowledge. He should have moral, ethical, and spiritual knowledge also…
The main aim of education is to bring about such a total personality development of the students. Education should make all virtues emerge and shine forth in students.”

— Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

The brain is a social organ, developed and changed in interactions with others…It’s not just that we have empathy because we have the pre-frontal cortex in our brains but that we have highly evolved brain structures like the pre-frontal cortex because they are developed and nurtured by empathy…

Human connections shape neural connections…Patterns of relationship and emotional communication directly affect the development of the brain…

Linking differentiated parts into a functional whole is called ‘integration’…Pre-frontal function is integrative. What this means is that the long lengths of the pre-frontal neurons reach out to distant and differentiated areas of the brain and body-proper…Integration can be seen as the underlying common mechanism beneath various pathways leading to wellbeing.

— Daniel Siegel (2012), The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are

The aim of this Study Session is to recognise how the pre-frontal cortex plays a critical role, not only in the wellbeing of both teachers and students, but also in the successful implementation of Human Values Education or character education. Often referred to as the ‘executive centre’, this middle pre-frontal region of the brain is where life-changing decisions are made and ethical/moral behaviour is mediated.

In our quest for an authentic happiness and more-lasting feeling of wellbeing, we can pay attention to, reflect upon and create action plans for strengthening the pre-frontal cortex. This will not only benefit ourselves, but also our students, other children in our lives, and the relationships we have with other people.

The Exercise – Step 1

Read and reflect upon what is said about the pre-frontal cortex in Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, pages 129 – 131 (download here), making notes in your Journal about anything you would like to return to later for further reflection.

The Exercise – Step 2

Using the internet, search for and read the following article, recording in your Journal any ideas and insights you might have: The wise brain bulletin: The neuroscience of resilience. Linda Graham pdf. To make sure that you find the right article, it is Volume 4.6 (6/2010). This article gives clear and comprehensive explanations of each one of the nine functions of the (middle) pre-frontal cortex in the brain.

    The Exercise – Step 3

    In Handbook for Teachers in Human Values Education, pages 137 – 150 (download here) read about how the emotions and learning are interconnected in the brain, paying particular attention to those paragraphs referring to the pre-frontal cortex, recording in your Journal anything that resonates with you, for future reflection and contemplation.

    The Exercise – Step 4

    Reflecting upon your Journal entries for Steps 1, 2 and 3 above, write a short essay on: The relevance of the nine functions of the pre-frontal cortex for teacher and student wellbeing.

    The Exercise – Step 5

    If you feel that your essay is of a high standard, consider distributing it to some teachers or adding it to your Facebook.

    “Education should fill the heart of man with compassion. Then alone it acquires fullness. Education is not for a living, it is for life. Students today turn a blind eye to the very basis of life. This leads to the loss of self-confidence causing the many agitations and upheavals that man is witnessing today.”

    — Sathya Sai Baba (1926 – 2011)

    “To become a teacher without understanding the implications of brain-changing neuroplasticity is a great loss to teachers and their future students…
    Future teachers need to recognize how stress inhibits neuroplasticity. It is only when information is processed in the brain’s reflective, cognitive pre-frontal cortex that new learning can be incorporated into networks of long-term conceptual memory.”

    — Judy Willis (2012), A Neurologist Makes the Case for Teaching Teachers About the Brain.