With Bryant students set to start school next week, Bryant School District employees gathered at Geyer Springs Baptist Church Wednesday for the annual back to school professional development session.
Through a discussion about the inner workings of the brain, speaker Flip Flippen encouraged Bryant School District employees to hack their students brains.
"I think you got into this because you want to have an amazing impact on children," Flippen said.
He explained different elements of a person's brain and the functions.
The amygdala is responsible for a person's emotional reaction to an event which includes freeze, flight or fight, Flippen explained.
He called the hippocampus in the brain, the library.
High levels of stress causes a person's hippocampus to shrink and students are unable to retain information, but the hippocampus can regrow.
In the end, he encourages the educators to help their students have "fat happy hippos" by smiling and creating relationships with students.
"I want them when they are walking down the hall to realize that you are happy to see them," he said. "I want children to come out of all kinds of pain, disfunction and brokenness in their own lives and when they walk in and they see you, their life changes. We have the ability to structurally change their brains."
While discussing the function of the hippocampus in the brain, Flippen told his own story.
He explained that he is the product of an affair. He was abused until he was 21 years old and was never loved by his parents.
Eventually he learned he has a learning disability
"How do you think I did in school," he asked adding that he graduated "fourth from the bottom."
What made the difference in his life was his teachers.
"I owe everything… to my teachers. They impacted and changed my life," Flippen said. "We have to learn how to hack into kids' heads. They desperately need us on the inside."
Flip and his wife have 20 kids. He told the educators his experience of being a "professional parent."
The Bryant School District began using Flippen's program Capturing Kids Heart in 2018.
"We run programs in 10,000 districts nationwide, and we know about you guys," Flippen said. "What's going on here is amazing. We love it. We talk about it all over the country."
Superintendent Dr. Karen Walters spoke about the success of the program. According to student responses to a survey, since the implementation of the program more students say their experiences at school have improved and they have learned how to resolve conflict and learned about empathy.
"We're on the right track," Walters said.
Also during the event, Walters spoke about student data, the district's financial standing and achievements the district has accomplished during the past year.
She mentioned changes that will take place this school year including the opening of the new junior high school and Bryant High School cafeteria, new armed security officers and improved traffic patterns for Bryant Elementary School and Bryant Middle School.
"This is going to be the greatest year ever," she said at the conclusion of the gathering.