Tears came to my eyes and a flood of memories washed over me recently as I finished reading an article: “A Test You Need To Fail: A Teacher’s Open Letter To Her 8th Grade Students” by Ruth Ann Dandrea, Rethinking Schools (03.26.12 on http://www.alternet.org/ ). The article is Dandrea’s apology to her students for administering (or, as she says, “inflicting”), by mandate of course, a standardized exam. She apologized for the stupidity of the test. Student answers which were thoughtful, thought-provoking, insightful and which did not fit the mold of the test had to be marked wrong. This pained her and drove her to write the letter. She encouraged her students to continue their critical thinking and to be proud of their zeroes because of what they signify.
I reminisced on my thirty years as a high-school teacher where in the late 1990's I was forced to stop teaching one day a week in order to teach test-taking skills for multiple-choice standardized exams. I, too, was pained at this and at the awful exams which had multiplied in numbers over the years.
I also thought of the beautiful tool which I shared with my students: Brain Gym®. Brain Gym® movements and processes ensure good communication between and among the various parts of the brain, and between the brain and body and vice versa. My students used Brain Gym® before and during tests and standardized exams. They eagerly used movements which helped them with memory, focusing, vision and comprehension. They also relieved test-stress with Brain Gym®. Students who in past years could never finish a standardized exam within the allotted time-frame, were now able to do so. I shared in their great excitement over this!
My students used Brain Gym® for stress relief off campus as well. I just loved how they became self-empowered with this tool! One of my favorite memories is of a little freshman who had a police record. One morning, she avoided a fight on a public bus by using one of the Brain Gym® movements - she knew she couldn’t afford another police encounter. She was very thrilled with the result, as was I when she shared her story with the class.
I started every class with a few minutes of Brain Gym® and also plugged it in when needed during class. Over time I witnessed many profound, positive changes in my students: behavior, self-management, communication, organization, and last, but not least, cognitive function. This is good stuff, I thought! And teaching became easier and more fun for me!
I continued to take Brain Gym® classes until I became a licensed instructor/consultant. I left teaching in 2001 have been teaching Brain Gym® full-time ever since. I’ve trained people from all walks of life, all age levels and in all situations. One of my favorite clients was an eighty-year-old woman with dementia. While Brain Gym® didn’t “cure” her dementia, the woman improved her day-to-day functioning tremendously. She changed from being cranky and ill-tempered, living in pajamas, to having a pleasant demeanor., enjoying good grooming and willingly going for walks, to movies and to restaurants. The more she transformed, the more her family enjoyed her.
As I reflect back on the past decade, I’m so very grateful for this tool called Brain Gym®.
Barbara Bednarz, Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Move Smart Center, Grayslake, IL
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