“WHEN YOU LEARN, TEACH. AT OUR BEST WE’RE ALL TEACHERS.” – MAYA ANGELOU
Two years ago, at a local public elementary school, I spoke at career day. I was placed in a kindergarten and two, first grade classes. The first graders were split up into two groups. The first was the gifted group, which included kids reading at a higher level, on track for GATE (Gifted And Talented Education). Then, there was the “other class.” I say it this way because it struck a cord with me: Why is it, just because you are at a higher reading level, you are determined to be gifted and talented? Aren’t the “other” children gifted and talented in other ways? It feels like making this determination so early on, we’re not doing anything to help foster their self-esteem and confidence. Regardless of the reading aptitude these children have been born into, we’re forgetting to inspire them to push on towards their dreams. After this experience, my eyes opened to some concerning truths of the public school system and how, at such an early age, we are implanting a “you go that way and I’ll go this way” mentality. It’s sad, disempowering and quite old school, if you ask me.
As a healthcare professional, I enjoy starting off my talks to children by asking them if they like to help people. On this day, I wasn’t that surprised when the majority of each class raised their hand. I described my career as a physical and energetic therapist as someone that helps people who are in pain. But, instead of just looking at physical pain, like a broken leg, I look inside the person to see how they are feeling emotionally. I described how, at my studio, we believe when people don’t feel well on the inside it shows on the outside too. So, as a therapist, I help them change their energy to find joy and feel calmer inside, with the aim of also helping to relieve their physical pain. These students were so intrigued by my explanation that not one of them tried to interrupt.
The on-track GATE class listened very well, took all my information in, asked “appropriate” questions and, surprisingly, blew me a kiss in unison at the end, thanking me for my presentation—I was impressed. However, the kids in the “other class” that sat before me on career day impressed me in their own way. As I explained how energy flows within our body, I told them that they too could feel it. I had the kids clap their hands together and quickly rub them to create heat. After 20 seconds or so I had them stop and pull their hands apart, leaving a few inches of space, with their palms still facing each other.
“Can you feel the vibration of energy?” I asked. I waited and one little boy burst with excitement as his eyes widened, “I feel it! I feel it!!!” he said. It made me smile. I responded, “Yes, buddy you do feel it, not everyone does. Know that.”
Secondly, a little fashionista, who wore a leather bomber jacket and Chucks, raised her hand “Excuse me? Is that the soul?” She pointed to an image on the screen that depicted a bandwidth of an aura around the physical body, which can most certainly be interpreted as the soul. I answered, “Yes, sweetie pie. Yes!” I was taken aback by the intuition of their observations and questions. The “other class” was most certainly gifted … and I was truly amazed.
That day, in those few precious hours, I drew some stirring connections. Why do we separate children based on a reading level? Why don’t we get children moving at the start of the school day to help kids that are more kinesthetic learners? And why does the GATE class go to the left side of the building and the “other class” go to the right side? It’s that “other side of the tracks” feeling, for me, that gets under my skin. It brings up old, personal, hurtful memories of having slightly darker skin in a mostly Caucasian neighborhood. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to keep all classes in a grade level in close proximity to one another so we aren’t sending a subliminal message of segregation or “better than” mentality based merely on reading level?
I had the summer to ponder my observations from the school year and career day. One afternoon, I went to my kids’ karate class and noticed that my daughter could curl herself up to standing, from lying down on the floor, and my slightly older son absolutely could not do the same thing. I was already a little worried about him before observing this challenge. He had trouble taking in verbal cues and was a bit clumsy, at times, running into walls and spilling his drinks. But, isn’t that most kids? I wasn’t sure.
While my son may have appeared a little disconnected, on the other hand, he was a sweet, loving little boy who respected others. He was concerned with the big questions like “How did the whole world get here?” or “How do people get to heaven?” That summer I worked on fine motor skills, core strength, proprioception (knowing how one’s body fits into the space around oneself), and coordination with him. He was improving his physical skills each week and through his increasing strength and confidence, the light was starting to turn on a little faster inside his head.
After that summer, I noticed that my kids’ kindergarten teacher was the only teacher out on the playground that would get her class physically moving at the start of the day. The kids were hula hooping, running the perimeter of the playground, playing catch, and jumping rope. She saw the development of physical strength and coordination as a necessity for classroom success. I had read up on the Waldorf philosophy of using cross body and lateral movements to help connect the two hemispheres in the brain in preparation for learning to read. The thinking goes that when some kids are forced to read at an early age, before they are ready, they are most likely using the right hemisphere and simply memorizing words. If they are having troubles connecting to the brain’s left hemisphere, which is the analytical side, they will likely have a tough time with phonetics and sounding out words.
Combining observations from my own children, our local public school and my professional work, my idea was born …PROJECTbraincore!
I gathered a colleague and some friends to see if we could find a correlation between physical and neurophysical weakness with reading ability and classroom behavior. And what do you know? A school year later of evaluation and working with kindergarteners and first graders at our local public school, and we are on to something! We call it PROJECTbraincore. The program helps engage kids’ minds and spirits through physical movement so they can find success in and out of the classroom. We don’t have everything ironed out, but the seed has been planted and is slowly beginning to sprout. And because of this, I would like to personally thank every single one of you for contributing to this project via Indiegogo and privately. This video is your contribution. I hope it touches more people who believe in community, oneness, lifting the human spirit and setting ALL children on a path towards their dreams, lined with happiness and health. Our knowledge is a gift to ourselves and can teach others. Let’s create a powerful dynamic of togetherness, one that can shift this world towards peace and love.