To the Editor:
(Re: “Parents must know more”, page 7, Jan. 27 Advance.)
I agree with Mr. Dyck that parents can and should take every opportunity to know more about what their children are learning in school, and about the public school system in general.
However, my own view on Brain Gym in the school is quite different. While Mr. Dyck sees teachers who are too busy to know the difference between good science and bad science, as the wife of one of the teachers at the school in question, I see a very different perspective. For the past several years, teachers at this school have made a concerted effort to learn about the latest discoveries in brain science. They have attended conferences and seminars, arranged for local webinars and are constantly emailing each other with sources, ideas and references to improve their knowledge and teaching methods. A parade of books has been handed from teacher to teacher, and from house to house — recent books by well-respected brain scientists at accredited universities that are published by major publishing houses. The teachers get together in regularly scheduled monthly meetings to discuss what they have read, and how the methods they are trying are working in the classroom.
Yes, indeed, teachers are busier than ever, and are challenged daily to teach students in classes that are stuffed full to the brim, and with ever-dwindling support for students with special needs. But I believe that parents should know about the professionalism, dedication and collegiality of this particular group of teachers and administrators. It goes on in the background and most people would not be aware of it.
I understand from talking to a few people that Brain Gym has been taught by various individual teachers in the Creston Valley for close to 20 years. It is not a new program. I first heard of it last year and went and sat in on my son’s class for half an hour so I could see the process at work. Here is what I saw: A big group of kids coming in after recess, flushed, excited and unfocused. After about three minutes of follow-the-leader type exercises (touch your left ear lobe with your right thumb and the like) they were as settled as that many eight-year-olds could ever be, focused on the teacher and ready to learn. I do not pretend to know how it works, but to me it is a huge improvement over the yelling, shaming and chalk throwing that teachers resorted to in my school days, in order to get our attention.
I took the time to review the web resources that Mr. Dyck listed, and I think that parents should know more about them too. While he wants us to do research to understand why Brain Gym is “bad science”, Mr. Dyck sends us to personal opinion blog sites. I believe that if Mr. Dyck wants to talk science, he would be best to look to scientific research. If he wants to talk personal opinion, he is most welcome to do so, but he should let parents and Advance readers know that, and should not try to call it science.
As a parent, the act of sending my kids into the public school system every day is one of gratitude, belief, trust and faith. Gratitude for the separation of church and state that is at the heart of the public school system and fundamental to any democracy. Belief that the lowest common denominator will be high enough that my kids will learn something and be able to function in the world when they come out of the system. Trust in the educators that teach them — they are professionals who know their jobs and invest valuable time in keeping their skills up to date. Faith that something of the values we have instilled in our children at home will remain intact by the end of each school day. And faith also that our children will grow into their own people, able to make their own determination of right from wrong and good from bad, and find credible sources to substantiate their views, should they need to convince me, or anyone else of their opinion.