A couple of weeks ago I blogged on the Brain Gym phenomenon, a series of physical exercises that promise to improve learning (not to mention something called “languaging”) by manipulating blood flow to the brain and rewiring neural pathways. In Britain, where it is used in many public schools, the programme has come under heavy fire from the press, especially The Guardian (especially that paper’s science writer Ben Goldacre) and Newsnight. In the latter, Brain Gym founder Paul Dennison is subjected to severe pwnage by host Jeremy Paxman:
I think I speak for all of us when I say “Ouch.” The official site claims that Brain Gym is used in “more than 80 countries,” and I have been trying to find information on the extent to which it is applied in Australian classrooms. Thus far I haven’t been too successful (which sounds promising). In a 2003 episode of “All In The Mind,” Natasha Mitchell interviews two South Australian teachers who use Brain Gym. An organisation called the “Australian Edu-K Faculty” extolled its virtues in a submission to a 2005 national inquiry into the teaching of literacy. (UPDATE:) Canberra College, an upper-secondary school in the ACT, offers Brain Gym courses to its students. I also had a look at the website of the Brain Gym Centre of W.A. (“Where Whole-Brain Solutions Are Reality”) and reached the conclusion that if you press your brain buttons too hard and too often, the end product is shitty web-design and a grasp of orthography, grammar and style that can best be described as “sub-ESL”:
Brain Gym has been developed especially for the class room setting. It is easy and effective to apply allowing each individual student to achieve at their own learning PACE as nature intended.
These techniques are so user friendly that Brain Gym® is now used in schools in over 100 countries. An Internationally sort after and annually award winning scientificly proven system that powerfully works!
THE BIG PICTURE: Children learning successfully while assisting each other happily and supportively in a positive co-creative environment. Commonly, their self responsibility model is also taken home to help family relationships, stresses and ‘aliveness’. Creating healthier and happier families and communities who love to communicate and are excited about life long learning.
Now that you’ve digested that coleslaw of adverbs and edubabble, it’s time for the main course:
TEACHER’S TIPS OF THE WEEK
Challenge: You notice that Johnny is having difficulty sitting still with what appears to be a very uncomfortable and stressful maths task. His concentration is diminished and he begins to distract others quietly working around him.
Solutions: Quietly ask Johnny to go to the back of the room and do a series of Cross Crawl
or say to him: “Johnny, I’ve notices that you are having difficulty sitting still so I though that you may like to have a run to stretch your legs.” Johnny nods with a big smile of relief.
“Would you please take this note to Mr Jones in room 32. He is at the other side of the school. I’d like you to run with large steps to his class room and then do some ‘Cross Crawl’ and ‘Calf Pump’ out side our class room if you feel you need too.” (You have an arrangement set up with Mr Jones for this purpose).
The next time that Johnny can’t focus, (leading to uncontrollable wriggling), instead of ‘trying harder’ which always results in him becoming more uncomfortable and disruptive, he comes to you requesting if he can deliver a note to Mr Jones. The children tend to really appreciate your support and acknowledgement of his learning difficulty, becomes self managing, happier and more confident with achieving given tasks with greater success.
In other words, instead of dealing with his learning difficulty in the classroom, just send little Johnny outside where he can miss out on even more lesson time and fall further behind. Better still: condition Johnny to ask to be excused from the lesson every time he encounters something challenging. The Brain Gym Centre of W.A. charges $100 for a 6-hour one-day course full of such pearls of wisdom. If in that period of time you find yourself losing focus and becoming prone to bouts of uncontrollable wriggling, just do some Cross Crawl and Calf Pump outside the room if you feel you need to.
(In all seriousness, what kind of sick desperation in the education system has created a market for this nonsense?)