Brain Gyms

My student teaching and first teaching job in the U.S. were both at inner-city schools. Most of our kiddos came from pretty tough neighborhoods. My first graders knew more about rap and gang gestures than me. Some of my older students were bigger and scarier than me a (although I never let them know it). They often came to school in torn-up hand-me-downs clothes and some serious “hand-me-down” stress.

My first teaching job was at a school with a large group of refugees from East Africa. These are actually the munchkins that got me the job at the school. I loved them and wanted so much for others to recognize what these little dears had been through and continued to go through living in the ghetto’s of Phoenix. They were a tough crowd. My job was to teach them to speak and read English–not an easy task when many of them showed up for school ready to punch someone’s face in.

Before each lesson I would do a few exercises to get them out of their brainstems (fight or flight center) and into their frontal lobes (creative, problem solving center). These exercises were designed by a woman named Becky Bailey as part of her “Conscious Discipline” philosophy. I have employed them with kids from all over the world and also in my own life when I’m starting to feel a little helter skelter. They are so simple and so effective.

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