Wednesday, March 27, 2024

"Noticing" In Action: The "Learner" Is In Charge!

As someone who taught elementary school for 23 years, I can reflect on all the lessons I planned, all the decisions I made, about how and what to teach. I was in charge of my classroom. I had my kids’ best interest in mind, but I was the main decision-maker.

Imagine my surprise when, as I was taking classes in the Brain Gym® work, I realized that my approach was lacking a key element: allowing the learners in my care to notice what they needed, and make decisions for themselves. This was huge.

I’ll share this excerpt from my book, Educate Your Brain, that illustrates this point.

Noticing and the Learning Process

Many people are familiar with the concept that certain exercises are “good” for the body. It’s a common occurrence to go to a physical trainer and have him or her observe our physical condition and prescribe activities that will help build muscle.

With the learning process, however, the dynamic changes. While it’s true that certain movements help develop specific skills (practicing the Lazy 8s pattern is very helpful in developing correct letter formation, for example), when a learner feels stuck, the most important movement to do is the one he is drawn to.

Following a Brain Gym workshop, Carson, a special-needs teacher, couldn’t wait to include the Brain Gym movements in his work with children. He opened each student session with the PACE warm-up and found that his students were suddenly more ready to learn; it seemed to him that they began benefiting even more deeply from his other techniques—the ones he’d been doing all along with them.

But his biggest surprise came when he began allowing students to choose their own path to achievement. He and the child would identify the skill to work on that day, and then Carson would offer the child a list of perhaps ten therapy activities—always including Brain Gym—and allow the child to choose. Carson could not believe how quickly his young students began improving in core skills, as they selected one activity after another, essentially directing their own learning.

Carson wrote, “One day I was working with Jonathan, age ten, who wanted to improve his handwriting. He said that writing was exhausting, and it took him a long time to complete his assignments. The sample he wrote for me had small, cramped letters, reflecting perfectly the way his elbow was compressed to his side and his hand gripped on his pencil. Tension radiated from his shoulder down to his fingertips.

“I showed Jonathan a poster with all twenty-six Brain Gym movements on it and invited him to choose the one that would be ‘best for him right now.’ Out of all those movements, he chose Arm Activation, an isometric activity that releases tension from the shoulders.

“After Arm Activation, Jonathan’s writing sample was very different; his letters were larger, and his handwriting overall was more fluid. His arm was relaxed, and his hand had a lighter grip on the pencil. He said, ‘That was easier! Can I do this every day?’"

Later, Carson told me, “When I looked closely at myself, I realized that, on some level, I had always been focused on figuring out what was ‘wrong’ with kids and ‘fixing’ them. My biggest ‘aha’ moment was realizing that every child arrives at my door ready to show me what he can most benefit from—that day. When I support the child in noticing and choosing, and follow his lead, amazing things happen.”

I wish you all the pleasure of deep inner noticing about what would benefit you in this moment, now, and seeing what happens when you offer this opportunity to others in your care. 

And -- curious about Arm Activation? You can read about it in my book, Educate Your Brain, or Brain Gym® Teacher's Edition by Paul and Gail Dennison.

Warm regards,

Kathy Brown, M.Ed.
Educational Kinesiologist
Licensed Brain Gym® Instructor/Consultant
Author of Educate Your Brain

1. Brown, Kathy. Educate Your Brain. Phoenix: Balance Point Publishing. 2003. 79-80.
Photograph Copyright© Kathy Riley Brown.