We have now a new member of the ESNP Consulting, Jacqueline Frey! She will be our Educational Consultant and Lecturer. For more information on Jacky, please find her bio in The Consultants.
Has it been a year already? NO! It can’t be that long since the last post!
After over a year of not writing, we are BACK! We have been busy with projects of immense application of Execu-Sensory and Neuropedagogy principles around numerous families (and cities), we have taken back to the sharing and contributing our experiences to the journal.
What we can confirm while starting application projects and coordinating with educators, therapists and families is this: we are not done learning yet. Neuroplasticity has given us the avenues to demonstrating and imparting information on the endless possibilities of connections. We collectively are creating untraditional tools and schools of thought that, if given consistency in attention and care, will be self-sufficient in their evolution. A self-starting collective body of work expanding slowly while nurturing their brains in the process.
Another thing we can confirm is this: whatever it was that we had learned from a year ago, we have now pruned to a much more dynamic body of work. What was once the gold standard of bringing brain science into the classroom is in silver place — we have evolved and unlearned as professionals both educationally and therapeutically. We can say with conviction, for example, without a person’s state-to-temperament emotional regulation in check, neurotransmission of any kind of cognitive information is haphazard at best. Deep Brain Learning is risking, and risking requires commitment outside of Pre-Frontal Cortex comfort zones.
We have older brains, but we have richer connections. We have decided that in the long run, we will proceed to be non-neurotypical with our writing so you can appreciate the discoveries we stumble upon. Check out some of the newest people and organizations we have been working with:
We will be writing again soon. Stay Tuned ESNPers.
I walked over to the shell-shocked boy. He was in his 3rd grade ELA class but it was evident that he was not concentrating on the lesson.
He shrugged his shoulders, but he didn’t look at me. His face was turning sullen, and it was becoming clearer to me that it finally hit him; the words finally settled in and shock was quickly turning into disbelief.
“I guess…I guess, I’m more sad really,” and he shrugged his shoulders again and his face, slowly flustered, gave way to tears.
I gave his shoulders a squeeze. The last thing he needed was for everyone to see the mix of emotions his body was displaying, turning up the confusion that had occurred with the staff hours earlier.
I whispered in his ear, “Let’s step outside for a moment.” He stood up and followed me into the hallway. By the time he stepped outside his door, he broke down into silent sobs. It was clear to me, he finally fully processed what had just happened into the last fifteen minutes.
“I am feeling very, very sad. I spent four years in this school!!”
“I know, Peter, I can imagine this is very difficult for you,” and pulled into a bear hug. He felt comfortable enough to let his defenses down and feel vulnerable; nothing else mattered than the feeling of loss and change he knew was about to happen whether he liked it or not. Or whether he had a say about the change to begin with.
Earlier in the day, I was doing my student rounds when my support coordinator warned me that three siblings I see may not finish the last 14 days of school.
“Well you know how they have been trying to find permanent housing? I think they finally got placed however it is not close to the school.”
“Oh wow. Are we talking about an outer borough? Long Island?”
“Worse. Staten Island. They told me this morning that the commute was terrible. I am hoping they would finish the last two weeks of school.”
“I hope so too. I mean, there are three siblings here… may as well get this school year to end properly with them.”
That conversation was three hours ago… and now a sobbing Peter just had his whole world come crashing down. His father came in the afternoon and single handedly made the decision: the commute was not worth the years invested by the kids in the school. Without proper notice, he went into his kids’ classrooms, tapped them on their shoulders and whispered: “You’re not coming back here tomorrow, do you understand??”
Fast forward to the hallway, I released Peter from the hug. I could see he needed something or someone more than what I could give him.
He nodded. I walked with him in the noisy hallway, his head was down as he passed the lower grades. When we got to the to the counselor’s office, I could tell she was expecting him. And with that, I gave Peter one final hug and whispered, “It may not seem like it now, but this is going to feel better somehow.”
The small independent all-girls middle school in New York City bustles with activity at 8 am on a Tuesday morning in April. I am immediately greeted, “Good Morning…”Hi”…when I walk into the building. It is the first day of the English-Language Arts New York State Test–a day that has been kept in the back of students’ minds since September. The girls bustle about in their homerooms turning in homework, gathering books and pencils, highlighters and water bottles. Anything within reason that will help them sit anywhere from 90 minutes to 2 hours and 15 minutes answering questions about topics that bear very little relevance in their lives.
8:20: “I got chills, they’re multiplying, and I’m losing control, ‘Cause the power, you’re supplying, it’s electrifying! You better shape up, ’cause I need a man. And my heart is set on you. You better shape up; you better understand to my heart I must be true. Nothing left, nothing left for me to do. You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want, Oo, Oo, Oo honey! You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want Oo, Oo, Oo honey! You’re the one that I want; you are the one I want, Oo, Oo, Oo, the one that I need; oh yes indeed!” plays on speakers throughout the school signaling it is time for assembly–a 15 minute period that offers a chance for the entire school to come together as one, offering inspiring words, making announcements, taking attendance and closing with a prayer. The girls file out of their homerooms giggling, talking, sharing stories while streaming into the assembly room. Yellow walls, painted with inspirational quotes from the school’s namesake adorn two of the walls. The third wall houses statistics on dark blue plaques highlighting the success of the school’s girls.
8:23: The girls sit down in orderly fashion by grade level. The staff file in as well and sit on benches around the perimeter. Assembly begins. 4 girls get up in the front and begin to sing, “Let it Show, Let it Shooow, Let it Show!” followed by other witty lyrics referring to their ability
to succeed and do well on the upcoming tests. Overtime the chorus begins. Both staff and students start singing along and arch their right, then left arms in the air. After a giant applause, the girls return to their seats.
8:27 The principal says, Attendance.” Two sixth graders, begin “Good Morning to the staff and students. “Good Morning…and proceed to greet every staff–much to my surprise I am included, despite the fact that this is my first time in assembly in years. After staff, all 80 girls are greeted by name. This is followed by announcements. Teachers raise their hand and are called on by the principal. They announce the beginning of track practice and the start of baseball season. They are reminded they need permission slips to start either. They are reminded there was no homework club. After announcements, the principal moves the assembly along to prayer, “It’s time for prayer,”
8:30: A teacher stands at the front of assembly room and says, “Congratulations!” She pauses briefly before continuing, “you’re probably wondering, why I am telling you congratulations. Well, yesterday when I was thinking about prayer, I remembered when I was in the 7th grade, and my teacher came up to me before my tests and told me Congratulations. I looked at him confused; I hadn’t yet picked up a pencil to start and was actually worried I may have spelled my name wrong because I was so nervous about the test. What had I done to deserve a congratulations? He then tells me, you have done all the hard work. You were doing the hard work back in September, and on through November and into January. You continued the hard work through the early months of the new year and now here you are. Ready. You just need to show what you know. You’ve done all the hard work–Congratulations.” She paused again and finished her prayer, “Congratulations.”
8:32: The girls file out of the assembly room, giggling, talking, sharing stories while settling into lines by grade outside of their classrooms. Chatter continues, until a teacher stands in front of the two groups, “I know you all know how you need to be acting right now; you do this every morning. Once you are in line you need to be quiet so you can hear the directions.” The sixth graders quiet down and walk into their rooms to await the directions for test day one. Their teacher proceeds to read directions and in a semi-silly semi-serious voice lists all of the electronic and electronic related devices they are not allowed to have. This is followed by him passing out answer sheets, test booklets and reading more directions. I have been leaning against the doorframe observing this scene amused and impressed. It is a few minutes before a major test, and these girls are smiling and calm.
8:42: I step fully into the sixth grade classroom, before he reads the final set of directions, I interrupt, “Excuse me Mr. S, I need Julie, Maria, Ellie, Joy, and Catherine.” The girls get out of their seats and line up armed with water bottles, sticks of gum and a granola
bar–testing fuel. They are all entitled to take the test in a separate environment with limited students, distractions and receive extra time. Some of the girls who are staying give final “good lucks” as we walk out the door and down the stairs.
Two hours and 30 minutes later, I walk out feeling happy and light thinking about the woman who started it all over 20 years before; her spirit, her joy, her laughter live on. I turn right onto First Avenue and into the warm spring New York sunshine.
This is the start of a new section in our writing…we want to share what we have found in our professional travels to be poignant, humorous, or strange. Others may just be plain appalling or sad, however whatever the case may be, they are share-worthy.
Second grade students walk four flights of stairs from recess to get to their floor. Their classroom is two double-doors down from the 4th floor entrance; I stand waiting by their doorway. I hear familiar chatter, and one distinct voice screaming, “But, but, but HE PUSHED ME.” I shake my head, it’s a boy we will call Jack. Jack is in a room with two teachers, an Integrated Co-Teaching setting. One of them, who we shall call Ms. Sophia, says to Jack, ” Would you stop touching him! I don’t want to hear it!” Jack of course pleads and begs for her to hear him but she proceeds to the front of the line and signals the class to start rolling into the classroom. All 26 of them are here today, present, chatty from lunch and recess, and are not looking forward to ELA (English Language Arts).
“HUUUUMPHHHHH! ” Jack cried. ” He wrinkled his forehead and stomped into the classroom. He folded his arms and then walked toward Liam, and without cause, pushed his back. “HUUUUUUMPPHHHH!”
“What is your deal?” Liam screamed and then pushed him back. I stood up from my chair where I had begun to work with Madelyn as I was anticipating a mini brawl. “JACK, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” Miss Sophia shrieked as she was heading toward his direction. At this point I had reached Liam and held him in a bear hug, whispering, “Let it go, buddy, let it go, ” over and over till I could feel his body calm down.
It was 12:40 PM; I glanced at the clock. Before Miss Sophia could reach Jack, he had stomped and marched to another student, “GET OUT OF MY WAY!!! HUMMMPHHHH!” This time, he pushed Madison, a girl who was no-nonsense and potentially able to take him herself if she had the opportunity. Madison didn’t say anything and instead, stood where she was, turned around and pushed him back with all her might.
“STOP! Oh my God! Madison you know better. You can’t follow what Jack does.”
“But he did it first. I was just standing there.”
The classroom paraprofessional, Miss Harper, at this time had overheard the ruckus and came over to Madison, “What’s the matter, huh? Go calm down. You know better. Here’s your paper. Have a seat.”
At this point, I had walked Liam to his chair, and he was calm, focused and ready to begin the ELA work. I glanced at the time, 12:46 PM. Sigh. This class has rough transitions up from lunch almost everyday; wish there was more that could be done to get them calm enough to settle in… As I was thinking these thoughts, I walked back to my seat by Madelyn. She had begun to make sense of her writing sheets, which were spread all over her shared desk.
“YOU ALWAYS SAY THAT! You never keep what you say! ” and with that scream I looked up and saw pencils flying from outside the door into the classroom. That was Luke, another one of the students who came up later than the rest of the class, and who was accompanied by the other ICT teacher, Miss Mackenzie. “Luke, I don’t understand. What happened? We had a good talk downstairs, and I explained to you…”
“YOU NEVER LISTEN TO ME!” Luke waved his arms in the air emphatically, “I TOLD YOU I HAD AN EXTRA 5 MINUTES!! YOU TOLD ME THIS BEFORE I WENT TO RECESS!!”
“Hey, wait, calm down, I do listen to you, what do you mean I don’t listen to you…”
Luke decided to walk to his corner bookshelf and threw whiteboard markers that were lying on the floor. One of them hit his classmates leg, however it didn’t faze the classmate. He simply kept on working on his ELA sheets as if nothing were happening in the room. The noise level at that point would be a 5 out of 10, fluctuating easily to an 8.
Miss Mackenzie bent down to where Luke was at, and proceeded to talk to him in a calm voice. His face appeared distraught and inconsolable, however no tears flowed. He walked up and out of the corner and ran out of the room; Miss Mackenzie immediately ran after him.
“Aria why are you up? Did I not tell you to stay in your seat? This is independent work!”
“But Miss Sophia, he’s bothering me!!! I told him to stop and he won’t!!”
Miss Sophia, mind you, was unable to mobilize herself momentarily as she was ensuring that Jack was sitting at his desk working. The only way this could be accomplished was for her to sit beside him, for at least 15 minutes. Aria continued to scream at the classmate who was bothering her and then, tears started flowing her face, “I HAVE NO FRIENDS!!!”
My eyes locked Miss Sophia’s and she blurted, “Can you believe my life right now?” I sighed and attempted to refocus on working with Madelyn when Aria ran toward the desk we were working at, tears streaming down her face. When she was finally in front of me she said, between sobs, “When am I going to be on YOUR LIST??? I want you to pick me up!!”
Calmly I replied to her, “Aria it is not up to me. I don’t make the list, your school does. But tell you what, you can join us when we are done working on our packet.” Madelyn at this point was irritated that her writing time has been interrupted, and that she even had to write in the first place. Miss Harper, who had been working with a different group of students, called out to Aria from where she was sitting, ” ARIA, ARE YOU SERIOUS? Wipe those tears and get over here! Don’t bother them; they’re working and so should you. Where is your packet?”
I looked up, 1 PM. It was time for me to move on to the next classroom. Another day in the second grade room of 12:30 PM.