Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Have You Exercised Your Brain Today?

I've got a "Deep Thoughts" post brewing but it needs a little more work, so in the meantime I thought I'd give you guys an update on school. Specifically, Punkin and school.

The first week went great. Until Friday that is. When we got home, there was a note in Punkin's agenda from her teacher telling me that Punkin had not participated in the class' Brain Exercises all week and for me to please talk to her about it.

We talked to Punkin about it, but trying to find out WHY she doesn't want to participate is about like trying to get secrets from the Sphinx. She either can't or won't articulate the reasons. But when we were talking with her about it, she demonstrated some of the moves for me, so I know she can do them.

So, we started out telling her what the consequences would be if she didn't participate, but then I remembered that Punkin responds much better to rewards than threats, so we told her that if she did her Brain Exercises every day this week, I would buy her a toy of her choosing (within reason, of course) this weekend.

Now I'll be honest, I really had no idea what Brain Exercises even are. Bubba piped up that he had done them last year, but not in kindergarten, so it must be a relatively new thing the school does. So, I Googled them just now and found a description of Brain Gym, which sounds like what Punkin is describing. I was going to copy it here, but it's easier just to go to this page. In addition to the things you see listed on that page, at the end, the kids are to put their fingertips together, breathe deep, and vocalize their one goal for that day.

Now listen, I'm all for helping kids learn, but this sounds a little woo woo to me. I'm justAlso, to make such a big deal about it in kindergarten is somewhat frustrating to me as well.

BUT, I get that Punkin needs to learn to follow directions and do what the teacher tells her to, even if if she doesn't want to.

So. Yesterday when I picked Punkin up, her parapro was in the office. When I asked her if Punkin had done her Brain Exercises she said yes. Punkin and I high fived and we went home. Where I opened her agenda to find a note from her teacher that yes, she HAD done them, but not to the degree that the teacher would have liked and that she gave Punkin several opportunities to do better and when she didn't, she "pulled a card" on Punkin. For the uninitiated, "pulling a card" is what happens when the kids get in trouble. There are levels of cards for different levels of offenses and the punishment varies depending on the color of the card, but usually consists of missing some or all of their recess time.

I'm not going to lie, my first thought was "Seriously? This is a little nit-picky if you ask me." But I HAD asked for feedback. So, what to do? Punish? Not punish?

Perhaps I was a little harsh, but I opted to punish Punkin. Because her unwillingness to do what she is asked is an ongoing problem with her, I went with punishment. We normally allow the kids to watch cartoons while I'm getting dinner ready, but I made her turn the television off and let Bubba watch cartoons in my bedroom.

She wailed. She cried. She yelled at me. I sent her to her room until she could apologize AND tell me what she'd done wrong. She kept wailing "I can't stop crying! I can't stop thinking about television." It wasn't fun, for me or her, but I hope the message got through.

I just wish I believed in the message.

She pinky promised me she would do her Brain Exercises today. With gusto, even. We'll see.


Dawn said...

I'm a former teacher and I'm all for following directions and preparing for learning, but this is a bunch of hooey! I find it ridiculous that a child would have to pull a card for doing the activity, but not enthusiastically enough. Is the teacher a new teacher? Is this a whole school adoption of an idea or just in her classroom?

Sorry that y'all are having to deal with this.

AndreAnna said...

Shit like this makes me scared for kindergarten.

I remember coloring and learning and having fun, not being cast into some 'brain gym' net at the age of FIVE for chrissakes.

The world needs to chill the fuck out already.

Pardon my French.

I hope today was better for you both. Keep us posted

Katie said...

Oh, this parenting thing is HARD. I wish the teacher had just celebrated the baby step forward, at least the first day (or week?) and then NEXT week, after congratulating Punkin on making the changes you asked of her, asked her to step up for level of participation. You have to catch kids at being good once in awhile or they won't see the point in trying at all.

Of course, that doesn't make the quesiton of whether to punish or not any easier. You don't want to teach her that you can override the teacher's wishes. Good luck to you - I would just keep talking it out with Punkin.

Lauren said...

Heavens!! This teacher sounds a bit over the top!

It would have been nice if she had focused on the positive-that Punkin had gone from not participating to participating.

Tough call on the punishment-sucks that the right thing is usually the hardest thing to do!

el-e-e said...

It's so hard to know when we aren't THERE to SEE, ya know? You didn't give details of the note, but maybe Punkin really was doing the (weird) exercises, but also lounging in her chair instead of sitting up straight. (That seems like what MY 6yo would do!!)

So sorry you had to decide, and carry out, the punishment. That blows.

I agree the teacher should have praised her small step forward. Hmph.

Stephanie Snowe said...

Not doing it to the level the teacher would have liked. Hmm. I did a big internal AND external eyeroll at that one.

That being said, I would have punished too. As much as it sucks.


Kathy said...

Yep - sometimes being the mommy is no fun at all. I wish the teacher would have focused on the positive, but I would have imposed a punishment too. And, I would have hated EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. OF. IT.

Hang in there. . . lots of hugs.

Tara said...

I'm with AndreAnna...the description of these exercises made me roll my eyes and say a swear word at the same time. Does this teacher take herself too seriously or what?!?!

Poor Punkin and poor mama. Let me know if I need to kick someone's ass for you.

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Laurel said...

I got a call on the second day of first grad for Griff. Second day! He's now trying to earn a lizard. Yup, I said lizard. Sometimes parenting really stinks.

And no...no brain exercises for me today.

Sass E-mum said...

A little bit 'woo'! I love that.

I'd find that really hard to deal with and would be desperate to get an explanation from the teacher why it even matters.

Hats off to you for seeing the bigger picture and backing up the teacher anyway.