Monday, May 27, 2013

Kid-watching, eyes to eyes

When I grow up, I still want to be a behavioral optometrist, but now in a close second I would also like to have a life as a preschool teacher, working with threes and fours.  I, who have always run screaming from anyone younger than six….

Mostly this is because of the threes I met at Fayerweather Street School in Cambridge, MA in April.  The threes of this world are still working on all their cross-lateral patterning and are NOT supposed to be reading.  The children in the threes class were not decided in their handedness, most of them;

I spent a day at Fayerweather Street School at the invitation of Ed Kuh, who has headed this preK-8 independent school since he moved from Seattle in 2003. I went because his teachers were intrigued by the possibilities that Red Flags for Primary Teachers, my latest book about neurodevelopmental and vision issues in young children, could help them with some of the puzzling children in their classrooms.

Most of the day I hung out in the K and the first and second grades, watching and screening about twenty kids. (I also taught all the classes the Brain Dance, but as always when I am teaching or leading it I don’t have as much opportunity to see who is not getting it.) I used a slightly shorter version of my usual screening (see Red Flags, pages 123-130). The kids were interested in working with me; the teachers were fascinated.

“Do Jack first,” one teacher urged me. “He is a real puzzle to us.” So I introduced myself to Jack. (What is it about the Jacks of primary life? They always surface right away.) We went, he and I, into an empty space behind a bookshelf, where there was a little table, and I checked for tracking, teaming, visual discrimination, crawling, balance; I also asked him to do the position sense test and the Other Half picture. 

As we were working, Jack and I, I realized that the teachers were standing on a raised section of the floor on the other side of the bookcase with a cell phone, making a movie of Jack and me. Independent school rules are different, I think.

Those teachers had identified puzzles, for sure:  nearly all of the children they asked me to look at were not crossing their midlines and most of them couldn’t balance either. I made a few suggestions for each one; they were, inevitably, mostly boys.  Simply because of the way boys’ brains are wired, they will usually come to success in school literacy activities later than girls will. 

More about that another time.