■ Brain Education is an educational program devoted to helping individuals better manage and utilize their brains. School staffers become “Brain Education Leaders” after undergoing an intensive week-long program designed to give individuals the experience and confidence they need to share Brain Education as a certified instructor for children and adults. The vision of the program is to “spread health, happiness and peace to create a better world.” To achieve this lofty goal, Brain Education Leaders typically coordinate and teach BE classes at health centers, schools and community centers. Since February 2007, over 300 people have taken the Brain Education Leadership course.
Power Brain Schools
A number of schools in the United States have trained members of their staff in the Brain Education Leadership program. Brain Education Leaders perform many roles in these schools: teaching Brain Education to students in the classroom and in after-school clubs; modeling best practices for their colleagues through classroom coaching and mini-workshops, facilitating parent seminars, and teaching classes focused on health and stress management for staff. We interviewed four Brain Education Leaders to see how they are using Brain Education to improve their lives and the lives of the children they teach.
Principal, PS 1, Bronx, New York
When you enter Public School 1, you immediately notice that there is something unusual going on. Located in a dreary neighborhood in the South Bronx, the hallways of this elementary school are filled with bright posters declaring, “Trust Your Brain” and “If You Choose, It Will Happen!” Over the security desk, a huge flat-screen display shows images of children exercising, laughing and learning along with their teachers. But most of all, you notice the smiling faces on the teachers and students. If you ask the staff or parents what is behind this special atmosphere, they’ll tell you right away: It’s Principal Jorge Perdomo and the Power Brain system he brought to the school.
Jorge Perdomo is a man on a mission. Since taking over several years ago as principal of PS 1, he has transformed the school from a D rating by the New York City Department of Education to an A. He has won the respect of students, teachers and parents alike—and to hear him tell it, he did it all with a smile.
How have you incorporated Brain Education at PS 1X?
I trained all my staff in the basic Brain Education Teacher Workshop, so in every classroom students are learning the Power Brain curriculum. I trained my parents in a series of BE workshops. I created a Power Brain Student Leader after-school program to train student leaders. And several of my staff and I attended the Brain Education Leadership training.
What changes do you see at PS 1X as a result of utilizing Brain Education?
The atmosphere and the energy are incredible. Visitors are always amazed at the healthy, happy, calm feeling. You can sense it as soon as you walk in the building. My teachers are more focused and not distracted by excuses, low expectations, or complaining. The staff has a sense of ownership—that motivated, intrinsic work ethic—not because I’m telling them to do something, but because they know it’s best for the kids. Even though we have more students this year, the atmosphere is more peaceful, and we are attracting good things. Enrollment is way up because parents in the neighborhood want their kids in here, so we have had to create a waiting list to get into PS 1.
What changes have you noticed in your students?
Their confidence level has really increased, and they are genuinely happy and focused. Our common language makes it easier. I really emphasized being happy at our “Health, Smile, Peace” ceremony at the beginning of the year. A few weeks later, one of my students saw me in the hall and said, “Mr. Perdomo, you’re not smiling.” This is the culture of HSP, where a student reminded me of the vision of the school. It’s so great.
How have you benefited personally from Brain Education Leadership Training?
My health is much better now. I’m much more in control of my emotions, my thoughts, and my actions. I am more centered, so I’m able to use my energy more wisely. Before, I was more reactive. I was affected by stress and the negativity that gets dumped on a principal. But now I am creating a more positive environment. For example, now my staff smiles before they enter my office. It’s the same with my family—we’re creating a wonderful family environment. Because I’m less tired and frustrated, I have more positive energy for my kids and my wife. It’s a domino effect of positive results.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Speech Therapist, PS 152, Queens, New York
Why did you become a Brain Education Leader?
I was first introduced to Brain Education about two years ago. I began by taking the Brain Education Teacher Workshop, and I loved it so much that I went for Brain Education Leadership training at Honor’s Haven retreat, in upstate New York.
How did the training impact you personally and professionally?
It impacted my life so much, because I saw so much hope for myself and the children I work with. As a speech therapist, I see how important it is for children to feel loved and empowered—especially when dealing with language [issues] and learning disabilities. Going to the leadership training reminded me to dream big again. All the things I lost as a child because of not believing in myself came back to me. I have become more confident and passionate about every moment in my life. I see how much the children love the program in my school. They appear more motivated and awakened when doing the Brain Education exercises. I also saw how they appreciate the relaxation and breathing exercises.
At our new Power Brain Training Center in Bayside, we see so many different types of children who are working together and growing as one. This past summer, we had our first camp, which was wonderful. I believe each child grew in their own way.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
SAPIS Counselor, PS 299, Brooklyn, New York
How has Brain Education Leadership benefited you personally?
It was very good for me because it made me think about how I need to change my habits. For example, previously, committing to exercising daily had been very difficult for me. Now I am more consistent and make better personal choices.
What benefits are your students getting from Brain Education?
Brain Education makes them stronger mentally, emotionally and socially. With kids, it’s all a matter of choice. They need to realize they have the power to do anything. When they see their potential, they can make better choices in life. Brain Education is very good for our school, because many of the students have emotional and/or academic challenges. Brain Education gives them the strength, clarity of mind and courage to say no to negative influences, and empowers them to know that they can be anything they choose to be. The power is in their brains.
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Teacher, Lake Braddock Secondary School, Washington, DC area
How has Brain Education Leadership helped you as a teacher?
I started teaching Brain Education at my school in the fall of 2007. It has changed my life as a teacher so dramatically that I can’t imagine teaching without it. Because of the personal training I experienced, I was able to tap into the deeper convictions I value as a teacher. I am constantly aware of why I teach and what I hope to impart to my students. I completely trust that my students are doing their best, and I’m able to show great empathy and understanding with them, while still meeting the demanding needs of the curriculum in this era of standardized testing. I have tons of energy, usually—though I have to admit not always—and am able to focus when I need to, so I often feel that I’ve accomplished twice as much but am not exhausted. When I look around at my colleagues, many of whom are excellent at their profession, I see how tired they are from giving everything to their students. I know they would benefit greatly from the BEL training. I teach a yoga/Brain Education class for adults at my school, and I can feel and see the positive change in the teachers’ whole being as they walk away from class. They seem so much lighter and relaxed, yet focused.
How do you use Brain Education with your students?
I am so fortunate to teach 8th grade civics at my school because I get to work with kids, showing them how they can change the world. I use the principles and activities of Brain Education to help the kids learn to de-stress, improve concentration skills and grow their self-confidence, until they really believe they can accomplish anything they put their minds to. I’ve also taught several after-school classes for the past two years, and used more of the BE curriculum in those classes.
How has Brain Education benefited your students?
The relationship I have with my students, and the relationships between the students, are strong. They have enabled us to work together to achieve more than they ever thought they could. They do very well on standardized tests, but, more importantly, many of my students grow in their awareness of themselves, the world around them, and how they can make a positive difference. Kids are better able to calm down and let go of all their worries and concerns, exposing their vulnerabilities and working through difficult emotions.
As a teacher, I see kids every day who come to school with such baggage that they are not able to learn. After using many of the Brain Education lessons, I have seen ADHD kids learn to calm their minds. I’ve seen kids from broken homes learn how to make positive choices for coping. I’ve seen kids learn ways to improve their focus so they can master information that they couldn’t before. I’ve seen many kids just become so much happier…and as a teacher, I couldn’t ask for more.
What else are you working on as a Brain Education Leader?
Thanks to the results I’ve seen at my school, I’ve been working with others in the DC region to grow Brain Education. Beltsville Elementary School has had nine teachers trained and have seen reading scores rise three years in a row. My school has had six teachers and a counselor trained, and we’ll be hosting another workshop soon. We’ve started Brain Education after-school programs in Washington, DC, and Fairfax County, Virginia. We’ve also made presentations at several area private schools, and are working with them to find the best way to incorporate Brain Education. I’m excited to be part of this effort to make all our kids, faculties and schools the absolute best they can be. [bw]