Monday, April 22, 2013

PASSING (out during) EXAMS!!!: Nutrition is How You Can Outwit & Outlast the TEST!

This pic seemed to really capture the spirit of the post

Today I got the opportunity to proctor in a 4th grade class during our state’s week long standardized testing rodeo. It was a torturous test…not for the kids mind you, but for me! I’m still dizzy from walking around in circles (I threw some figure 8s in there for good measure). I just wearily kept bouncing from student to student, while carefully monitoring every last bubble filling moment of the testing process. Over the years, there has been ONE observation that always stands out and most folks don’t seem to be aware of it.
We do so much talking about tests, but I’m always left wondering why we kind of glaze over this one fact. I hope you can end up using this simple revelation to the advantage of your kiddos.

Testing is often not about how much you know, but about how LONG you can stay awake and endure it! The human brain can only attend to something efficiently for a certain period of time. Beyond that, it really becomes a matter of willpower and endurance. Standardized testing has always baffled me because it goes contrary to just that. We sit kids down, read an endless list of rules and procedures to them, and then ask them to plant themselves in their seats for hours on end with a short “stretch” break (and the occasional trek to the bathroom) in between. Year after year I see the same thing. It’s like the battery on my cordless electric shaver…I can hear it just draining away. The drop off in our kid’s mental performance is tangible…from an all-out sprint, to a peppy jog, to a brisk walk, then labored steps, and finally a stumbling gait…and some just fall flat on their face.

It really doesn't take much to send us drifting off

What makes this phenomenon even worse? Sometime WE do by giving them the wrong kind of breakfast. Like I mentioned, testing really is ALL about endurance. If a kid’s breakfast (despite loving intentions) is packed with wheat, sugar, and high fructose corn syrup, etc., then their blood sugar levels spike…and what goes up, must come down! Don't be left surprised. After their wide-eyed rush of energy they will experience a HARD crash and it will be at the most inopportune time. Proteins, healthy fats, fruits, veggies (hey omelets are a perfect disguise)…this will fill the fuel tank for the long testing haul.

This simple shift can have a profound impact on testing scores immediately. Considering that these scores carry so much weight, this is something to really consider. Our own family has made huge changes to the way we all eat. We’ve cut out all processed food at home, with only the occasional treat for the kids. It may seem over the top, but considering that my kids already struggle with their disability, we decided to try it. One of our favorites books is It Starts With Food (just click the handy link). If you want to be educated (and I wouldn't be a great teacher if I didn't endorse life-long learning right?), this is an amazing resource for your family!

The results for us have not just been noticeable, they've been profound! The body-brain system cannot be ignored. For all the cognitive interventions I've put into place to help our children become more effective learners, nutrition has allowed each and every one of these strategies to be even more effective. Forget about the laundry list of benefits to their well-being (well don't forget...just put them aside for a sec), just the boost to their cognitive ability has been mesmerized me! I don't say this lightly. I've been teaching for nearly two decades and have worked with disabled children (physical, mental, & emotional) for almost 10 years. I've been blown away! Nutrition MATTERS!!!!

Now I understand that rearranging your life like this is a huge commitment. It was a something that my wife and I shared a lifetime of struggles with ourselves. I can only share that making this change for our children has been totally worth it. I guarantee you'll get more that your ever expected out of your time and effort. I know it is hard. If your not considering a forever fix at the moment, at least ponder trying it for just a short while. If there is ever a week to give it a whirl, forget New Year’s resolutions…do it during testing!!! =)