Jackie Headapohl Managing Editor
The Einstein Method helps teachers motivate students to be their best.
Allen Einstein and Mel Foster didn’t know each other the day they met at Coco Fairfield’s in Berkley.
Sitting in the booth behind him, Mel eavesdropped as Allen, a retired teacher who taught for 32 years in public schools and former Pistons photographer for 37 seasons, explained how the Einstein Education Ecosystem had experienced early success — with lots of initial teacher presentations — but was now challenged to maintain momentum. EEE, Allen shared, uses the kind of innovative techniques teachers don’t learn in college, but are proven to help troubled students experience success.
Allen, who lives in Bloomfield Hills, went on to say that he had refined his method at Birmingham’s Berkshire Middle School with a pilot program he named Project 2000. Now, he and his project partner were bringing their “brain breaks” and other tools to teachers throughout Metro Detroit.
Mel, with more than two decades at J. Walter Thompson as a creative director, had always loved working with nonprofits and charitable foundations. With a lot of success with national and international consumer brands under his belt, Mel, who lives in West Bloomfield, figured he could help.
“When I heard Allen talking about this over my eggs, it had been 15 years since I left J. Walter Thompson and I missed working on charitable accounts,” Mel said. “You never want to admit you were eavesdropping — it’s kind of embarrassing — but I thought, ‘What the heck? I’m an old guy, I can do this.’”
He stopped by Allen’s table as they were leaving and said, “I have to apologize; I’ve been eavesdropping. I’ve been listening to your conversation, and I’m very interested in what you are doing. If there’s anything I can do, I’d be happy to help.”
Allen gave Mel a brochure and the name of the organization “I thought it was a perfectly horrible name and the logo was not much better,” Mel said. “I knew that I could help.”
And he did … at no charge.
Similar in age and with a shared Jewish heritage — Allen was raised in a Jewish home with an emphasis on tzedakah, giving back, and Mel was raised in in an Orthodox home and went to yeshivah as a kid — the two men jelled.
“I always had a focus on tikkun olam, repairing the world,” Mel said. “That’s what Allen’s organization is trying to do. I’m trying to help out in every way I can.”
The two met in February. In May, Allen launched his newly renamed, re-branded and re-positioned nonprofit poised for growth and success: The Einstein Method.
HOW ALLEN STARTED
During the last 11 years of his teaching career, Allen started a program in Birmingham schools called Project 2000 for eighth-grade boys at risk of failing. He had them all day, teaching them everything from math and English to arts and health as well as life skills, such as manners, goal-setting and what success was. The boys thrived. He retired in 2010.
Then, in the fall of 2015, he procured funding for an afterschool program three days a week in Avondale for sixth-grade boys who were failing. The program was voluntary. Allen mentored two teachers and a counselor who ran the program about his teaching methods that worked best, and they began doing things differently.
“They had very immediate results — the kids learned to multiply after four sessions. That led me to know right then and there that I’d be better off teaching teachers than teaching kids,” Allen said.
He applied for a 501(c)(3) and launched the Einstein Education Ecosystem, working with Karen Boyk, an expert in brain development and the differences in how genders learn. Together they have a combined 60 years of classroom experience. Allen and Karen had both taught for more than 20 years at Berkshire Middle School in Birmingham.
Allen and Karen began going into schools and teaching teachers during staff meetings and professional development time about how boys and girls learn differently according to brain research and how to best work with under-achieving students. Armed with new tools, teachers were able to refine their methods, improve their classroom environment and help their students succeed.
THE EINSTEIN METHOD
The Einstein Method doesn’t provide a curriculum to teachers. “What I provide is insight to teachers who are teaching for tests now as opposed to teaching kids to learn how to think,” he said.
The Learning Differences Between Boys And Girls
The Einstein Method offers programs from single presentations to yearlong relationships, working with schools, camps, afterschool programs, parent groups and any others interested in helping children.
Every year there is more research available on the differences in how males and females learn. For example, males generally have only one language center on one side of their brain; females have several language centers on both sides of the brain. Girls are much more verbal; their reading and writing skills develop at an earlier age than boys. Standardized tests that expect the same proficiency from both genders in the same grade give unfair advantage to females.
By the same token, males have better spatial skills at an early age. Females may not be able to grasp abstract math, such as algebra, as soon as their male counterparts.
Due to the secretion of chemicals in the brain, girls working in groups are cooperative and often more nurturing and inclusive than boys, who tend to be more aggressive and competitive. Girls are generally able to sit for longer periods of time and concentrate on one topic. Most boys have difficulty sitting in one place for an extended period of time.
Providing new, unique ways to learn, based on research, is a key element to the Einstein Method training. One strategy is the use of “Just the Facts” cards. Put one fact on each 3”x 5” card. Give one to each student. Have students circulate the room, reading their card to as many others as possible and listening to others read theirs. When they “see” the fact, “say” the fact and “hear” the fact, they will remember the information much better. This activity provides the students an opportunity for movement and participation from everyone and is beneficial to both genders.
The Einstein Method provides their services at no charge to the school or other group. It is a 501(c)(3) and depends on charitable donations. If you would like to learn more about the Einstein Method or donate, visit http://theeinsteinmethod.org.
The Einstein Method provides teachers tools on how boys and girls should be taught differently and shows them what they need to do in their classrooms to keep it interesting.
For example, Allen advocates giving kids “brain breaks” every 20 minutes or so. “After 20-30 minutes, they need to get up and stretch or listen to music or do something,” he said. “Also, you can’t just lecture to kids. You need to have them actively doing activities and moving around. There’s brain research to prove this, yet so many schools don’t have a physical education program or any kind of outdoor activities at all.”
Today’s students have many additional challenges, according to Allen. “So many of them come from broken homes, and teachers have to understand that they come to school with so much anger and stress from not having a good home and not having healthy food to eat or getting enough sleep.
Allen has seen kids with no motivation, who were failing in school, turn their lives around. “I have one young man who is now waiting to take his medical board,” he said. “There’s not a week that goes by that I don’t hear from a former student.”
Allen is in the schools for two to four hours and gets feedback from teachers on his website. Each month, he sends out the “Einstein Quick Minute,” sharing recent research and providing teachers with classroom strategies and brain break activities. The “Minute” also allows Einstein to find out from teachers what is working and what is not.
He recently helped a teacher at Palmer Park Academy in Detroit. “She sent me an email saying her classroom went from chaos to very educationally sound,” he said.
Allen doesn’t charge the schools a penny for the teacher training. The work is paid for by donors. He’s done 25 presentations and talked to more than 800 teachers, all of whom have told him they would recommend the Einstein Method to other educators.
“I’m very interested in helping teachers succeed and having the greatest impact on all students — but especially the at-risk youth,” Allen said.
Allen has presented all over the state — Lapeer, Fenton, Ionia, Webberville, Oak Park — but he’s especially focused on helping Detroit schools.
He and Mel both grew up in the Detroit public schools. “Back in the day, Detroit schools were highly ranked and very successful,” Mel said.
“I’d like to get into as many Detroit schools as I can,” Allen said.
Chris Harrison contributed to this story.