#1151 The Active Classroom

Overheard at my son’s school:
Parent: “How’s my child doing sitting still in your class?”
Teacher: “I don’t know. We don’t sit still for very long.”

That was music to my ears. I don’t sit still well. I took this brief excerpt to heart when it comes to developing my teaching.

Gardner’s Intelligences
Howard Gardner hypothesized there are many different intelligences reflected in people from math/logical, verbal/linguistic and bodily kinaesthetic. In the article above it is suggested that “Providing students with multiple ways to access content improves learning (Hattie, 2011).” Sitting still at a desk is just one of many ways to access learning.

Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
UDL looks at ways to improve student learning by offering flexible options to support student success. Options include alternative assessment, flexible workspaces and regular feedback. One common phrase is “Necessary for some, useful for all…”

Active options in and beyond the classroom stimulate success in students who struggle sitting still.

Classroom Options
I use “vertical, non-permanent work spaces” (white boards) all over the class to get students working together sharing, problem solving and brainstorming. We go outside to explore science and math in the real world. I incorporate drumming in transition times.

The Art of Sitting Still
While I am an active learner I benefit from developing the ability to sit quietly with my mind. And I see the value for all kids. So, while I work to keep the class moving I also build in quiet time where we practice sitting still.

Sometimes that is disguised as trying to beat our own world record for independent silent reading – as in how long can the class be engaged in reading without developing wiggly bums or chatty mouths. Or a quiet, Grade 3 appropriate meditation exercise after recess or DPA (daily physical activity.)

Progress
School is traditionally designed for quiet, diligent worker bees. That works well if you or your child is a quiet, diligent worker bee. More and more I am seeing more UDL and active options in classrooms – bike desks, Forest School inspired outdoor learning, flexible work stations…
We’re moving in the right direction!

#1150 The Hidden Power of Band-Aids

“17 yrs ago, I had little patience for a boy named Cedric. He was defiant and belligerent. He was what we called, “hard.” One day in my office, I asked him what his challenges in life were. He said, “I don’t have anyone to take care of me.” This is a moment I will never forget.” Danny Steele (@SteeleThoughts) 

Cedric needed a band-aid.

True power of a band-aid

Most teachers keep a pack of “band aids” close at hand. Little scrapes, scratches or boo-boos can send students in need of the healing power of a band-aid. The true healing goes beyond the scratch…

So often, I find students like Cedric need emotional support or caring. The application of a simple band-aid provides the initial caring and support sometimes missing in a student’s life.

I worked with a young student – “Peter” – who ‘trashed’ his class, twice, causing his main teacher to evacuate students.

What triggered his rage? With some digging we found the boy had a tough home life. His mom was gone. His life was unsettled and he craved attention, love and security – the lower layers of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Peter’s homeroom teacher was worried he was falling behind academically. However, he could not progress academically without developing a stronger base layer from which to grow.

Many people take a hard line with students like Peter (and Cedric.) “Conform, or else.” Their behaviour, however inappropriate, is often a cry for help. A hard line of consequences can add to the hidden challenges and trauma that lead to greater problems we sometimes see as tragic headlines in the news.

What is often needed is a “band-aid.” Someone to listen, teach coping skills and build resilience so the student will start climbing towards success.

With Peter, the school support team came together. We helped him develop the social skills and resilience he needed. When I first met him he clung to me physically – craving attention. As he developed new skills he started ignoring me. That’s a good sign – it means he was finding the attention, love and security in a more appropriate way. As he develops Maslow’s base layers he will be ready to learn traditional academics.

Provide the band-aid. Find the behaviour triggers. Support.