Is Sitting Still, Still Necessary?

sitting still“I worry that their intellectual prosperity will be curtailed by the simple, but daunting, expectation that they sit still for hours each day.” Dr. Carolina Blatt-Gross, Mother of Two Rambunctious Boys

This CNN piece came on the scene this past week and it was insightful, helpful, and non-judgmental. I encourage all of you to thumb through it here.

In general, I work with mild/moderate students struggling in school due to a learning difference, behavior challenge, or social skills need. For my students who struggle with impulsivity or ADHD, sitting in their seat for 42 minutes at a time is really, really tough. I feel for them, truly. They so badly want to conform but are just unable to physically resist the need to get up and walk around the room, take the hall pass for a reprieve at the drinking fountain, or in some cases, even stretch out on the floor in the back. (Yep, that happened today.)

We know that if there’s lack of behavior support, there’s a lack of academic success. Those two definitely correlate. So what if we take away the confines that contribute to the behavior problem?

Drew Whitelegg, Fourth Grade Teacher at The International Community School, who was  a soccer coach before becoming a teacher explains:

“If you try to fight the restlessness and impulsive nature of children, you end up denying an important developmental stage, In addition, it sets up disciplinary issues where students are in trouble for nothing other than the need to move.”

Drew kinda hit the nail on the head, didn’t he.

My students struggling with impulsivity are often labeled as a ‘Behavior Problem’ by the school because they are disruptive in class. They are partly disruptive in class, however, because they are unable to sit for long periods of time.

“Making them sit creates problems with behavior.” Carlita Scarboro, a First Grade teacher at public school, Laurel Ridge Elementary.

I couldn’t agree more.

Schools are getting better about providing accommodations, such as wiggle seats for little ones,  allowing breaks, or giving the student a classroom “job” like Door Manager, where she can sit in the back of the class and be responsible for opening and closing the door whenever someone enters or leaves. This also gives the restless student a chance to take much-needed breaks without her peers looking at her funny as she shuffles from the front of the room to the back during a lesson. That’s a prime example of Differentiated Learning using an Inclusion Model, which is hopefully on its way to becoming the norm in all classes.

Another question to ponder is why we need to have desks at all? Our job force is changing and it’s my prediction that office jobs will be in the minority in the not-too-distant future. Instead, and especially after the Great Recession, we’re seeing more educated entrepreneurs pop up with in-home practices and a revitalization of the trades, which are desperately needed in the U.S. If school is to prepare a child for a future in the work force and the way we work is changing, then shouldn’t our schools change the way we teach our students to work? Here’s an interesting school that’s putting into practice those ideas: the MUSE School.

All in all, I feel a revolution coming on. The rise of ADHD cases coupled with the lack of how to help these kids learn best while using the preferred Inclusion Model is going to have to create some new changes, and radial ones at that. Perhaps, we’ll one day look back at the desk as we now do with the dunce cap.

Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder of Terry Tutors and Creator of the One Comprehensive Support Service for The Struggling Student. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com

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ADHD: A Behaviorist Approach

ADHD“I marvel at people who can sit down and stay seated in the same position for longer than five minutes. I found this internal restlessness especially difficult to control during school. Trying to stay focused during a 40-minute class while sitting in an uncomfortable chair was pretty torturous for a young student with attention issues. I remember asking to go to the restroom during most classes, not because I needed to use the facilities but because I needed a minute to get up a walk around.”

These are the words of Jillian Levy, a young women who, for most of her schooling years, struggled with the basic premise of the traditional classroom: to sit down and pay attention. Often thought of as restless, unfocused, or lazy students with ADHD are labeled early on in their academic career as “that kid with behavior problems”. Not to say there isn’t a rampant diagnosis of this disorder (as previously discussed in The Smart Drug Debate), but those who really do have this internal restlessness are genuinely challenged with the tasks that others, myself included, take for granted. For example, when I was in school I learned very early on to raise my hand when I wanted to ask a question or contribute to the class discussion. I would have never dreamed of calling out the answer without adhering to this protocol! But students with ADHD take a more logical and less systematic approach: “If I know the answer, why wouldn’t I call it out? And why aren’t the other kids in my class calling it out too? Well, I guess they don’t know the answer or don’t want to say it out loud.”

The scientific community is really just beginning to put these mysterious pieces of the puzzle together and finally give the general public some real data on the brain science behind ADHD. The educational community, however, is far behind the mark of discovery. Science and technology spearhead change while education and law wait for the numbers to come through. Meanwhile, these students, many of whom are on my Private Tutoring Plus and Education Advocacy rosters, are misunderstood and labeled as a distraction. You have to wonder: how many kids with ADHD are sitting in the principal’s office?

As a person and provider who cares deeply about advocating for those who are unable to advocate for themselves, I’m not waiting for education to catch up with what we already know. Instead, I believe we can change the course of these students lives by helping them understand their own behaviors– creating logical, common sense pathways for positive change through honest conversations with students, their parents, and their school; employing trained therapeutic aides who teach appropriate behavior cues and responses; provide our teachers with effective classroom management training with follow-ups to ensure accountability; and advocate for administrative acceptance of a school-wide rewards and consequences system. If you think these ideas are far-fetched, think again. I’ve seen this in action at schools that are willing to take the hard road and work with the individual in need, not by singling the student out and risking social stigma but, rather by incorporating those systems into the classroom for all students.

Jillian Levy writes, “I am fully aware that having ADHD is a lifelong experience. Everyday I have moments where I feel restless and irritable. However, I try very hard to not let my learning and attention issues control my life. I’m always working to understand why certain situations may trigger symptoms, moving forward with the knowledge that I’m not perfect and that mistakes—whether intentional or not—are human nature.”

I love the way she summed it all up, don’t you. It’s a simple reminder that we must first acknowledge our differences but also take action, learning to move forward in order to create change for ourselves and those around us. After all, that’s really what education is about anyways– a lifelong journey of discovering something greater than ourselves.

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Christine Terry, J.D., is the Founder & Owner of Terry Tutors, a Private Tutoring, Family Coaching, and Education Advocacy service dedicated to supporting the whole student. She writes this blog as an effort to help Moms & Dads Navigate Generation Z, Honestly. Want to Know More? Head on over to TerryTutors.com