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