Who Am I to Judge?

a-funny-kidsAcceptance, collaboration, putting yourself in another’s shoes, admitting someone else may have a better idea. These are not just difficult concepts for kids but boy oh boy, are they difficult for us grownups too.

No Need to be a Critic — a Struggling Student is their Own Judge & Jury

Working with kids who are struggling in school gives me a window into each child’s values, belief-system and self-esteem. I’ve taken note — when it comes down to it, each and every kid who is not making the grade truly feels left out.

At the root of all the anger, anxiety, blame, tears, skipping school and bullying is a genuine feeling of inadequacy. No matter the age or the problem, they feel judged by their peers, their teachers, their parents and themselves.

Mindfulness Abates Judgment

It’s not without work that I’ve learned to be intentional about stepping back for a minute and recognizing my own inability to judge anyone. Really, who am I to judge?

This ability to learn to love myself and others just as we are comes from the expected variables, including age, life experience, forgiveness for past wrongs and most recently yoga. I’ve been practicing yoga consistently for a good five years now and the thing that my Type A brain loves most about it is the fact that there is no judgment. I’m not supposed to judge others (especially that one guy in the front of the room whose hot tree is like perfect every time!) and I’m certainly not supposed to judge myself.

That’s what I teach my students. No matter the diagnosis or the grades, no one is allowed to judge you, not even the harshest critic – yourself.

This is not to say a student shouldn’t strive for that ‘A+’ or try out for the lead in the school play, only that we all have different abilities, learning styles and gifts. Some subjects will be harder. That’s a fact. Withholding judgment is not a free ride to eliminate trying your very best.

Be Free from Judgment & Help Your Child Learn to Love Learning

The goal is to be free from judging the aftermath: Judging yourself as a parent for working late again, judging your child for getting a C on his math test, judging your spouse for not doing his share of the housework, judging that mom at the playground who always has your kid’s favorite bunny graham snack.

Learning to accept what is, opens the door to what could be.

By refraining from judging yourself as a parent, teacher or provider, you are giving your child, your student, the freedom to explore.

Isn’t that really what’s at the crux of the matter. We feel stifled, so we judge. We need the freedom to say let’s try this, instead of I must do this.

By giving ourselves that freedom, we are teaching our kiddos how to love learning. And that’s the ultimate gift.

Christine Terry, J.D., is a Special Education Advocate & Founder of Terry Tutors. She created the One Wraparound Service for The Struggling Student, which includes Academic, Behavior, Special Education Advocacy, and School Placement services. Christine truly loves helping struggling students realize their inner potential and the possibilities that await them in and out of the classroom.

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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