I distinctly remember being a 4th grader at a small country school and having a terrible case of the wiggles. It wouldn’t have been the first time, but this time the teacher noticed me moving my little bottom side to side on my desk chair. She called me into a corner and spoke to me privately. “Are you having trouble sitting still?” My teacher, the mother of three boys, knew about children, wiggles, and learning.
I told her my bottom hurt from sitting too long. She kindly took me into the Kindergarten corner where small chairs were arranged in a large circle. “When the kindergarten class goes home, you can raise your hand and ask to come back here.” And then she showed me how to lie across the chairs on my stomach and do my work. It was a gift, and I spent the afternoons working on my tummy and not feeling tied to a desk that I found so uncomfortable.
I thought of this moment all this week when I was trying to teach my 3rd grader. She reviews math problems with me in between handstands, and I try to conduct grammar class with her on the couch while she literally bounces up and down the whole time. Teaching with constant movement is distracting for me; my energy resources are limited, and her movement seems to drain energy right of me. I want to throw in the towel.
And then I remember my own past. I was older than she is now when this solution was presented to me. And I still don’t last long at a desk and can be found working with my laptop on my bed, standing at a kitchen counter, or sitting on the floor.
When I read to my children I don’t expect them to sit quietly next to me and listen passively. They are playing with Legos, drawing, coloring and cutting, and putting together puzzles. Two of my children hear the story better this way. I instinctively knew this because I always have to doodle in staff meetings or get completely lost in my own thoughts and miss everything. Even on the phone, if I’m not busy with my hands, I will miss key aspects of a conversation.
But my kinesthetic/visual child has to see the print and be moving at the same time. And my permanent state of exhaustion makes this more challenging. She has to be close. But if she stops moving, she can’t focus. So we review verb forms while she does handstands against the wall. I know she will outgrow this particular need some day, but like me, I doubt she will want to sit still for long periods of time.
I have revisited learning styles over and over as I try to teach my children over the past six years. I continually have to revamp methods, materials, and even what time I teach a subject. I often wonder how a teacher with 24 students can ever do this effectively in order to maximize learning for each and every one of their students. I’m in awe of teachers; the good ones get pretty close to doing exactly this. But I don’t want to take chances on whether or not my kinesthetic learner is going to be able to move enough in her classroom to be able to lock down the concepts she needs to learn. So we bounce.
Photo Credit: Graphic design by Charity Klicka