We were deep in the trenches of distance learning with my daughter this winter when my 3-year-old decided to join in and learn right along with her. It was fun having him interact and adapt the lessons to his level. It was the first day we started reading Charlotte’s Web out loud together and almost immediately when he was required to sit still and listen to the book, he started bouncing off the walls. I urged him to sit down and listen, but that was met with him fidgeting with the pencils and crayons, and paper in front of him.
To be honest, it was driving me mad! I know that everything I was feeling was straight from the social norms that I had in school and required as a teacher. However, times have changed! We’ve learned so much about the human brain and body and it’s a fact that sitting still with undivided attention is not the best way to learn for every single kid.
The first day he fidgeted and messed with everything in front of him, it drove me crazy. I continued to tell him to stop, to sit down, and to listen. It was a fight until he finally just left the table altogether.
The next day I was somewhat more prepared and allowed some Lego building while I read. It helped so much but didn’t completely keep him captivated and listening.
In the days following, I adjusted my own expectations and emotions as he moved and jumped and crashed all around us as I read. It was hard for me to come to terms with him acting this way when I wanted him to listen. But the kicker was this, he was listening because I was allowing him to act this way.
I was allowing his body to move freely and do what he needed to do best in order to listen.
I also reflected on the times as a student when I would doodle during a lecture and I would take in more information by keeping my hands busy with a mindless activity instead of having my mind wander when I wasn’t allowed to doodle or fidget in some way.
The way we learn is incredible and so vastly different among different personality types and students. It’s unfair to assume that just because we are not “distracted” and our eyes are looking directly at the teacher, we are taking in information and retaining what is being taught.
It was interesting to see the difference in how much my son knew about the book based on what he was doing while I was reading. In the beginning, when I would dictate what he did during the reading time, he didn’t seem to retain much information Later on in the book when he was free to move and play as needed, he was able to tell me more about what was happening and knew who each of the characters was, even the smaller, less significant characters.
It’s 2023- moving is listening.
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