Monday, June 25, 2012

What Learning Looks Like To Me

While on Pinterest the other day, I saw the picture below and found myself disgusted by it. What this poster says does not jive at all with the fact that the kids pictured in this blarticle are also "Ready to Learn". Perhaps it is because I spent three years in a classroom designed for "twice exceptionals" for whom "ready to learn" is the exact opposite of what this poster says, but it made me exceedingly sad to see this pin.
The trouble is, for many, this poster prescribes the antithesis of what learning looks like.  Even for so-called "normal" kids, doing what this poster says is actually likely to diminish the learning that takes place compared to what could take place with lessons that call for a more active learning style.  For many children with behavorial disorders, using a poster like this in the classroom and insisting that this kind of behavior is what will result in learning, results in teaching the kids that they are bad and incapable of learning.  Seriously, this attitude can be a serious blow to the self-esteem of these students and is counter to their learning and well-being.  For more information on how to incorporate movement into even lessons that really do need quiet, read "Teaching Wiggle Worms".
Kids do need to learn manners and find ways to learn without creating disruptions and distractions for others, but come on, what adult convention have you ever attended where everyone is sitting criss-cross with their hands in their laps and mouths completely closed the entire time? My first reaction was, "sitting straight and tall is good posture, but what does that have to do with actual learning?" then, to the yellow commandment, "I can't sit cross-legged for twenty minutes of story time either" Then I thought, rather sarcastically, because I now know this poster is full of antiquated edicts. "I bet the teacher is in a chair or standing", so then I thought.  Even with all the training and education out there, it leaves me disheartened about the state of on-going teacher training in this country to know this poster was getting very many likes or repins at all. This poster is not written about what "ready to learn looks like",  It is written about what the teacher considers is polite while someone is speaking.  
Kids need to learn manners.  They need to learn how to listen to a speaker without being rude or disruptive.  I do think there are ways to do this that are much more realistic while respecting the child and teaching the child to respect others.

Since the poster is really about social graces, perhaps the poster should say:

  • Sitting straight and Tall is good for your back and your health.   
  • Readjust your body positions slowly, when you need to, in a way that doesn't mean you bump into others and makes an attempt not to distract others.
  • When you look at the speaker, you are giving him or her body language that says you are listening.  Glance back and forth between your doodles or fidget, the speaker, and whatever the speaker is pointing to frequently.  When people are really listening they use their Eyes, Ears, and Hearts (empathy) to really understand all of what is said.
  • If you need to play with something in order to give your fingers and hands something to do while you listen - please feel free!  Just make sure you can do this in a way that doesn't make others not able to hear and pay attention too.
  • I would love to see your hands in the air with questions or on your desk taking notes, but I do not want to see your hands in other's spaces.  I may ask you to write a question down in order to save it for later if I need to in order to keep myself on track, so be ready with paper and a pencil.  (or in a classroom for the very young, perhaps the teacher should write these kinds of questions on the board when they are asked)
  • It is important that you make sure the others around you can hear - even if you can hear and understand the speaker while you are talking, others might not be able to, and it distracts the speaker.  If you must have a little noise, pat your thigh very quietly so you can hear it, but only you can hear it.
Yes, my version is much wordier, but it is also much more real in that it is honest about what the "rules" are really about (manners toward the speaker and other listeners) as well as expectation for some kids.  The kids in the picture at the top of the page are NOT looking like they are ready to learn according to what the poster says, but guess what, they are, in fact learning.  That can be said of the kids in any of the pictures included on this page.

If you found this article intriguing, thought-provoking, or helpful, you might also be interested in my blarticles Teaching Wiggle Worms, Assessing Wiggle Worms and How to Make Your Own Fidgets for more ideas on how to honor those kids in your life that actually need to move to learn.  You might also like this blog about motivating kids to learn and using discipline that makes sense.  If you think you might have a gifted kid in school that is being under served because of an additional label such as ADHD or Aspberger's Syndrome, you may be interested in taking a look at AEGUS, The Association for the Education of the Gifted and Under-served Student.

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