Can’t You Sit Still?

Many years ago, in my first year as team manager of a team of young elementary kids for Destination Imagination, I had a third grade girl on my team. This girl could never sit still. She was always on her feet moving around. Not knowing better then, I would try to get her to sit still during the discussions so that she would not distract the other kids. How many of you have been in a similar situation yourself? Or have had your child’s teacher or someone tell you, “I think your child has a hard time focussing”. My contention is that in most cases, they and us fail to realize that there are a vast majority of children who need to move to think! It just seems so counter-intuitive that most adults just dismiss it as a wayward child who will never accomplish anything much.

Ken Robinson has a wonderful story about this in his TED Talk – School kills creativity – about a little girl who got into trouble at school because she could not sit still. My story about the third grade girl on my team does not have as impactful an ending as his, for I lost touch with her family . Suffice it is to say that in the team, she was the most creative and brilliant performer and on stage during the competition, she opened my eyes. The team was to perform the chicken dance as the final piece. They had rehearsed it to music that was to be played through a boom box that they inadvertently forgot to plug into the power cord. The rules of this competition state no adult assistance is permitted, which meant that the kids had to set the stage themselves. This is a timed performance, and when the music did not play as planned, the kids froze. As the agonizing seconds went by, and the adults in the audience wringed their hands, this girl snapped the team out of their helpless stupor, began moving her hands and feet while humming the tune, and led the team in the most creative rendition of the chicken dance you will be privileged to see.

Many years later, I had an almost similar experience with my younger son, who just cannot sit still. He is playing music, tapping his feet, and staring into space while I try to explain to him a lengthy homework concept. It is then that I started to formally research different learning styles, and what I read reinforced what I had experienced over the years. I am glad I did, because the harm that we can cause to our children by trying to pigeon hole them into one learning style bucket is far more than any of us take the time to realize.

There are many articles on different learning styles. Here is one I found recently. I would urge you to spend the time to read it and apply it, not for your sake, but for the sake of our children. The next time someone tells you that your child cannot sit still and has a “learning” problem, ask them, “Have you considered that maybe his learning style is different than yours”?

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