My first memory of formal education in Canada involves being told to sit still. Most of my memories of formal education in Canada involve being told to sit still -- "like a good boy." My behaviour was corrected a lot over 12 years.
cc licensed flickr photo - shared by maja thurup
Yesterday, while I awaited my chiropractor, I watched my nearly 2 year-old playing with the toys in the waiting area. For nearly 10 minutes he tried to figure out the operation of a rather complicated toy garage with a neat little elevator. He was clearly frustrated with the elevator's operation for a time and eventually lay on his side staring intently at the apparatus.
Ignoring the silent pleas of a concerned mom, to pick up my child and admonish him for laying on the floor and exposing himself to germs, I watched his eyes methodically scanning the mystery toy from a new perspective. After a short while, his hands began exploring a part of the toy that he had not seen while standing/squatting/sitting/bouncing/crouching.
He never did figure out the elevator, but he sure enjoyed the flap that allowed him to hold several toy cars at the top of a ramp before releasing them simultaneously. This was especially enjoyable when he placed a small stack of blocks at the bottom of the ramp (carnage!).
Reflecting on the boy's experience, I find myself wondering how many discoveries I failed to discover because I was too busy trying to "sit still and learn," or cooling off in the principal's office.
Currently I teach teenagers who would likely burst into flame if they had to sit in a chair for 82 minutes, so I don't often expect silent or motionless learning in my classroom. On the rare occasion that I've been evaluated, this lack of classroom management has been noted as a refreshing method of addressing hyperactivity (adolescence, as I call it), but earned me a lower score because it didn't fit the expectations of the evaluation format.
As a "satisfactory" teacher whose students move around while they read or write or collaborate or explore, I offer this warning to the future teachers of my children: they're like their father and they're not going to sit still while they learn. If you ever tell them to "sit down and shut up," or "sit still like a good boy," or "stop shaking like that," you will answer to me -- and, I will not sit still whilst I dress you down for believing that little boys should ever sit still in silence. You want silence, you'd better captivate 'em; otherwise, get out of their way while they do their learnin' thing.
If you want my boys to excel in your classroom, you'd better get used to kids who learn by not sitting still, and don't do silent obedience very often.
Kabachia, who still doesn't sit still and ain't never gonna shut up about it.