I have never been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. It wasn’t even a known condition when I was in school. I wiggled, I daydreamed, I doodled and constantly fidgeted with my hair, my pencil, the pink eraser in my desk, scraps of paper wrappers, paperclip, or anything small that could go undetected or be quickly hidden. My mind was and is constantly moving. I am a great multitasker. It doesn’t seem right to me to just be doing one thing. I notice that when I do concentrate on just one task at a time, a great wave of calm washes over me, and I feel a wonderful sense of accomplishment. This usually happens on Fridays when I work from home. In the early morning, I sit at my kitchen table and I just focus on one item at a time. Okay, to be completely truthful, I sometimes listen to a podcast and check my email in between, but for the most part, I have learned to tame my monkey mind.
This has taken many years and lots of practice. I still have difficulty sitting and meditating. I was so happy to hear that one can meditate while moving. That is when I feel most comfortable. There is a large circular garden maze where we vacation in Vermont. I love winding my way through the flowers, following the path over and over until my mind is clear and my body is relaxed.
This school year, I am designing and teaching a Study Skills class for 4th grade girls. Part of the curriculum leans heavily on giving the girls time to practice executive function skills: planning, initiating, organizing, prioritizing, self-monitoring, flexible thinking, impulse control, and time management.
I had not planned to create lesson on fidgeting, but the girls kept talking about their need to move and how teachers often become upset by their fidgeting. Though I have a high tolerance for my own fidgeting, I often get distracted by students’ fidgeting. I have had to become keenly aware of this and learn to tune out a certain amount of that type of distraction. And I have had to have quiet, honest conversations with students about how best to navigate their need to fidget and others’ needs for sustained attention.
I wanted to honor students’ need to move. I also wanted to create a space for them to really think about why they fidget and what strategies they could use to both keep moving while also actively listen. This week, we read an article about fidgeting: 9 Constructive Fidgets that Promote Focus. As a student read aloud the article, she came across the words doodling and pacing. Everyone in the room stopped and looked at me. I was on my fifth journey around the room. Pacing was fidgeting! I hadn’t ever considered that. We all had a good laugh, and I said, “I guess I fidget as much as you all do!” I thought pacing was a teaching strategy. Who knew it was really fidgeting?
Then we created pencil fidgets using a pipe cleaner, some beads, and Washi tape. While the girls were busy working, the room was absolutely silent. They were all concentrating on the task at hand. I brought their attention to this, and they responded that the fidgets help them focus and didn’t distract them from listening. While the girls worked on their fidgets, I showed them Jessica McCabe’s video, Classroom Friendly Fidgets with Special Guest Bailey. The girls immediately connected with Bailey, the ten-year-old girl who was being interviewed about her collection of fidgets. Sitting back and observing, I realized how important it was for children to learn from their peers. They were intent on Bailey’s words and actions. The video got me thinking about giving girls choices of fidget and having them try out different types to find the one that is right for them. McCabe emphasizes that fidgets should be simple, quiet, and able to be use without being looked at. In the coming weeks, my classes will be able to test this out and decide whether and when to use fidgets.
During this lesson, we also wrote acrostic poems as a collaborative class activity. The poet, Janet Wong, visited virtually in the morning and had showcased many poems that expressed the need for movement. I thought it was a good time to bring movement and poetry together. As the girls shared their ideas, it was interesting to see the word choices they employed to construct meaning.
When composing poems, I often take long walks or pace around the room to the beat of the poem. I understand now that maybe I chose poetry as my main artistic outlet because it allowed me to move. I was able to make the words move. And I made myself smile with the realization that I named this blog, Word Dancer. That says it all. Movement is totally part of my nature. It is clear that my students are also passionate about their need to move in order to learn. They want to learn how to tune in and not shut down. They were so passionate about and motivated by this subject. It is something we will continue to explore. And I am ready to move!