This week I enjoyed the opportunity to visit a number of schools. The energy of classrooms and hallways the first week of January is very similar to that in September, full of excitement and anticipation.
As I visited classrooms, I was so happy to see the number of classrooms that are empowering students with tools to support their self regulation with take a break cards, ball chairs, and fidgets. When returning to the office and looking at my desk, I was surprised to see the number of tools used for my own self regulation on a daily basis: ball chair, fidget for your digit, tangle and my new favorite a Zen garden. As with many of our students I struggle to maintain my focus especially when talking on the phone. These tools have helped me immensely in keeping my attention on the person I am speaking with and the conversation, rather than sliding onto email – which previously happened all too often without me being truly aware of my disengagement.
So one of my hopes for this year is that more staff members will begin to explore these options for the students they work with. We have to realize that sitting still with hands crossed on the desk is an artificial construct of what listening looks like. Many students have naturally developed strategies to support their ability to listen: playing with their pencil, tapping their foot, standing up at their desk, rocking, etc. but too often we have forced students to give up these strategies. It is time for us to redefine what listening and engagement looks like and realize that this definition will be as varied as the many faces in our classrooms.