attention, being a teacher, invest, questions, students

Start Asking Questions

You know the kid, usually a boy, tap, tap, tapping his foot. Gets up, gets something, sits down and then taps taps taps some more. Then whatever he is tapping breaks so he falls out of his chair trying to get something out of his desk. By this time, you are not talking anymore, simply staring as this child as he continues to fiddle,stare out the window, and tap, tap, tap.

So you go to your team and whisper ADHD, not for sure, but someone better check. Has this been a prior concern? Are there records? How would parents react? Never once do we stop to ask the kid why he taps, or rarely anyway. We don’t ask “Why do you blurt? Why do you interrupt? Why are you so exhausted and exhausting?” Instead, we assume. We know, after all, we have seen them before. We are the experts, we know kids, this is our job.

But what if we did ask? What if that boy said that I don’t like my chair because it is uncomfortable? Or how about, when the teacher talks too much, I lose interest because I want to do, to touch, to experience, and not just listen and regurgitate information.

Is your classroom set up for tap, tap, tapping? Is it set up for kids getting out of their seats? For the boy fiddling? For the girl staring out the window? Or for those kids we label because maybe some meds will probably do the trick? When do we stop assuming and start asking questions? When will we realize that we do not have all of the answers and some times we have to ask the students? I think that time has come.

5 thoughts on “Start Asking Questions”

  1. Student voice is on the rise. Indeed, why not ask the questions. I can think of several reasons some people would give. I can imagine the more traditional style of teacher who would consider giving students a voice, asking there opinion and heaven forbid encourage them to question something we (as the all powerfull, all knowledgable teacher) said as just plain rude and encouraging bad manners and bad behaviour (I have, whilst writing, created a stereotypical cartoon image of what this person may look like in my mind).But yes, I quite agree, I wonder how much easier our lives as teachers would be if we stopped to ask these questions rather than leapt in with a snap judgement or diagnosis of the problem. In terms of the medication side of things, it broke my heart when a kid I taught hadn't been given her medication in the morning and was acting up and when I asked why (at this point she was sobbing her heart out), she replied that she wouldn't be able to behave because she hadn't taken her medication. It had been drilled into her from the adults around her that the only reason she was capable of behaving was because of the medication. (I wonder what their answer was on days she had been medicated but still had a bad day!) This child's behaviour had changed dramatically (for the better) over the past year and I put it to her that she was in control of it and she could choose how she behaved. This prospect seemed to quite appeal to her.When the new year starts one of my biggest aims is to question more and get the kids to question me more. Thanks for the post.

  2. Sarah, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I agree that student voice is on the rise, or at the very least, it should be. While I am not an opponent of medication for students, I always wonder with every child, whether it is necessary or whether accommodations within the classroom could be made. Your story of your student is heartbreaking, and one that I fear repeats itself all too often in our classrooms. Until we realize that we must take the time to question or students and not just assume, we will only end up hurting our students more. Thank you so much for your comment.

  3. I was one of those 'tap tap' kids but there is no way I'm anything near ADHD. High School assemblies were a nightmare because we had to sit still without moving and all I wanted to do was wriggle and stretch – couple this with an allergy to wool and our school uniforms were woollen and its a wonder I survived High School! As a teacher I never minded my kids moving how and when they wanted and I always had different places they could sit and move to whenever they wanted – a sofa, floor cushions, even outside if they wanted. In 21 years of teaching I didn't have anyone 'diagnosed' with ADHD – when I stopped teaching in 2005 we were just starting to pathologise kids and I'm sure that a lot fo my 'wrigglers and jigglers' would have been diagnosed. They did juts fine in my class.Now I work in PD for teachers and I am known for the complex 'doodles' that I do in meetings, conferences and so on. Some people think I am terribly rude and off-task but those who know me realise it is my way of concentrating. I always tell them that its better doing that than clicking my pen or tapping it on the desk which is what I would ahve to do otherwise. Now that I'm 60, I'm still a fiddler (in New Zealand, we call it 'tutuing around), but now I have people begging me to sell them my doodles – who knows I might have a whole new career ahead of me lol!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story Robyn. And since I was not one of those tapping kids, but rather a wiggler, I agree with you. A student of mine did tell me that he thought better when he fiddld with paperclip and at first I was sceptical, but now I get it. Your story really helps put this into perspective because I am so not a "tutuer." Bets of luck with your doodle art, would love to see apiece!

  5. My Twitter avatar is one of my doodles – not a really complex one however. (@Boz23). I was working at a tiny school (19 students) recently and when the principal saw some of my doodles in my notebook, she got me to share them with her students. Next time I went to visit, the kids had written reports about my doodling and then they made their own doodles and wrote about those. I was thrilled! They are so excited with the whole process that they are going to send their doodles and their articles to the New Zealand School Journal to see if they can get it published. On my last visit I presented them with two of my more complex 'doodles' so they can get them framed. It was a great experience.

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