This afternoon I gleefully shuttled my boys to their weekly gymnastics class. Usually my wife, Kate, handles this commitment, but today she was out of town. Both of my five year old twin boys are very active learners. They love to be in motion. Jumping, climbing, balancing — so, naturally, gymnastics is a perfect fit for their personalities. Sitting on the sidelines casually watching this afternoon I noticed educator brilliance. One of my sons, Finn, was having trouble sitting against the wall and listening to directions. He was still practicing — in his own way — the moves from the previous exercise. Thankfully, his teacher didn’t yell at him to get in line. She didn’t draw any attention to him at all, initially. She let him be. At a distance, that seemed to make sense to me because Finn wasn’t causing any distributive trouble. I can think of other learning experiences (swim lessons, for instance) when less skilled teachers gave him a time-out on the beach for five minutes because he wanted to play in the water and not wait in line. I remember talking with him on the beach after his lesson about his time-out — and what stuck out was his shame. “I’ll never be a good swimmer, Dad,” he said. Or more heartbreaking, “I’m don’t like learning new things.”
Back to gymnastics. After a few minutes, Finn gets up from his spot against the wall and starts to practice summersaults. And again, instead of yelling at him, his teacher encourages him to come and sit close to her while she describes the next activity. Engaged, he quickly joins her side. And this is when the brilliance happened. During her description of the next tumbling activity, Finn started to act out (from a seated position) everything she was describing. Pretty amazing — real-time — interpretation of her words. And it was so compelling that the other kids in his class started to mimic him! Realizing this was going on, she completely embraced it and then took it one step further. She pulled Finn onto her lap and used his arms and legs as a puppet to exaggeratedly act out the plan. He was laughing hysterically. They kids were rolling around on the floor. The plan was effectively delivered. I was blown away by her teaching instinct. When most teachers would try to redirect a “noncompliant” kid, she instead saw it as an opportunity to connect and go with what was already working. Such a natural. It all happened in a matter of minutes, but it was fluid, loving, fun and completely in-tune with the students.
As the kids got up from the circle and headed to the planned activity, Finn lingered. When his teacher approached him from behind, he turned around and gave her a high-five and then ran off to join the group.
Well done, sansei. Well done. Thanks for listening to my kid. It matters.
I took a summer break from the blog and podcast, but I am excited to be back. Looking forward to sharing observations and whatever else comes to mind. Once I sort out the hosting issues with LibSyn, the Adam Jones Education Podcast will back online and producing content. In fact, I have a fantastic interview with Jon Martin from Sandwich, NH — which I recorded last Spring. Sorry for the delay, Jon! Coming soon to a podcast curator near you!