Last week, I had a “spinner” in class.
And by “spinner”, I mean he was actually spinning.
All day long. In the middle of the classroom.
Only, less gracefully and there wasn’t a wedding reception going on.
At first I tried to get him to stop.
I told him he was making me dizzy and he needed to sit down.
I told him he was going to make himself sick.
He told me he could spin for hours before getting sick.
The funny thing was, the spinning actually helped.
It kept him quiet so that I could talk and give instructions to the rest of the class without being interrupted by him blurting out or wandering to classmate’s seats to smack them across the head.
So, I just went with it.
I gave the class instructions and let him spin. Then I turned to him and told him, “Okay, you can spin for the next 3 minutes. When the 3 minutes are up, I need you to finish your reading worksheet with me.”
When the 3 minutes were up, I called him over and he was all like,
The kid couldn’t fly through the work fast enough. I didn’t have to read the directions. I didn’t have to go over the problems. He was done with both sides of the worksheet in about a minute and a half. I’ve never seen a kid complete an assignment so quickly before. I was all like,
And that’s when it occurred to me: In my experience, the most disruptive kids in the class are typically really, really ridiculously smart.
I thought back to the other classrooms I’d been in and the disruptive kids in those classes. When I’ve had the chance to sit down with these kids one on one… Holy crappers. They’re brilliant! They can’t sit still for more than 23.6 seconds at a time, but they sure as heck can do the work.
As the day went on, I allowed my friend to alternately spin and work, spin and work. It made a huge difference and it got me thinking about some of the mistakes we make as teachers. Sometimes we’re so intent on having an organized, quiet, orderly classroom that we’re quick to peg the kids that can’t sit quietly and focus. We give them warnings, we give them ultimatums, we separate them from the rest of the class, we sometimes label them as hyperactive or attention deficit, we talk to the parents, we come up with creative and inventive ways of keeping them calm and quiet in class… all in an effort to create a conducive work environment for the rest of the students. And that’s precisely what we should be doing. BUT, we’re so focused on achieving the end result that we don’t always look at the cause of the issues.
My guess is that some of the most disruptive students in school are just bored out of their minds. They’re not being challenged. They’re not learning anything… they already know it. They’re bored and they can’t keep their minds engaged enough to keep their bodies from acting out. Sometimes we’re so busy trying to get the lower kids caught up, and the on-target kids from falling behind, that we forget the high-achieving kids need to be engaged as well. And sometimes, as a result, all that pent-up energy explodes into pandemonium – making our jobs that much harder.
I’m not suggesting that I have any answers. I’m not saying that the only problem with disruptive students is that they need to be challenged more. All I’m saying is that sometimes we have to look at the cause of all the spinning, rather than just trying to manage it.