In my earliest days as an educator, there were few full time jobs to be had and I chose to work in a situation of steady influence rather than hopping about as a substitute teacher from place to place and probably outside my content area. I was in between my fourth and fifth years of college and needed a break from academics and also needed to make a few dollars to pay the bills.
I found myself in South Philadelphia working as an assistant teacher in an early intervention classroom and it was there where I learned many of the ‘tricks’ that I still utilize in my classes today. Whether it was from my students, my lead teacher, or the several therapists who were working in the room, the novelty and variety of practices were never ending. I stole them all. I remember being told, upon hire, I was that the salary was low and the turnover was high–they did, however, get the benefit of fresh faces such as mine who were right out of college.
Being regularly surrounded by students of multiple involvements was a challenge of its own. Many had their own language and vocabulary with an expected repertoire of responses, some were quite distant while some were lucid and possessed more latent delays, and there were a few who were given to violent tantrums. If this were a seminar or in-real-life (IRL) discussion I would probably make some allusion to ‘multitasking’ and we would all smile a cautious smile. These were students who deserved more of us than we could give.
The first lesson that I taught is that the body must be ready to learn before the mind is ready to learn. Every student had a routine upon arrival–this is nothing new to us, is it? Keep in mind that these students had very different routines and, I came to discover, these routines were good for everyone. Routine one: brush your veggies and your feet.
By brushing the feet, lower legs, hands, and lower arms we created static input that acted to organize the nervous system. The students liked it. The brushes tickle and massage, they provided types of input that the students need. We need it too. When our minds or bodies seem out of sorts, we can use these techniques. The brushes that we used looked like this:
and could be found at a variety of ‘frou-frou’ gourmet stores. There is far more to it than just brushing but you get the gist.
The morning was a blur of focused activities categorized by the types of input provided. For those students who needed vestibular input, there was a platform swing which was aluminum and strong enough to hold an instructor and a student. There were weighted vests which, as explained to me, provided downward pressure to help students feel ‘more grounded.’There were all sorts of massaging devices–large, two-handed, AC powered massaging devices that provided sensory input to large muscle groups as well as fingers and toes; and small, hand held devices that the students could manipulate on their own–many of them liked the sensation along with vocalized sound. Along with clapping activities and stomping activities, the room was abuzz with the exact kind of racket that should come from a well-planned course of classroom activity. This was only the first 15 minutes.
Watch for Part 2: Nobody moves, nobody gets taught