After our weekend in Tainan, I understand one of my students, Ryan, far better than I did before. Six of my students, their parents and I went on a trip together, and I was able to observe the kids in their “natural habitat” outside the classroom.
Ryan is seven years old and is a smart kid. I tell him something and he remembers it. I have fun challenging him because he’s quick-witted and clever; in fact, I’m harder on him than I am on some of the others because I know I can push him.
The biggest issue Ryan and I face in class is his inability to sit still. One day I was so irritated with his constant moving around that I grabbed the cord for the radio and tied him to his chair. The boy can focus with laser-like precision, but as his upper half is slowly crafting letters on his workbook page, his lower body is bouncing around. He’ll listen with such intensity that you can look into his eyes and see his synapses firing wildly. The kid is just an electric bolt.
I thought I knew the extent of his energy. Oh, no. No no. The weekend in Tainan, I witnessed Ryan the Kid (instead of Ryan the Student). I couldn’t be more grateful for his “calm” in the classroom now.
The kid doesn’t walk. He bolts, jolts, races, hops, skips, skids and crashes from spot to spot. His parents confessed that they enrolled him in tennis lessons to try to get him to expend his energy. It didn’t work.
We visited a temple, where he climbed statues and slid down anything with a relative slope. He ran suicides – from his mom to something interesting, back to his mom, on to the next interesting thing, back to his mom. A light rain started while we were walking around the grounds, which meant Ryan was given an umbrella, and it was spun, swung around, dropped, kicked, blown away, and used as a poking device for items above his head.
The next day we went to the newly-opened Natural History Museum. On the escalators to the third floor of exhibits, he grabbed the railing and shuffled along the side of the stairs like a rock climber maneuvering the side of a mountain. His older sister tried to do the same, but she nearly wiped out, alerting their parents to what they were doing. Both kids were quickly grabbed off the railing.
It’s not boredom that fuels him, it’s an insatiable curiosity. If there’s something new or remotely interesting, he wants to know everything about it. Ryan will hit it, move it, climb it, push it, pull it and prod it until he gets it. He touched and tried to figure out different exhibits and relics in the museum. He knocked over the No Touching! signs on more than one occasion. At a rubber stamping station, when he learned that the harder you press down on a rubber stamp, the more likely it is to leave a clear imprint, he went to town. He slammed the stamp down so hard the thump echoed through the museum. Following the scientific method, he repeated the process over a dozen times.
In the hotel elevator one night, Ryan pressed the button for every single floor: all 35 of them. His father was thrilled. When he discovered the doorbell to the rooms, he stood outside our open door and pressed the button over and over, leaning inside the room to listen to how the sound changed when he pressed the button faster or slower. When I finally yelled to him that I was going to chop his fingers off, he grinned at me and excitedly told me, “Teacher! The button – look! It does this!”
According to his sister, within minutes of checking in, Ryan had already broken the vanity mirror arm in the bathroom. Like I said, though, he’s a good kid. The first time he jumped onto my bed, I told him to keep his feet off my bed because I thought he had shoes on. He immediately fell to his stomach, and I whipped around; he looked up at me, pointed at his raised, bare feet, and said, “Teacher, they are not touching.” For the remainder of the weekend, his feet didn’t touch my bed once, no reminders necessary.
He might be slightly destructive and hyperactive, but he’s one of the sweetest and smartest kids I know. He’s not any noisier than the other children. He interacts with other kids well and makes them laugh, and he doesn’t fight for attention. And now, his energy in the classroom is a little less frustrating.