Feet Talking; Hands Thinking: Encouraging Teachers to be Inclusive -- Naturally

by R. T. Eady, Foot Whisperer, KR Therapeutics

Blogger's Note: As one uniquely challenged though very aware young lady pointed out, this balance class was conducted on the tipsy~top floor of an operating sternwheel water~craft...

A Handout to Accompany Toes Knows Child-Inclusive Balance & Coordination Out-of-School Mobility Development

Session Date: Friday, October 1, 2010

Session Time: 2:00-3:30pm

Location: William D Evans II, Accessible sternwheel, watercraft, Bahia Resort Hotel, San Diego, CA

SEE: http://kitconference.org/programs.php

People have said, "I can't wait to hear what you have to say about my feet." I usually smile back and say...Well, I can't wait to hear what your feet have to say to me."
They all tell stories: some times a literal one, oftentimes it's a long suffering one, occasional it's a mixed message. But when your dogs carry 98% of your body around on top of them, the truth's always revealed.

Learning to move is not just for toddlers and preschoolers: it's for everyone. The potential for active learning strategies is both deep and wide.

Adults are powerfully affected by moving to learn. Paradoxically, as I see in tai chi, it can be those adults who are not confident movers for whom learning through the body can be the most affecting, in part, because bodily activity initiates primal, sometimes unconscious modes of understanding.

The Therapeutic Clown, Koshare practices this to perfection. Exemplifying the awkwardness, uncertainty, and jagged learning curve of trying to acquire an understanding for the first time by doing most things in reverse. They not only provide a comical, chaotic backdrop, but share powerful experiential learning opportunities -- as tensions are set aside and social-emotional awareness is enhanced.

Using their own bodies in their professional roles, teachers can help students build both passion for the learning they face together and trust for where the teacher is trying to take them; while inspiring higher levels of achievement.

What follows are suggestions for integrating Koshare movement into the general education classroom experience (both indoors and in natural, out-of-doors surrounding).

Teachers need to recall the clown is neither "perfect" or "graceful" in these movements. All they possess is a courage and commitment to model for their students. A grand leap from reading about it or chatting about it, is of course, just doing it (especially in the great outdoors).

Putting Feet in Learning

1. Build body trust.

As you participate with your students and learn more about movement you can use in your class-settings, be mindful of the study of mind-body disciplines such as yoga, tai chi, and other martial arts for the purposes of classroom management. While it is true these practices can instill significant learning and health benefits for the students, including the ability to self-soothe, to direct attention, or to contribute to a caring classroom environment, students readily sense the difference between body use to bring methods in order to control their behavior and those who treat their bodies respectfully, as students' own. This can be a swift way to destroy the trust you have worked long to cultivate with your students.

A physio-therapist in one of my workshops was flabbergasted by the improvement in rapport between her and one of her students, a boy with ADHD and receptive and expressive language delays. Together they moved into an outside garden setting and did simple tai chi breathing and balances. "Learning balance and teaching him how to fall using muscle control created a different type of relationship between us," she told me afterward. "It was powerful, and the breathing gave us a really positive way to focus attention."

2. Though highly motivating; set realistic expectations.

Sad to say: nowadays, children may be as divorced from their bodies as once only adults were A teacher of fourth and fifth graders was able to get her students to develop an impressively wide array of synonyms for the words calming, energizing, and focusing -- the types of tai chi forms they would practice together to enhance learning readiness. However, once they got up on their feet and began practicing, she reported back, students had difficulty accessing actual body sensations and putting names to them.

Students with a limited realization they're flying off the handle can't instantly calm themselves: they need first to become aware of their anger, frustration, fear, sadness, or other negative emotion. Learning to articulate their feeling and bodily states will precede students' ability and willingness to explore alternative expressions.

Recognize opportunities for making a concept ‘holitiscally’ physical.

The body is available to help with many different types of learning, which is why I like to refer to kinesthetic intelligences, in the plural. In some learning tasks, simple bodily repetition of a motion solidifies muscle memory learning "in the body," as when learning to use scissors. In others, pairing a motion with a musical or verbal cue can help to embed learning in memory (and provide symptom relief).

Think of my friend Matt Giordano. Matt has severe Tourette syndrome. He has found that only one thing can help him control the involuntary movements or tics that Tourette's gives him: drumming. Dr. Oliver Sacks explored this kinetic therapy connection in a PBS broadcast called Musical Minds in 2009.

Sacks summarized his understanding of Matt's self-care this way, "music demands focus; Tourette's doesn't so much go away as, I think, its energies get focused and channeled and can even form a source of strength or energy. But it is the organization, the order of music, which is their, sort of, great bastion against chaos."

Matt puts it another way, "I was playing this rhythm in a very balanced form of my body, a very balanced form of tempo and everything else. It was almost like my brain was a puzzle, right? And some of the pieces were not in place, and, all of a sudden, everything kind of clicked in the two hemispheres of my brain. And I literally felt it like this. I was doing it, and, all of a sudden—it went about this fast—and it kind of just clicked into place. And it literally went down my entire body, about that fast, and it was a very symmetrical balance of my entire being. When that happened, it was amazing."
It not unlike the skills people can practice jumping rope and suddenly being able to spell difficult words at the same time they spring up and down. Or bouncing a ball as they recite complex multiplication tables.

Kinesthetic learning also pairs beautifully with nature settings, intrapersonal, interpersonal, and spatial tasks, such as discovering one's relationship to a poem by moving as it is recited, learning to tell time by becoming a "body clock," or participating in social simulation games -- all examples of successful lessons implemented by teachers I consult.

4. Avoid confusing learning through movement with performing through movement. Rehearse, rather than perform.

Much of the literature on multiple intelligences attenuates teachers' anxiety about how to assess learning activities that are not materially-based (paper and pencil). It's thus easy to confuse kinesthetic learning with kinesthetic assessment, the sometimes-inauthentic performances of learning that have so often been inelegantly used to determine what children understood from a unit.

Preparing for a performance is quite a different task than executing a routine. For most students and most body-based learning activities, the true learning that is available resides in the experience of figuring something out using the body, in the "rehearsal." For example, when a student experiments, on her feet, in order to discover the sensation of kayaking or canoeing, she is simultaneously thinking critically in ways that affect her movement and moving in ways that develop her thinking. Consider giving more weight to students' approach to rehearsal than to their performances.

5. Preserve students' (and teachers') bodily experience as their own.
Be mindful that, as you bring students' bodies into play in the classroom, you let decisions about how they use their bodies reside with them. Give students freedom not to participate, for whatever reason, so long as they are not distracting the others. More often than not, as is the case in novice learning, given the opportunity to watch first, and see a teacher who's "in there," moving along with his students, students will come and participate, once they're ready.

Remember the teacher's willingness to model, her respect for students' bodily experience, and her exercising of her imagination about ways to use physical activity to reach learners are all much more vital to students' learning experience than her expertise as a mover. Listen to your own talking feet, and, with your students, take them for a walk.

Randy Eady, a former Professor and Course Chair of Cultural Anthropology at the USAF Academy has played the Koshare on the odd occasion. A role he feels has helped him develop an inter-generational therapeutic program that uses techniques such as dynamic, divergent, unfocused eye movement and acupressure stimulation to help pinpoint and reintegrate deficits in the body's three balance centers. Access more information: http://www.easichi.koshareyrhythms.com/

"On a river of sound
Thru the mirror go round, round
I thought I could feel
Music touching my soul
Something warm, sudden cold
The spirit dance was unfolding."
— John Lennon, "#9 Dream"

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