Saturday, April 2, 2011

How we learn

Currently I work in Home Care with medically fragile children. This means I work for an agency, with one family, one case, for a period of time. I've been where I am for nearly 4 years now. I work at night, because I can- I'm one of those people who can sleep during the day and stay up at night and be awake enough to be safe.

One of the things I do while my patient and his family are asleep, once the chores relating to his care and needs are done and I've got his things set up for the next day, is watch documentaries on HBO. I watch them more than once, because often they have a lot going on in them, and I want to be sure I'm getting it all.

A few weeks ago I watched I can't do This, but I Can do THAT about children with learning differences. One of the things that really struck me about it is that I suspect I'd've been labeled as "learning different" ~ I learned to read very young, wasn't afraid of arithmetic until our teachers were all confused by "the New Math" of the late 50s [dropped bomb-style into classrooms and swept out with the debris of "hmm. well. THAT didn't work"] ~ but I never really got the hang of the playground, all the gossip and cliques and who could talk to whom when about what. So I was ahead in my class-work, but a disaster in the classroom, because I got bored easily and didn't know how to just sit. I'd want to get up and get something to read, or get out my pencil and paper and write stories. *sigh*

Something I really came to appreciate during segment one of my Anat Baniel Method Professional Training Course is the emphasis on movement with attention. Now, we think we make every movement with attention, but we don't, really. We make a lot of movements automatically- and so we should! grabbing for the child who's running into traffic; pulling back from the hot stovetop. But most movements we make on autopilot we would do well to do a bit more attentively: to listen to our bodies as we stretch, bend, lean, and stand. How does it feel? Is it work? Are we in balance? Does it hurt? Does it feel simple? We're so programmed to "no pain, no gain" and "suck it in!" and to hurry hurry hurry. Do we even know how we move?

I loved reading and arithmetic because they are forms of movement that I could do at my desk. If I couldn't be out on my bicycle, if I couldn't be out walking around my neighborhood, or playing with my toys, or doing pretend knitting, I could at least have pencil and paper and eraser and letters and numbers and movement to keep my brain busy, to keep learning with. I learned to skip early, was not so good at running [knock-knees and no drive for speed]; liked my bike but not volleyball [too competitive, and people are mean if you miss when you didn't mean to miss]; loved swimming but had no interest in tanning or makeup or any of that. I had a wonderful grande jette but no lift in my torso, so lost ballet about age 9. It's not that I couldn't have had lift, but I didn't and no-one knew how to show me how to have it. Either I did, or I didn't, and was too stupid to get it, like I was too stupid to get makeup, or spiking the ball, or running for tag games.

So while I could read and write and do arithmetic, I wasn't exactly considered an easy student for any teacher. I tended to hang with the girl who'd missed kindergarten because she had rheumatic heart disease that year and so was a year older than everyone else in our grade, and the boy who was mildly retarded in his speech, and the boy whose parents were little people and he a dwarf, and the boy from Persia who spoke with just a bit of an accent. We each had our own way of dealing with being one of the awkward ones, and we took care of each other, subtly, and we talked about what it was to be short or older or from a different country or whatever it was.

We attended to each other, and we were moved. Movement with attention. Takes many forms.

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