Tagged in: About, Move Live Learn Blog, Uncategorized, Wellness

Do You Hear What You Want To Hear?

How inconsistent listening to students' voice appears to be hindering their health

I don't listen to an iPod when I run. I prefer to be alone in nature and let thoughts come to me. Today's thoughts included an internal dialogue regarding how adults pick and choose when they listen to youth in order to best meet their own agendas.

When I taught K-12 I collaborated with others to improve school food. I am hesitant to use the word food because the reality is a lot of what was served was so processed that I am not sure it actually qualifies as food. I'll spare you the details, but let's just say there was more junk than nutrient dense options. While we made some strides, there remained a lot of silly hurdles to jump over when I stopped teaching there. Many of the hurdles stemmed from people who shared comments such as:

Kids won't eat oatmeal! 

Plain Greek yogurt? You're out of touch.

They will be so hungry they will not be able to function.

You have no clue.

They won't eat it and we'll just have to take the processed foods back.

Personally, I had difficulty determining if students could learn at all with the type of food junk they were eating. 

Am I insane to think that a school should be educating students on topics such as living a healthy life?

I am all for students having a voice, so I can appreciate the fact that people try and present the situation from the students' point of view. My beef is that too many decision makers seem to listen to students' voice only when it serves their agenda, and they fail to listen to students' voice when it could improve their health.


In addition to nutrition policy, let's consider current technology norms.

Technology is great and can absolutely support students' learning. I'm not implying it does not have a place in education. But places of learning should also teach the importance of developing skills that are best taught away from a screen. Teachers and administrators tell me weekly how students' soft skills are below average compared to past years. Yet, it is just as common for them to proclaim, "We need the technology to motivate the students." "Kids won't do the work if it doesn't involve technology." "This generation grew up with technology, they want it." "My kindergarteners touch the computer screen because they are so used to hand held devices, we have to get iPads because computers aren't cutting it." 


I shouldn't have to remind these folks of Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, and that different people learn in different ways. Failing to teach to all types of learners is missing out on an opportunity to better support all types of learning with a very strategic and smart use of technology. NOTE: I am so impressed by my PLN colleagues who do this, so please keep in mind that with the very definition of the word generalization assumes that there are exceptions - and there are many (thank goodness).


Gardner's Multiple Intelligences


Budget allocations for technology, which often becomes obsolete in a few short years, is much higher than equipment to serve their physical development - and in turn their social and emotional development - such as a class set of bikes. A class set of bikes would last more than a decade...just sayin'. A bike is not just a bike, it is a child's first vehicle, can eventually help individuals in poverty get to work, provide activity time and support physical literacy development for youth, lead to lifetime enjoyment of activity through mountain biking, road biking, triathlon, or simply biking with family or friends, and allow individuals to treat the environment the way it ought to be treated through active transportation.

Please hear me out.

When a child is restless in her/his seat in a classroom, clearly communicating a need to move more in order to focus, we typically fail to act in the most logical of ways such as increasing opportunities for physical activity. In fact, for restless students who struggle with focus, we often we cut physical activity time and replace it with added seat time. For example, I taught a grade 3 student in in VA who's dad was incarcerated, was on free and reduced lunch plan, and who was performing below grade level in math. Yet this boy displayed effective and positive leadership skills in PE, and he controlled is emotions in PE when it couldn't appear to do so in the classroom. The math specialist informed me he would miss PE on Wednesdays for math tutoring. I appreciate math very much, but pulling this boy out of my class was not the best decision for him. His social and emotional health were hindered with this decision. It broke my heart.

What's the best option in this situation? I think more support in the classroom to work with him during math would be best. But, again, pulling him from PE was a quick fix to serve adults' agendas, at a lower cost. Of course these well-intentioned adults were trying to prepare him for the Math SOL tests. My question to them was, how you can ignore his love of PE, but then tell me we can't provide healthy food because that's not what the kids want? 

We have to stop having selective hearing when working with youth and we have to put their health at the front of every decision we make.

When a child communicates to us his/her curiosity and asks, "But why?" a thousand times a day, do we patiently answer? Unfortunately, no. We ignore what they are telling us - that they are thirsty for knowledge. In turn, we complain a few years later when they are teenagers who, when asked, "How was your day?" frankly respond, "Fine." 

When youth communicate to us through fidgeting, lack of attention, and distractive behavior that their body craves movement because the human species evolved to move, do we provide more opportunities to move? Not that I know of, and if so, certainly not enough.

We continuously decrease opportunities by cutting back on physical education, recess, intramurals, and after school affordable and accessible sport offerings and say it's too expensive or there is too much to learn. The combination of selective listening with our own adult agendas has resulted in terrible nutrition offerings, and physical activity guidelines that fall very short of daily minimum recommendations for healthy, normal growth and development.

That's the truth, and that should tick us off. 

Why do adults seem to think that if something might take a bit more effort such as chopping and serving healthy foods and educating youth on the many benefits of eating healthy, versus serving over-processed out of a box frozen foods, we throw our hands up in the air and say that we just don't care (now that song is in your head, too). We have such an innovative and can-do attitude when it comes to oh, I don't know, inventing airplanes, designing smart things, and landing on the moon. Why the hell do we throw in the towel so easily when it comes to providing healthier norms?