“Why are you always swaying?” asked my friend.
“I don’t know. It’s just what I do,” I said.
“Can you stand still? It’s bothering me.”
A group of my friends were gathered around the table playing cards. This was back in high school. 2000ish. You know. Richard won the first Survivor, Kobe and Shaq won a championship, and we all survived the “I Love You” computer virus. Dang that feels like a long time ago.
A minute passes and my friend looks up from his cards. “You can’t stand still?”
I was swaying again. I looked down at my body. I was gently swaying back and forth; rhythmically shifting my weight between left foot and right foot. I didn’t even notice I was moving. I was waiting for my turn to get in the game.
“Well, yeh. I can stand still. But I’m comfortable doing this.”
“I bet you couldn’t stand still. Like, two minutes.”
“I could.” I said.
“Two minutes? Naw… okay, two minutes. A buck for two minutes.” My friend pulled up his arm and pressed buttons on his wristwatch. Remember those? And I don’t mean the one that allows you to send your heartbeat.
A dollar went on the table. He looked at me, his finger hovering above the start button for the stopwatch. I put my feet together. Arms to my side. Easy breath out. Gave a wry smile, signaling I was ready.
“Go,” he said as he pushed the button.
“This is a waste of time,” I thought.
Then, as the seconds passed, the room around me became less visible – like tunnel vision. I began to notice less around me. I wasn’t aware of the cards on the table, as my eyes focused on the stopwatch. Then, a little voice in my head started saying “Stay still. Stay still.” It was my voice. I was talking to myself in my head. My subconscious thoughts becoming an inner voice.
“Arms at your side. Don’t sway,” I continued thinking.
The longer I stood there, the more I retreated within my head. There was nothing but the stopwatch and my thoughts.
“Don’t move. Don’t sway. Stay still.” The thoughts were coming more frequently as the seconds passed; if time was passing at all, that is, because I kept thinking “This is longer than two minutes.”
“Whew,” I said… in my head, not out loud. What I said out loud was “Told you.” My friend threw the dollar at me. I picked it up and smiled, then walked and sat in a nearby chair. At that point, I let out a real sigh – out of ear distance. My muscles relaxed. Why are they sore? That was mentally exhausting… but I won the dollar.
Moral of the Story: Children need wiggle room.
Circle time can be a very long time and sitting through everything can be absolute torture for children. Criss-cross applesauce is commonplace in any preschool. But, sometimes we go to far into believing that, if a child doesn’t keep this posture, that they are some how misbehaving, or are not in the optimal learning position. We stop the lesson to remind a child to sit properly, and we won’t continue until they scoot back to their floor position.
All the while, the child’s inner voice is saying “Criss-cross applesauce. Criss-cross applesauce.” And, when this happens, don’t be surprised if you call on a child’s name and they whip their head around before making eye contact with you; as if you snapped them out of a trance.
When you plan your circle time activities and lessons, perhaps start the session with a little music and movement. For the lesson your teaching, try incorporating large body movements or opportunities for children to demonstrate skills through copying you. Sitting still for any duration is difficult. Make it more than just sitting and talking. Give them some wiggle room.