Monday, September 26, 2011


Today, when I told my young students they should feel free to stand at any time during my classes, I was surprised to see expressions of astonishment on their faces, as if school is supposed to be only for sitting. Later, I came to understand their sense of amazement, and to feel sad for them because of it. What has brought education around to this place where students across the world always sit, for hours and hours and hours? When did sitting become the foremost prerequisite for learning? John Dewey once wrote (and I’m roughly paraphrasing) that a 12-year-old can’t learn much of anything without moving her or his body, and perhaps that’s why I allow the students to stand in my class whenever they wish. Why can’t a student study Shakespeare’s words as easily standing as sitting, as easily leaning against a wall with the words in his hand as sitting in a hard chair with boredom bearing down on him? These days we all love to be outside in the fresh air of fall, so why can’t I bring some of that sense of liberty and leisure into my classes by making it possible for students to stand now and then, and to even take a few steps around as though they are sidling through a Shakespeare play instead of simply sitting and lifelessly studying it?

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