Hiro Passed!

Hiro Passed!

By: Tim Murphey

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Hiro[1] was obviously not your typical student in my class of 70. I asked that all students have new partners every class to make it more exciting and so they could re-use many of their conversation strategies that they were learning in the “Ways of Learning” class. Hiro sat in the front usually and when we sang songs, he sang very loudly and vivaciously. But his ADHD profile made students avoid him at first, and I must admit, me too as a teacher. However, after reading Hiro’s action log and talking a bit to him after class, I could understand his passion and his difficulties in regulating himself and the social situations around him.

[1] not his real name

I regressed in my mind to my third-grade classroom where I was nervous and felt friendless and my teacher kept telling me to read and concentrate (when I thought I was) as I tapped my pencil on the desk unknowingly. I apparently was driving my teacher crazy and so she moved me to the back of the room and told me to stand up for the remainder of the class as punishment. However, the punishment became my cure.

I stood up in the back and no eyes were on me anymore, except the teacher’s occasionally. I could bounce back and forth on my legs and get rid of all that extra energy and I could hear what she was saying more clearly because I did not have the whole class breathing on me from behind. My teacher told me later that I looked happy in the back and that I could stay there if I liked. And I did. I spent the whole year standing up and bouncing and learning more than I had ever learned in previous classes.[2]

[2] Apparently, the teachers talked a lot to each other in my elementary school and my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade teachers all placed me at the back of the class and allowed me to stand when I wanted to and I felt much better about school. It just dawned on me, that this is why I probably get students to change activities so often and to sing periodically in class and get up and move and juggle and do walk-talks! Marc Helgesen recommends getting students up and moving every 20 minutes at least.

Hiro made it through my class and a few years later I saw him on campus and asked how things were going. He said he was having trouble with one class and was afraid he was going to fail and not be able to graduate that year. He told me his teacher’s name in passing and I dared to have a talk with her later. “Yes,” she said, “I am aware he is a special student, but passing my tests is mandatory for the grade. He needs to take a make-up test to replace the one he failed.”

Fast forward a few weeks later, after the end of the school year, and we crossed paths again. The teacher said with joy “Hiro passed! Just barely!” And she seemed so happy about it!

By chance, the next day I saw Hiro reading in the university SALC (Self-Access Learning Center) and I asked how he was and he said “Not so good, I think I will not graduate. I’m failing Mrs. X’s class.” Apparently, he had not heard the good news.

I said, “I just saw her yesterday, she said you passed the make-up test. Just barely. So I guess you will graduate!” He dropped his head and then came back up with tears in his eyes and a smile. I felt I could literally see the stress seeping out of his brain in his tears. “Please email her and confirm. Don’t take my word for it.” I too felt relieved and his tears were contagious.

It is true that students do not know how to learn at times; it is truer that the environments do not know how to teach. Some subtle ecological environmental engineering is often useful. Dare to ask and move, and the universe will respond.

Tim Murphey is a part-time (semi-retired, as of 2019) professor at KUIS (RILAE), Wayo Women’s University Graduate School, Nagoya University of Foreign Studies Graduate School, and Aoyama University. He has an MA in TESOL from the University of Florida, Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics from the University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

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