In 1992, I was a 5th grader who couldn’t sit still in class for three minutes, forget thirty or forty minutes.

It was early in the year and here is this kid who for the first two months of the year has asked to go to the bathroom ten times a day. As a concerned teacher, she called my house and talked to my mom. As issues go, this is probably not a huge one, but it could be awkward when you say,

Mrs. Ney, I think Matt has a bladder problem. He asks to go to the bathroom at least ten times a day.”

One wouldn’t be exactly sure what the parent response will be.

What my teacher didn’t know was the year before, I was tested and diagnosed with ADD. Attention Deficit Disorder was not the rage back in 1992. I took multiple four hours tests with blocks and puzzles and word games that I couldn’t have figured out today much less at 10 years old. You didn’t tell people about ADD if you had it that’s for sure. In fact, I don’t know of one other kid even today that had ADD in elementary school in 1992.

Back to my bladder problem. As my mom tells the story, “They discussed my ADD and came up with a solution.” But come on mom, there was definitely a laugh and a joke in there somewhere, as I laugh every time I hear the story or tell the story. 

In 1992 what do you do with a kid who can’t sit still? We have barely gotten to the point today where kids who can’t sit still have positive outlets as the quote below perfectly describes.

The bottom line is that with only six and a half hours during the day, our priority is academics.”
-Administrator to remain anonomyous

When in fact:

Physical activity can have both immediate and long-term benefits on academic performance. Almost immediately after engaging in physical activity, children are better able to concentrate on classroom tasks, which can enhance learning.”

I can’t tell you how %$#%*?$ angry that administrators quote makes me. A group of people who rely so heavily on data, ignore the data that would help our students academically.

Standing desks, bouncy balls, microbursts (you can sign up for Fitbound right here, right now), and fidget bands have started to enter the classroom universe, but it’s not populating into every classroom in the country yet, which means we press on until the right people listen and come to their senses. Or visit Finland (article on new school design) building! I digress. 

The 1992 solution, a very imaginative and creative one at that time, was to place my desk at the front left corner of the room.  Fewer distractions up front, if I needed to get up, I could, as long as I didn’t talk to anyone, and could reach out and touch my desk with one hand.

What this did was kept me from constantly disrupting the class with my constant hand raising, and it allowed me to refocus my brain instead of feeling the pressure to sit there and try to concentrate when it was physically and cognitively impossible. One could make the argument that if my 5th-grade teacher went the opposite direction and told me to sit down and be quiet that my educational path would have ended up in a far different place.

I have positive memories of my fifth-grade teacher. Her understanding and creativity of my personal situation had a lot to do with it. If your student or child asks to go to the bathroom 42,000 times a day, ask them a question or two about why, find a solution that fits them, and always be as understanding and flexible as my 5th-grade teacher was with my ‘bladder problem’.

Check back next week for the 21st-century solutions portion of the story.

Matt Ney
Founder of Fitbound