Today I sat in on different classes to see what they were learning and to identify ways in which I could help out. My first class was a group of 6- to 8-year-old children with Down syndrome.

The teacher was teaching them how to count to 20, but this mischievous group of boys was soon running around the classroom pushing and kicking each other. Obviously, they soon became my favorite class. They were a very enthusiastic and friendly group, and seeing a new face in the classroom was just the distraction they needed to lose any desire they had to learn numbers. They took turns interrogating me about my name, age, and home. When I said I was from America, their eyes widened as if I had said I was from outer space.

The class consists of about seven boys, but they are definitely loud enough to be 20 children. First is Haridev; he is the star student who is always first to raise his hand to answer a question. Next is Vishnu, baby face and also teacher’s pet. If a classmate was not doing their assignment, I was immediately notified with a small tug on my arm. After that is Hari, the quiet one. I would adopt him in a second. He has a face that reminds me of Charlie from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” He is smart too, but is usually overlooked because he does not raise his hand or ask questions. Last is Suraj, who took other children’s puzzles and toys and threw them into the hall just so I would have to leave the classroom to go get them.

After about 10 minutes of playing fetch, I decided that a new seating chart was in order. In a stroke of genius I placed Suraj next to Vishnu and Haridev next to Hari. I figured Vishnu would tell me any time Suraj was acting up, and Hari and Haridev could combine their intelligence. This was the perfect seating chart until Suraj started strangling Vishnu. After trying a few other arrangements I decided to make them sit with an empty seat in between each person. This worked out the best because it limited their distractions and they were able to focus on their work more easily.

I learned that with children who have trouble paying attention, the best thing to do is not to punish them but to provide an environment conducive to learning and studying. This arrangement could possibly be used in other classrooms with small children who have trouble paying attention.