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Saturday, November 23, 2013

ADHD as a Teacher

It was my students who first raised the possibility that I had ADHD, and I am forever grateful for that, because if they hadn't done so in 2002, I wouldn't have finally pursued obtaining a definitive diagnosis and treatment in 2013. I love teaching, and I love that I learn about the world, human nature, teenagers, and myself every day through teaching.

As odd as it may seem, my ADHD students have helped me cope with my diagnosis, providing me with support and relating to me their own experiences with ADHD. I'm easily distracted, even on Strattera; since being really open about my ADHD, most kids don't exploit that. When one student did, I pointed out that it's a disability; if a person were deaf in one ear, it would be cruel to speak into that ear to tease the person. The student then understood how teasing or intentionally exploiting a feature of someone's ADHD is wrong.

I let the kids know if I'm having a bad ADHD day, and I have improved measures in place to help me stay on track. I spend some time every day, especially in the morning, organizing any handouts and making sure my room is fairly neat. My room now compared to what it was last year is a tremendous difference - it's fairly neat and organized instead of looking like a paper monster vomited everywhere. I think it benefits my students, too, especially ones with ADHD - it's easier to concentrate in a neat environment.

With Strattera, I'm more on task, organized, and PATIENT. I'm not a fan of yelling, but I do it even less than I used to. Things that used to set off an ADHD rage no longer bother me so much, and I get over my anger much more easily. Even without treatment, though, I don't believe in holding grudges against kids and they know that, while I might be angry or disappointed one day, the next day is a new one and we move on.

What I find really difficult is managing the lesson planning for three preps: 12AP Language, 12 Regents, and 9 Regents. I do my plans on my computer, which I find easier in terms of having access to plans from previous years. However, I have a hard time with the grid format. I realize now that I have difficulty processing information in certain formats; trying to read the Common Core Standards charts drives me crazy. I'm in trouble if I have to list the standards on my plans as I did a few years ago; having to find the standards that applied to my lessons and adding them added HOURS to my planning time a week.

I also have difficulty with meetings. It is so difficult to sit still and quietly. It's much easier if I can multitask, such as grading papers. It depends on the context, however, and I have gotten in trouble before for seeming to not be paying attention when I was.

Remembering important things, such as an observation, is also not a strong area for me. I keep emails in my inbox until the event has passed or I have dealt with the issue. I also use my Google calendar and the Evernote app to remember important events and things to do.

Most jobs are more difficult with ADHD, teaching included. However, I like to think that it provides some advantages as well. I tend to be dynamic, creative in approaches, and highly empathetic. I'm different, and I live by - and promote - the concept that different is OK, and can even be wonderful.

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