August 31 – adhd is my gift

38/365 – people to thank who have had an impact on me. As a teacher, I have found that the best connections I make with students is when I’m real and honest. At the beginning of my career, I didn’t let students into my world, especially the part that would permeate into the classroom – my adhd and my occasional stuttering. I would often hear students giggling when I would get stuck on a word and not be able to get it out or keep repeating it. As well, many times a student would tell me something and because of my deficit, I would not register it leading to small problems or I would just walk out of the classroom into the hall and students would be left wondering what happened or something would catch my attention and my whole focus would shift. One year, I finally decided to mention it to my classes at the start of a school year – basically taking ownership of who I am as a person. I was very nervous as being judged is all I was accustomed to growing up. I told the students about what I live with and how it affects me and how it will affect the classroom. I told them all about my elementary school years with adhd, about public speaking and stuttering, about going to a speech pathologist and learning techniques, about living with my adhd without drugs, about how I found the condition was an ability rather than a disability, about how labels are for jars not people etc etc. At the end, I just felt very vulnerable as I had never been that raw in front of a person let alone a group. At the end of the class, Cole, a student in my class came up to me privately. He told me how inspiring my opening speech was and that he, too, had to deal with the label of adhd but didn’t want anyone (at the time) to know as he too thought it was a disability but to hear that a person could learn to live with it and go on to university and become a teacher made him realize that he, too, could be a success. He then thanked me and shook my hand. I was so very impressed with Cole in coming up to me and not only validating me but to be open himself and this was our first interaction! I got to know Cole in class seeing what a kind, hardworking and wonderful young man he was and knowing that I was making a difference for him but him not realizing what a difference he made for me. I don’t know where you are these days Cole but I hope you are doing very well. I honour you for giving me the best gift as a teacher which was that confirmation to open up to the students and be real with them. I continue to do so to this very day and I have you Cole to thank for giving me the confidence and courage!

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