Reflection on a Reflection: How ADHD Changes the Picture

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Yesterday I sat down and wrote about the challenging road ahead in getting game-based learning and gamification into the classroom.  I’ve read countless articles at this point outlining these strategies, how successful they are, and how students just want to dive right in.  I think what is missing is some of the variables that may cause a lesson or classroom centered around these concepts to go sideways.  I witnessed first-hand how new these teaching strategies are and how it will take persistence and time to insert these wonderful ways of learning into a classroom.

Enter Mr. ADHD.  Having ADHD changes some of the variables in a way that nearly pushed me down and out of the world of education.  Having spoken to many colleagues yesterday about my lesson and getting some incredibly positive feedback has helped me reframe things in a much more positive manner.   So how does ADHD affect this you ask?  I’m going to touch on two small things that have a big impact on an ADHD life.

I have seen so many recent educational posts on ADHD and I’m terrified at the misinformation that has been presented.  One article said something around the lines of let’s cure ADHD.  You can’t cure ADHD! It is a part of the being as much as some people prefer control or are laid back.  It is us, it cannot be changed.  It can, however, be embraced.  It is a unique personality that enables us to think faster than most, dig deeper than most, and be more passionate than most. However, some of the faults of ADHD lie in these characteristics. Thinking at 300 mile per hour is exhausting, digging so deep may cause issues in getting out, and the passion we have means that even the slightest failure is soul crushing.

ADHD is so much bigger than people realize.  The reaction I get is almost comical when I tell people that I have ADHD.  It usually goes one of two ways.   “Everyone is a little ADHD…” or “Oh no how can I help? what do you need?”.

The line “Everyone is a little ADHD” is disappointing to hear.  No, not everyone is a little ADHD.  You cannot be a little ADHD.  You either are or you are not.  Some people may be slightly inattentive, or energetic, but you are not a little ADHD.  You have not had to combat years of social awkwardness, exhausting coping strategies, sleeplessness, depression, relationship issues, countless job changes, mood swings, impulsivity, hyper focus, and the list goes on.  These things are our reality.  This is our life everyday.

Don’t feel sorry for me that I have ADHD.  I love it… well most days 🙂  But learning about ADHD was like opening a window to my soul.  I am now able to say I am intelligent, I am incredibly quick thinking, I am passionate, and I am capable. I am proud to have ADHD.  It means I’m different, but in one of the best ways possible.  It takes a long time and lot of hard work to get to that point. You have to essentially break yourself down and build yourself back up.  You will stumble every day, but you will not just cope, you will SUCCEED.  Thank you @ADHDtheGift for that.  But it is true.  If people with ADHD step forward and recognize their gift it will go a long way in educating those without.  If those without could please stop saying “well I’m a little ADHD” and take our hand to work together, the problems that could be solved seems infinite.  Accept our gift, let’s go to work.  Thank you Dr. Shauneen Pete and Michael Cappello for that phrasing.

 

ECS 301 – How do we go UP? Day 3 Field Experience

As I started my lesson on Day 3 of my field experience one of the students says “You look like the Grandpa from UP”… sigh… I’m not that old.  It was one of those humorous moments to start a lesson that gives you a vote of confidence as a beginning teacher that the students are warming up to you and look forward to seeing you work.  I wish I could say that the lesson was received with the same warmth and went in the direction of Grandpa’s house in UP.  However, the lesson went in a direction I never really anticipated, sideways.  Today’s lesson was Math and I wanted to put a fun twist on what is usually perceived as a boring subject.  I also wanted to test drive what forms the base of my teaching philosophy, game based learning and gamification.

To start I presented a new topic, percents, to the Grade 7 Math class.  The direct instruction portion went over as any typical math lesson I feel goes.  Some get it, some don’t, but I had faith that the game I had planned would help pull the rest of the class over the finish line.  To put it bluntly, it didn’t.  So here I sit trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces of a broken lesson.  It wasn’t all bad, but it wasn’t good either and I feel and think as if I let the students down.  We have been told numerous times that lessons will go bad, it happens they say, I understand that, I’ve seen it happen.  However, as it seems with lots of things these days, no one has discussed the “How”.  We’ve learned, “What” and “Why” but never “How”. So how do we pick ourselves up and say “I am not a bad teacher” after a lesson doesn’t work out the way we envision it?  The first thing that comes to mind is practice.  We need to remind ourselves that this time is our opportunity to practice the craft we are pursuing.  We will stumble more than we may be comfortable with but it is in this discomfort that we need to find out how this gig really works and how it works for us.

So what happens when your entire teaching philosophy has been taken out back, punched in the stomach, and kicked a few times when it’s down?  Now I shouldn’t paint this gruesome picture of a game that was well received, was fun, engaging, and took math to a different place that the students had not really explored before.  But, the reality is that because it was so different students did not really pick up the math in the game.  They’ve been instructed in such a specific way for so long that something different did not really work.  So here I am, teaching philosophy a little broken and bruised.  How do you incorporate game-based learning into classrooms where games are considered a privilege? How do you work games into a world where direct instruction dominates?  Well thanks to my cooperating teacher part of the answer is… drum roll please… time.  My biggest take-away from my experience yesterday was that in the world of education everything takes time.  More time than what most realize.

In the aftermath there were still some great take-aways that I have from my experience yesterday.

  1. Board organization goes a long way in helping students look back at a newly presented concept.
  2. Time, time, and more time.  Take your time with new concepts, but have things prepared for the students that catch on quickly.

So where do I go from here?  Well I’m not sure to be honest.  Do I continue to try fit games into a world where structure dominates? Will the system accept the type of teacher I want to be? Can I go UP from here?

ECS 301 – Day 2 in the Field – The Fellowship Forms…

It was a bright sunny day… actually it was rainy and cold, but it was still day two of my education field experience.  After a whirlwind adventure on my first day in the classroom I was extremely excited, and a little bit nervous, to dive deeper into the pool and teach a full lesson.

The quest on this day was going to be Physical Education (PE), which unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, was the last period of the day.  For me it seemed to be doomed to be an unfortunate event as the students were extremely active today.  With nightmares of control issues dancing in my head I proceeded to do what I could to mitigate the upcoming disaster.  The only way I thought I would survive was to form a tighter fellowship with my cooperating teacher and the students.  I circulated more than I did on the first day and had longer, deeper conversations with my cooperating teacher.  In this I discovered that my confidence was growing, I was relaxing and starting to mould into the class dynamic.

Last period of the day finally arrived and I noticed something.  The butterflies were gone, I had a huge smile on my face, and I strode into the gym for P.E. like I was on a shining steed, armor gleaming in the sun, sword out ready to slay the dragon that awaited inside.   I jumped into the fray right away providing clear and confident directions, taking charge of the army of students I was provided… OK it wasn’t that grandiose, but I did capture their attention with my Set and everyone was busy dancing to the music I provided and moving around in the warm up.  From that moment on PE seemed to just fly by! Students were active and participating, for the most part listening, having fun!  I attribute the success of my first lesson to the first thing my cooperating teacher taught us on the first day: building the fellowship. (PHOTOS INCOMING!)

I can see now why my cooperating teacher focuses so much on relationships.  In building relationships with the class it gave me the confidence required to hit the ground running in PE.  It gave the students confidence to participate in the lesson because they understood me not only as a teacher but as a person.  It was genuinely fun even though it felt a little chaotic at times.  In that I had some great take-aways from my lesson and some things I would like to do differently.

1) Write down EVERYTHING.  In the gym it’s a little more difficult, but I would like to have more than just my warmup outlined on a board so the students have a clear reference for instructions provided.

2) Spend more time on demonstration.  Some students were a little confused as the games progressed so a demonstration of what was asked of them would have went a long way.

3) Ensure I have the proper amount of resources.  Unfortunately I ran out of poly-dots and I did not have tape to create lines for the students.  The students did very well without, but it would have been easier and more engaging for all students if I had all the materials I needed.

I learned more than I could have ever imagined on my second day in the field. Two of the most important things I took away was planning is invaluable and relationships go a long way in a successful lesson. Just like the fellowship in Lord of the Rings they had a plan and solid relationships to help push forward on their journey.  However, just as in that story, there will be rocky times and many unknowns, but continuing to form a fellowship with my cooperating teacher and students will help lead me to my ultimate goal: throwing the ring… I mean becoming a teacher.

ECS 301 – A New Hope… the journey begins

The scene of this particular story is Dr. L.M Hanna Elementary School in Regina, Saskatchewan.  I embarked on my journey to become a teacher beginning my pre-internship field experience alongside my peer teacher Brett Zimmer.  As we entered the classroom the familiar sounds of teenages yelling at each other, books clattering, the tip tap of the iPhone keyboard, filled the air.  OK. This isn’t Star Wars, but we did have a student who can give you a full run-down on R2-D2 and his purpose, this is my reflection on our first day and first lesson.

Our experience at Dr. Hanna School started off as we were introduced as our cooperating teacher’s, Mr. Mieske, bodyguards.  Instantly we saw the relationship he has formed with his students and the path he was laying for us to build relationships with his students.  This was the biggest learning point of the day for Brett and I.  We learned a lot about the human element of education that in each seat is a mind that needs to trust you and is willing to learn if you will let it learn the way it wants to learn.  Every child is different and will learn differently and will react differently to you.

For our introductory lesson Brett Z. and I did a team teach “Human Bingo” activity similar to the one we performed at the beginning of ECS 301.  As we walked around the room the students were buzzing around asking questions in what has been described to us as “Controlled-ish Chaos”.  For a finale to the activity we had each student write two true things and one false thing about themselves on the back of their bingo card for Brett and I to look over as part of our “Homework”.   It was interesting that we had touched on a concept the students were learning about in Inquiry regarding verifying the source of information. In the end I believe this activity was a great success.  We learned a lot about the students, they learned a lot about us, and they also learned more about each other.    Would I do anything different?  Absolutely!

Some of the things I would do differently include:

  1. Working more closely with my peer teacher so that the lesson seems more seamless.
  2. Remembering to write down instructions as well as provide things verbally, Thank you Brett for remembering to write things on the board!
  3. Have more time to go over the lesson with our cooperating teacher to see if the students had covered the concept or done the activity before.  It turned out the students had done something very similar at the beginning of the school year, they still loved it, but adaptations could have been planned for.

I was very intrigued to find out that Science, Social Studies and, Health have been replaced with a full period called Inquiry.  It’s great to see inquiry based learning being used, but is this going a little too far? Why would we want students to miss out on specific outcomes or activities associated with those subjects? How will students fare in High School when those subjects are re-introduced? How will we spark the next generation of scientists, historians, and health practitioners when it seems like those subjects are being glossed over?

At this point I feel as if the Star Wars title has come true.  This is “A New Hope” for me.  I have felt that I may not fit into the world of education that my skills lay in research over the classroom.  But I found very quickly that my energy and passion lit up like a star when I walked into a classroom full of students.

Image Source : http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2011/sep/28/galaxy-clusters-back-general-relativity

Goals for Field Placements

Having goals is very important when embarking on a new adventure. These goals formed the foundation of my first field experience and I look forward to expanding on them and other goals in my pre-internship and internship experiences.

1) Become better at accepting criticism

Critique is part of the professional journey and it is something I need to become better at accepting, both the positive and the negative. Having ADHD makes this an even greater challenge because it makes me more sensitive to criticism then one would expect. I need to work on strategies to help me frame what is said in a way that I can understand the true message being provided. My strategy that I will start with is to try and get as much feedback in writing as possible. The purpose for this is so I can take as much time as I need to assess the feedback, work on a strategy to deal with it, and then create an action plan to implement it. This may seem like a lot of effort, but it will be necessary for me in order to succeed going forward.

2) Keep the passion in check

Passion is a great thing to have in teaching. Too much passion can sometimes be a detriment to teaching. I will have to catch myself when I start going off on a tangent that is irrelevant to the concepts being presented. I need to keep track of time and ensure that I’m not going overboard during a lesson. Passion is a wonderful thing, but it needs to be moderated to ensure every student is getting a chance to learn and not just those that are as excited about it as I am.

3) Keeping it simple

There is a place for complexity and extravangance, but I will have to monitor myself to ensure I’m not going over the top on every concept presented. I have to make sure I’m breaking things down and explaining things fully instead of presenting information in a way that is too advanced for the concept. Keeping things simple will be the best way to ensure every student is engaged and understands the material.

Each of the three goals above can be directly related to a teaching area.  They are broad enough to encompass what I want to achieve as a developing professional, but specific enough in that if I can work towards success in those areas it will have significant impact on me as a professional.

There are, however, specific teaching areas that I would like to focus on while out in the field:

1) Assessment: I have a passion for assessment and finding innovative ways to assess students.  I would like to discover new ways of assessing students and seeing how students react to new assessment methods.

2) Instruction Strategies:  as a pre-service teacher I want to expand my “book of tricks” so I can create a better default strategy than direct instruction.  Lectures have a time and place, but I want to expand my comfort zone to ensure that if I need to make adaptations to lessons on the fly I am not going straight to lecturing in order to present the material.

In order to measure these goals I will rely on feedback from my students, my cooperating teacher, and my faculty advisors to see if I strayed from them at all. I will also keep a close eye on my “emotional barometer” to ensure I’m keeping things in a proper frame.

These goals are ones that I feel are important to my success as I future educator and I look forward to the challenge.

Image Source: https://www.mint.com/blog/how-to/5-ways-to-get-a-free-education-1212/

The Carrot Theory: What Compels People to Win?

Chasing the carrot is a well known metaphor for trying to track down something elusive that is always just quite out of reach.  Recently I’ve been thinking a lot about competition and how it affects gamification and what I’ve dubbed The Carrot Theory.  We know now that games have one outcome, a winner, so therefore people always try to be that person: the winner.  Is that not the carrot that we dangle in front of all game players?

When we play the thought of winning, or another term I’ve heard about lately, mastery, compels us forward into the game world to continue taking on its challenges in order to achieve the penultimate goal we seek, the win.  Not just the “Epic Win” but just the win.  The end game is what everyone strives to achieve.   And in that the carrot is born! Infinite competition is the concept that if we continue to change the winning conditions as people approach the end they will continue to compete for the win indefinitely.  This is truly a gamification approach.  It is in the game element of the win, the game over, the end game, whatever you want to call it that we can tap into competitive nature and unlock human potential.

I’m sure there are many, many, many studies on games like World of Warcraft, if not there should be, on how a game that is over 10 years old compels players to continue to play day in and day out for that entire span.  What is driving those players forward? For those that aren’t “in the know” about World of Warcraft there is no “Game Over” or final end to the game.   It continues on indefinitely in a state known as “end game”.  So how do you “win” World of Warcraft? What is the competitive drive that tugs players forward in that particular game world?  XP? Loot? Cool bosses? Well that is what needs to be researched as I’m sure that answer is completely different for each and every player.  Such as in life the win conditions or the carrot for each individual is different.  So how do we create competitors out of each individual so that we all strive for that unified goal of the win? That is where I would love to research and in WoW leet speak terms “WTB time and 5g”.