Surviving ADHD – 4 Top Tips to Fast-track Your Success

I am so humbled and fortunate to have been asked to post for another blog. The article was recently posted and here is a link to it.

http://www.adhdthegift.com/surviving-adhd-4-top-tips-fast-track-success-guest-blogger-david-brown/

I am so excited to see my work, but I’m also interested in the growth I’ve seen in my writing.  The educator in me sees this growth and sees the potential for blogging in my classroom.  Just another example of how #edtech can support future learning!

ECS 301 – Day 7 in the Field: The Price of Progress

This journey began with many bumps and bruises.  More so, just on my on my ego, not physical bruises… ok maybe a few. But, as rocky as the journey has been it is starting to culminate in tackling new challenges. Even on the downward slope there are still bumps and bruises, but they are different.  The difference is that we are now having to make more difficult decisions and work on more sensitive issues because we are no longer fresh and green pre-service teachers. We are now an integral part of the classroom communities we are involved in. The students see us in a much different light then they did in the beginning.

Looking back at day seven in my pre-internship teaching experience I see the growth I have experienced over the past 3 months.  I received one of the greatest compliments from one of my students.  He approached me and said “I’ve been talking about you with my older brother, who’s big into gaming, and I said I had this sub that loves gaming too and makes games…” Wait, what… a sub???  Yes, I was seen by this student as full fledged teacher.  His view of me was equal to that of any other teacher in the school.  Day one I was the “Intern”, day seven I’m now the “Sub”.  I honestly couldn’t believe it.  Have I grown that much? But I still have so much more to learn how can I be an actual teacher?  I can be, because I am.  Even as a pre-intern I am a teacher. Also even as a full-time teacher I will still have a lot to learn.  I will still be going into a classroom every day with my thinking cap on, prepared to soak up whatever the students throw at me.

Students will throw a lot of things at me, but the greatest tool I have discovered, thanks to my cooperating teacher,  that I can use to help in catching things is to build strong relationships with the students. However, on this particular day I found out that in strong relationships come very difficult decisions.

The scenario was fairly typical in most classrooms.  A student was repeatedly being disruptive to other classmates.  Pretty straightforward to manage you would think. I pulled the student aside to talk about what I was seeing and that a change in behaviour was necessary.  I thought I handled it quite well.  Except this student’s response to me was “I find this so funny” whilst shaking his head.  The rest of the conversation was just a back and forth of perceived work from both of us, but ended with the same line “I find this so funny”.  I held my head and kept my cool, but I couldn’t shake that line. I thought I had a good relationship with this student. He had always worked hard for me in past lessons. What was the issue now? Why was it funny?

Here I discovered the price of my progress.  I did have a strong relationship with this student.  But, because I had a strong relationship with him, this student did not expect me to react to his behaviour in the manner I did.  In fact, I figured out that what he meant was “you’re just like every other teacher I’ve had…”.  This student has had behaviour issues in the past.  I’ve seen them and I’ve seen them dealt with by my cooperating teacher.  In an instant I saw our relationship change to one that was less “Intern” and more teacher.  And it’s hard. It’s hard knowing that I lost respect of a student I believe I share a common bond with.  But, I also learned that as teachers we have to make these difficult decisions.  Do we break down bonds now, in order to build them back up stronger later? In this instance I made that decision, unknowingly at the time, to do so.  I made the choice that I want that student to be stronger in the long run.  I want that student to understand respect for his colleagues and a sustained work ethic.  I would rather he gain those skills and hate me, then love me and learn nothing.  That is the very harsh reality of teaching.  We have to make sacrifices and hard decisions each day, but all in the name of learning.  Is the price of progress worth it? These moments are some of the hardest that we will deal with. I have gone through these moments personally as a youth.  My answer because of this: Yes, you bet it is worth it.  I am a better person as a whole because of the sacrifices my teachers made.  It took me a long time to realize what they had done for me. But in the end I figured it out and so shall this student. In the end it’s about him and the rest of his classmates.  It is about every student that enters our classroom door.  And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Thank you once again to Dreamatico for the headline image: http://dreamatico.com/magic/2/.  This image is subject to Copyright and is used for educational purposes only.

ECS 301: Day 6 in the Field, When Magic Happens…

If you’ve been following my story you know that trying to find yourself as a pre-service teacher is no easy task.  So far it’s been a lot of hard work with heart breaks along the way.  Each lesson taught has been filled with challenges.  And then it happened… Magic!

With a wave of my magic spoon I enchanted students with a simple science activity.  As the fizz of the bubbles died I could see inquisitive faces seeking answers, instead of the glazed over looks of a boring, broken lesson.  Finally I had my moment that I had been looking for.  That teacher moment when you know you’ve actually tapped into the potential of young people and watched it flourish.

OK. Maybe it wasn’t that amazing, but I finally found one piece of my teacher self in that moment.  I discovered that hands-on learning is what I am striving for.   Giving students a chance to discover a concept rather than pushing it at them with lectures or sugar-coating it with games, I found solace in letting the students come to their own conclusions.  In a world where there is no wrong answer, young people seem to dig right in and keep asking question after question.

How did I finally make the magic happen? Well I followed my own advice. I was myself.  I dressed like how I felt I should dress, I acted as I want to act in my classroom, I taught how I want to teach.  I was me.  And you know what I finally felt like me.  The classroom felt like my classroom.  I completely got lost in the moment.  In that moment I had two massive epiphanies.

1) Mistakes are treated as the worst possible thing outside of education.   In education they are the best possible thing.

I’ve been fighting so hard to not mistakes.  I set the bar so high that when I wasn’t meeting my own expectations I felt like I was letting people down.  Thankfully reflection has helped reframe and I finally get it.  I finally see that I need to crawl before I walk.

2) Part of my issue with prior lessons was that I did not build in proper transitions.

For 5 weeks I kept going “what’s wrong, what’s wrong, what’s wrong”.  NOTHING! I was just missing a piece of a lesson that helps it flow, helps it feel natural.  In the lesson presented yesterday, my transitions were better but I still need a lot of work on this.

Finally a solid lesson, one to remember… and I forgot to take pictures. Was it perfect? Perfect lessons do not exist.  Did I make mistakes?  Absolutely.  But I have already learned from them.  I need to watch my timing.  I need to have transitions.   But in the end if I go 5 minutes over is that a problem? Not really.  If I forget to talk about something is that a big deal? Not at all, however I should remember to circle it on my lesson or write it down. I’ve learned that it’s how we deal with mistakes and learn from them is what makes a good teacher.

I am not an expert teacher (does that even exist? ), but I am learning.  Learning is the foundation of everything in education.

So can we go UP? Yes! Do we have to adapt? Yes! Can I teach how I want to teach? Yes! Do I truly love to teach? YES!

Thank you to: http://dreamatico.com/magic/6/ for the headline image!  This image may be subject to copyright and is used in this article for educational purposes only.

 

ECS 301: Day 5 in the Field, Finding your Groove

“You threw off my Groove!” I stated to a student as they flicked the lights back on after flashing them like a dance party.  The students loved it and then proceeded home for the day.

Finding  your groove is probably one the hardest things to do in this pre-internship experience.  As I reflect upon my fifth day in the field I find myself looking back to see how far I’ve come.  However, I also see how far I have to go.  I’ve been personally struggling to find myself as a teacher in the classroom since day three in the field.  Game based learning and gamification were the cornerstone of my teaching philosophy, and they still are, but how do you use such great methods in a class that is not geared towards or ready for such a learning style?

I tried to go into a comfort zone of teachers and work with direct instruction for the lessons I presented.  Let me tell you, lecturing to a class of grade seven and eight students is difficult at the best of times, let alone after a four day weekend.  This lesson went sideways within the first five minutes.  So I dug in and learned from my lesson last week, I adapted.  I started moving a bit faster, trying to get the students involved in discussion, cracking jokes, it seemed to be working… until another five minutes went by and they were gone again.

When it came time for them to work on their assignment the students took off with a flash.  I was blown away.  In reality a four day weekend meant very little sleep, video game hours nearing triple digits, and zero homework.  How could a direct instruction lesson even stand a chance?  It didn’t… What the students needed was a hands-on exercise.  They needed to move, to socialize, to get the creative learning juices flowing before a direct instruction lesson could even be thought of.  Not only do teachers need to find their groove, they also need to find the groove of their students in order to find success in a lesson.

That brings me to my biggest take away from yesterday.  I am not a direct instruction style teacher.  This class does not function well in a direct instruction environment.  Therefore logic would dictate that direct instruction is probably the LAST thing that I should be utilizing as a teaching strategy.  It has its place, but what I found was that I need to break it up for these students.  Thats their groove.  They need things presented in chunks and pieces.  They also need that hands-on experience provided with drawing, creating, doing.

Now how do you find your groove?  More so, how do I take my passion which is gamification and apply it with this group of students?  I am finding that one day a week really constricts me as a pre-intern teacher.  I feel forced into a box of teaching strategies and classroom management strategies.  Since this is not my classroom what am I supposed to do?  How do I handle certain situations in the classroom when these are not my students? It is simple really.  Be yourself.

It really is that easy.  I greatly appreciate my university classes, but honestly when I’m in the field I focus so hard on the theory and too little on the practical.  I focus on tools and techniques that are not me.  At this point it’s time to break things down and build them back up.  It’s a moment of self-discovery.  What does actually work for me?  How does David Brown want to deliver a lesson?  How will the students react to the lesson I’ve designed? What tools do I want to use?

Fun fact: I haven’t used a computer for a lesson once. That is the only thing I have ever wanted to use in a classroom!  I have focused too hard on trying to be my cooperating teacher, my professors, my former teachers, that I’ve forgotten that I’m the one in the front of the classroom.  It’s my time to shine.  It’s my time to be me and to use the gifts I have to WOW the students.

I have found over the past five field experiences that I absolutely love teaching. It fuels my soul.  I am drained at the end of the day because I throw my entire being into these students. I am so crushed when lessons do not go well that I question my ability and passion to teach. So it’s time I started teaching my way instead of trying to fill the shoes of my cooperating teacher, professors, and former teachers.  It’s time I found my groove instead.

Image provided by: http://kaitandkaboodle.blogspot.ca/2010/08/spy-moves-humble-abode-dads-birthday.html – This image my be subject to Copyright and is used only for educational purposes.

ECS 301: Battling Classroom Management

Classroom management is probably one of the most important teaching areas, but it is also the most tricky.  In reading the article The Great “Respect” Deception by Dr. Richard Curwin classroom management is quite complex and is difficult to simplify.  Most teachers want to create less rules in order to keep their classroom functioning.  The thought is less rules, lead to less things to remember, leads to better behaviour.  But as noted in the article that is not always the case.  We discuss the “hidden” curriculum in our classes, but in terms of classroom management this oversimplification of a rule system leads to many “hidden” rules.  These “hidden” rules seem to deter better behaviour because they are generally not known by the students so therefore they are unable to follow them.  The message from the article resounds with me as I believe that teachers need to be transparent with their students.  This includes classroom management and expectations.  If students are aware of what values, rules, and expectations exist in the classroom they can more easily navigate the classroom management spectrum.  Being transparent is probably one of the best preventative measures a teacher can put in place to avoid conflict and class issues.  In order to accomplish this there are some great tools available, such as Class Dojo.

Class Dojo, as depicted by Matt Giesbrecht,  gamifies classroom management by creating a system of points and rewards for behaviours.  Teachers are able to provide instant feedback to good and bad behaviours in the classroom allow students to work both individually and as a team towards common goals.  Well as soon as I saw this tool I was instantly enthralled with it.  I am a champion for gamification in the classroom and this tool fits how I would love to manage my class.

Being transparent and providing a clear rewards and feedback system are two things I took away from these two posts.  They are a foundation for my classroom management system and I will carry them forward not only in my Teaching Philosophy, but in my everyday teaching as well.

Image provided by http://satpaulmittalschool.org/blog/?p=61.  Thank you for posting such a great picture!

ECS 301: Inquiry Projects, Where Practical and Learning Meet

In taking a look at the inquiry project conducted at the Mother Theresa Jesuit School we discovered that you can incorporate a hands-on experience into a learning experience that goes beyond the practical skills and knowledge.

This project had the students making jam and then selling the jam to the public with all proceeds being donated.   There are many different pieces to this project puzzle that allow for a great learning experience. During the process the students touch on many different subject areas and then can see first hand how they can apply to a real world situation.

It is because of the real world application I believe inquiry projects are an important part of learning and as educators we should strive to use them in our classrooms.  The blending of a hands-on activity with learning engages all levels of students.  With different roles required in different phases of the project every student should get an opportunity to shine.

#EdTech and ADHD: How Technology can Help the Struggle

Thanks to a group of passionate educators, technology is starting to play a large part in today’s schools.  I read articles daily from educational technology (EdTech) experts like Jordan Shapiro and Alec Couros on how technology is transforming learning. I decided it’s my turn to jump into the expert pool.  Now I don’t have neither a fancy Ph.D, nor am I published anywhere, but I have two things on my side that I think make me qualified to weigh in on EdTech and ADHD. 1) I have ADHD 2) I have been using technology heavily since I was 3.  It also helps I have worked in the IT industry and I am currently still a part-time software developer.

Have you ever heard the infamous phrase “The struggle is real.”? As defined in the wonderful resource Urban Dictionary it is usually regarding some insignificant problem.

But for ADHD students the struggle is absolutely real each and every day.  So how do we engage our ADHD students so they can find success in the classroom?

Part of the solution I want to discuss today is EdTech.  EdTech at its core is all about creating engaging and stimulating educational environments for students.  Wow… doesn’t that sound EXACTLY what an ADHD student needs?

Engagement is what every educator should strive for in an ADHD student.  In engagement an ADHD student finds the focus that is typically missing.  How does EdTech create an engaging environment? Part of the reason is that students can relate to technology because it is pervasive in their everyday life.  The other reason is that it allows the students to take learning into their own hands.  Putting a device in the hands of an ADHD student is the absolute best thing that can be done in my opinion.  The hands-on learning experience removes the need to fidget and find stimulation because the device fills that void.  Keeping an ADHD student’s hands busy goes a long way to building engagement.  The next task is to keep an ADHD student engaged and stimulated.

Keeping an ADHD student focused, engaged, and stimulated is probably the biggest challenge parents, teachers, coaches, etc. have. Enter EdTech.  The hands-on experience described above is also part of keeping an ADHD student stimulated and focused.  As an educator or parent have you ever noticed that you can almost drop a bomb around an ADHD child whenever their hands are engaged? Whether it is sports, drawing, video games, crafts, woodwork, mechanics, and the list goes on, ADHD students thrive in hands-on situations.  It provides a physical outlet which ADHD students can channel the bundle of energy they are gifted with.   The state described above is hyper-focus and can be a great thing, however I will provide a note of caution that it can also be detrimental.

The problem that can exist is that students will not want to disengage from the task when required to.  Changing subjects from math to science? Don’t you dare take away my iPad! Or I’m not done yet, just one more level!  As an educator or parent it will be important to build routines around EdTech or any engaging activity.  Have an alarm or cue that your student will notice that they need to unplug when it goes off.  But make sure you and your student work together to come up with the solution.

If EdTech is striving to create stimulating and engaging classrooms ADHD needs to be in that conversation.  It is precisely what ADHD students need to stay focused and involved in school.  Add in game based learning and gamification, which include reward systems and achievements, and ADHD students will become unstoppable.   EdTech can create life long learners in ADHD students so they can shed the labels of Inattentive, Hyperactive, Troublemaker, Problem Child and start including those that have the ADHD gift. Yes, gift not curse.  This gift can thrive in the classroom of tomorrow… no wait… the classroom of TODAY!

Headline Image Credit to: http://www.edudemic.com/education-technology-pros-cons/ – Thank you for posting such a great image!

 

ECS 301 – I’m gonna Wreck-It! …ok not really : Day 4 in the Field

Another day in the classroom, another movie inspired reflection.  After what seemed like a dismal performance last week I was determined to “right the wrongs” I thought I had done.  After reflecting on my reflection I realized things weren’t so bad after all.

This particular pre-intern day started off on an interesting note.  We were treated to a presentation by Robb Nash @robbnash on Anti-Bullying, Anti-Suicide, general teen issues.  I must say it was outstanding.  His show, because really that’s what it is, was very inspiring.  I greatly appreciated his question to us all.  Why do you do what you do?  Most know what they do, but rarely do people know why they do it.  I am very fortunate to know why I do what I do.  Passion for learning and helping youth grow are two key pieces to why I do what I do.  And so fuelled by this performance I was ready to jump back into Math 7 and Percents.

This time I was even more prepared.  Armed with a more structured lesson, a cool and fun activity sheet, I was going in guns a blazin’!

And that’s when I hit the wall again…  sigh… the students were frustrated, they were pouty, they were… challenged and HATED it.  I immediately went to the same place last week.  Asking myself “Man can I really do this?”, “I was so prepared, it must be me that is the problem”.  However, this week I pushed the pause button.

No, it was not me.  Was my lesson great?  Not really.  Was it bad? Not even close.  So why is there this seemingly massive disconnect between my math lessons and my students?  Working closely with my cooperating teacher we had a very good reflective session on what may have gone off the tracks.

For starters today was the day I had a very structured lesson and then decided I was going to go off on a couple of tangents.  It happens, especially to passionate teachers. They were math related tangents, that’s a plus, but they distracted the students from the focus of the lesson.  Learning point #1 – Lessons need focus, and you should try your best to stay on that focus.

Teachers teach differently, just as students learn differently. For two math lessons in a row I’ve approached Math in a way that this group of students is just not comfortable with.  They haven’t realized that being challenged and uncomfortable is ok.  Learning point #2 – ADAPT! Be prepared to go all Wreck-It Ralph on your lesson and rip it up.  Go to where your students need to go.  Let your students guide your lesson.  If they can stay on the tracks, keep going, but if they seem to be de-railing go with them.  This is also NOT a bad thing.  We teach so students can learn.  If they’re not learning are we really teaching?

Lastly let’s talk about what my lesson in Math was all about.  Learning Point #3 – Simplify! I spent 45 minutes preaching about how to make Math easier by simplifying the elements of any equation to the point where you, as a student, are most comfortable.  Why didn’t I heed my own advice?  Throwing too much at students in such a short period of time can easily overwhelm them.  It also can easily overwhelm you, as the teacher!  Structure is great, but as I came up with yesterday.  If you are expecting an unstructured lesson where the students are expected to have the A-HA! moment on their own, why would you then impose so much structure on yourself? How can you expect unstructured learning, when you build a fortress of structure around yourself?  Unstructured learning requires flexibility and adaptation.

So to answer my question from last week: Can you go UP from here? The answer is a resounding YES! There is no such thing as a perfect lesson.  But what makes a great teacher, great is the fact that you learn from everything that gets tossed your way.  It is ok to be uncomfortable.  It is in discomfort that we learn.  No matter what you do, just remember: You are a Hero to your students, even if the lesson is completely wrecked.

The image used may be subject to Copyright and is used for educational purposes only.  Thank you!