Labels. This word resonates with me more than any other during our short time in EPSY 400. We have discussed this word often in almost every education class I have taken so far. “Don’t label the students”, “Labels are harmful”, “Labels diminish the status of those that we place upon them”. These are familiar phrases that we ponder as we move forward in our training to become educators. However, I do not buy it. I am labelled. I have ADHD. I do not buy into the fact that labels diminish or harm a person. People hurt people. This sounds very basic, but it is true. The label ADHD does not affect me, it is the people who refuse to understand the gift that I have. Autism is not a label that defines a person, it is the people who deny that even with autism people can be brilliant and effective members of society. The labels do not change a person. However, the counterpoint is typically “If there were no labels, then people wouldn’t generalize people”. I agree, but in western culture is that even possible? Western culture labels EVERYTHING! I’m curious to see that when I have children there is not a label maker beside where they check the health of a newborn. It is mindset that needs to change. Either we need to get rid of labels, or get rid of the stigma behind the label. My vote is for removing the stigma. Labels assist us in understanding who we are. Without my ADHD label I was lost. I was changing jobs, depressed, suicidal. Then I discovered who I was. I will be honest. I tried to shed it at first. I didn’t want to be labelled, I wanted to be normal. But, it is when I embraced my label that I found myself. I understand myself better now that I have my label. I am proud of my label. Therefore, I feel that the mindset we need to change is that labels are harmful. The labels hold power when we let them hold power. It should not define someone, but empower them to explore their label and embrace it. I wear mine with pride. ADHD, brother, son, teacher. You should too. From LGBTQ to Austism to Gifted, everyone should wear their label. That is what makes you unique. That is the difference we can start from so I can look forward to getting to knowing you better. I have a label. Do you want to get to know me better?
This day has come and gone a few times now since I was diagnosed with ADHD and depression. Yet, I did not share my story or voice my opinions when the event arrived. I think I’ve posted on Facebook, sent a tweet or two, but I have not gone into my journey. The simple man’s journey through depression, and it’s link to my ADHD. I may not be Clara Hughes, or Michael Landsburg, but I do share in the fact I have gone down the troubled road of depression.
In an article I wrote last year I had stated that my ADHD had created moments of depression and anxiety that I did not want to delve. However, it is time to bring to light some of the hardships of my journey through depression. Why now? To be honest, I have people who I know listen now. But also, this is part of the journey. I’ve come to a place in my healing that I can share what depression was for me.
Growing up I was extremely active and very hyper, and yet not diagnosed with ADHD I’ll note. However, in my teen years I started to experience massive mood swings and a gnawing feeling that something was wrong. I didn’t want to hang with friends, I didn’t care about school, I started to fall into what I can only describe as a pit of sadness. I didn’t know what was wrong, but I also never explored it as I knew that I had to “suck it up” it’s not ok for a man to be sad, “get a grip”. Looking back I was bullied a lot in school. My self-esteem was low, even though I had so much going for me. I did not even connect or think about depression, even with thoughts of suicide entering my head over and over.
Heading into my adult years I found some solace in University. I found friends that I could connect better with, I enjoyed school a lot more as I was challenged, and I found that people were more accepting of the person I knew I was. But, I was still always frustrated, tired, and sad. I could tell something was wrong, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Worse yet, I couldn’t talk about it. To this day I have people who were close to me that I drove away with my fears, anxieties, and sadness; my depression. There were so many days, where I would lie crying silently in my bed in University because I couldn’t bear the thought of leaving my room for class. I lost marks, lost confidence in cooperative education employers, because I couldn’t face my depression or choose to acknowledge it. I was a man, I wasn’t supposed to feel like this. I had so many things going for me, I shouldn’t feel this way.
As life continued into my early career in finance I started to finally see the issue, but I never fully dug into my problems. I looked into medication, I looked into how to fix depression, but I never talked about it. I never explored my soul to find my true self, to figure out how to love myself. At this time it was sort of ok to take depression meds, men never talk about there feelings, but pills are ok. In the age of the little blue pill, of course it’s ok for men to just take meds to solve a problem. But, that was a band-aid fix. And over time band-aids wear away.
I spun out of control before my ADHD diagnoses. I made terrible life choices, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t work, I couldn’t function in society. I was a mess. It was at that point I even started to research the best way to take my own life. Even at that point, the lowest of the abyss, my girlfriend, now wife, made the decision to stick by my side. Without her, I don’t think I’d be here today to tell my story. It was because of her commitment to me I decided to seek answers. I decided I don’t care if I’m a man or not, I need to talk. I need to share my pain so I can figure out how to deal with it. In that time I was diagnosed with ADHD, which determined some of the causes to my depression, but also I finally took the first step on the path towards understanding, accepting, and working with my depression.
Moving forward I lost many jobs, because of ADHD and depression, most I quit because I felt worthless and was not contributing, some I was let go because my employers did not understand depression. I was asked point blank one day, after I had come back from a few days off where I stated it was for depression, “What is depression? Like I don’t get it, how can you feel that way? How can you not be happy with a job like this?”. I shared with them part of how I felt. I felt lost, trapped, unable to move and breath. I felt that no matter what I did I felt useless and alone. None of this was true of course, but it was how I felt. The response “That doesn’t make sense, I still don’t get it…”. Here is my take, if you haven’t been down that road you won’t get it. It’s like the beauty of Paris, you can’t describe it unless you’ve been there. What needs to happen is instead of saying “I don’t get it” we need to start saying, “That seems hard and I’m here to help if you need it”. We need to start showing our support for those that fall down, because without support it’s so hard, sometimes impossible, to get back up. We lose so many good people each year to depression. This is our time to start talking and telling people that it’s ok to talk. It’s ok to come to us with their problems, fears, and sadness. We want to listen. We want you to tell us your story. I want you to tell your story. I want you to get to this point where you feel like your story matters and needs to be heard. No you may not be famous, have 10k+ twitter followers and show up on national news, but you do matter.
If you’re a man that has sat in silence because “it’s not manly to cry”, it’s your time to talk. It’s time to shun that stereotype. If you’re a woman who’s been told “you’re too emotional” it’s your time to talk. If you’re a person who’s been told “why are you sad, you have everything” it’s your time to talk. It’s time to talk world! Anyone with depression, or who knows someone with depression, speak now and don’t ever hold your peace. Speak as if your life, or the life of your loved ones, counts upon it, because it probably does. Let us raise our voices and break the stigma of mental illness. Those who have fought this battle or are fighting this battle, you are stronger for it. You are not sub-human, but super-human, because you have made the choice to live and made the choice that your story matters. So please, today let’s talk.
As I continue to journey deeper into “The Teacher Every Student Wants and Needs” by Jack Toth, I keep getting pulled back into my pre-internship experience. I keep getting sucked back into the classroom where the students have some similarities to the ones depicted in the text. On the surface these students may seem like challenging teenagers, but if we choose to dig deeper it can be scary what we find. But we have to dig deeper. We have to truly know our students if we are to be successful in the classroom. This is the biggest take-away I had in reading chapters 3 through 5.
In these chapters we find that we need to build significant relationships with our students in order to challenge them to become the critical thinkers and lifelong learners that we want them to be. It is not enough to have that surface relationship where everything could be all sunshine and rainbows. We need to dig deeper and discover the inner being that forms the true student. This true student is the person we are teaching. It is the one that may not have slept the night before because their parents were up all night fighting. It is the student that could be having suicidal thoughts because they think they do not and cannot make a difference. It is in these dark places that we must go as educators because sometimes we may be the only ones at the time that are willing to go there.
In trying to dig deeper and discover the inner student we also need to dig deeper within ourselves to understand who we are and what we want to be as an educator. I greatly appreciate the text when it states “If you don’t respect yourself, how can you respect me?”. It is difficult to teach respect when you cannot respect yourself. If you do not believe the message why should your students? The same could be said even for content curriculum. If you, as the educator, do not connect with the content how can you expect your students to? How can you take your students on a journey of self discovery when you cannot discover or reflect upon yourself? These metacognitive processes are important to us and our students and without digging deeper within ourselves it is difficult to dig deeper and become that critical thinker and lifelong learner.
I want to touch briefly on something that struck a chord with me. This time it is something I deeply disagree with. Many psychologists continue to state “If we keep diagnosing students with learning disabilities we label them and pigeon-hole these students”. As a student and educator with ADHD it’s time we speak out on this. I can speak only on ADHD, but it is not a label. It is not my be all and end all defining characteristic. It is part of me. It does define how I approach different situations, but it does not make the decisions for me. I’m still a person, I just now understand what type of person I am and how I react to certain things. So bring on the label then because I know who I am because of it. I am able to dig deeper and understand myself better because of it. I know who I am because I chose to seek that label and I understand my gift. These people who call them labels that are trying to get rid of these terms are the ones that are keeping the labels in play. If you do not want the labels to exist, then do not call them labels. I will concede that the text makes a very good point that they are behaviours and not disorders. This is true, but if we continually strike fear into educators and other professionals that learning disabilities are a bad thing and a label that defines an individual then we are not digging deeper and finding the true person. These “labels” are a mission for someone to start to dig deeper about themselves so they can understand how they learn and can help educators and professional understand them. It is a way of saying we are all different and require different ways of teaching and understanding. So instead of saying “get rid of the labels” why are we not saying “embrace the terms, discover who you are!”.
As I continue to dig deeper into this text, I keep digging deeper into myself. I keep finding new things about my teaching and new ways of educating my future students. I greatly appreciate this text as it is like looking into a slate glass pool of water and seeing my future classroom. This text reflects upon my philosophy of education and I’m excited to continue to read this text and dig deeper into the world of educating students they way I truly intend to. By listening to them and hearing their voice. By understanding them as best I can and helping them find their path.
Image credit to: http://dreamatico.com/darkness/5/ Thank you for posting such an amazing picture on your site!
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.
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!
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!
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.