6 Reasons Why I Love Teaching Kids with ADHD

I am the teacher who tells students that their ADHD brains are OK just as they are.
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6 Reasons Why I Love Teaching Kids with ADHD

Kathryn deBros, M.S., is a freelance writer and special educator based in Vermont. She works with children and teens with challenging behaviors and has contributed to Noodle. She can be found on Twitter @KathryndeBros or at kathryndebros.com.

Kids with ADHD are my favorite students. There, I said it. Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but we do. (You probably always knew that, anyway.)

I never intended this to happen. I was going to be a high school English teacher and discuss the finer points of The Scarlet Letter. I was taught that ADHD is a disability, and that you have to watch out for those kids. You have to give them extra help and make them feel welcome. Instead, I fell in love with teaching “those kids.” They were the most enthusiastic, passionate, creative students, and they made the most incredible mental connections. They didn’t just give me the answers I wanted to hear – their train of thought went on a cross-country trip and came all the way back with presents.

They were game for whatever crazy idea I had for us in the classroom. Acting out scenes from the book? Sure, why not? Building a replica of the stockades? Yes, totally. Talking about the book they just read outside sitting under a tree? Absolutely.

In fact, I loved teaching kids with ADHD so much that I went back and got a special-education license. I have since worked with kids with disabilities from kindergarten to high school, in public and private schools, hoping to be at least the one teacher who tells them that their brains are OK. What we teachers need to acknowledge is that there are lots of ways to think, and the high-speed train of thought is one of them. It’s not always the most efficient, but there are plenty of positives.

What some teachers call “impulsivity,” I call “daring.” What some call “being oblivious,” I call “hyperfocus.” I actually like that children with ADHD don’t have any patience for busy work. I don’t either. Down with worksheets! Let’s get to the heart of the matter, instead. There are things every human being needs to know that are often mistaken for Common Core Standards.

Honestly, “normal” is boring. Where would we be without the innovators and risk-takers? The strong personalities? The humor? Kids, whether they have ADHD or not, don’t grow if they are surrounded by kids just like them. Similarly, teachers don’t become better teachers if kids always follow their directions to the letter. I won’t say that tough kids haven’t kept me humble (oh, the humility!), but I’m a better teacher for rising to the challenges they’ve set for me.

After all these years, I’m forced to admit that I didn’t become a teacher just to help kids get passing grades. I teach to help kids grow. And while it’s always sweet when kids are able to see their own successes, when kids with ADHD win, they win hard, because they know exactly how much work it took to get there. I live for that moment.

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