It’s that time again. It’s time to go back to school. For me this means back to my university courses as well as back to work since I work at a school. I always feel like it’s the new year in September more than I do in January. There are fresh notebooks, newly sharpened pencils, brand new textbooks, a new schedule, and the potential for a whole new routine.
I always make promises to myself that this year everything is going to be organized, on time, and easy and every year it all goes crazy and I end up feeling like I’ve failed. When I look back on my journals they are filled with resolutions and they are always the same ones. I will begin working on my assignments well in advance. I will do all of my course readings and take meticulous notes before and during each class. I will hand in my assignments on time. I will study for all my tests and exams. I will get As in all my classes. Now that I’m aware that there is an actual neurological problem that is sabotaging all my well-meaning efforts I don’t feel quite so bad about writing the essay at the last minute, asking for an extension on an assignment, or the fact that my desk/knapsack/office frequently look like something has exploded. I am starting to accept that because of the ADHD I will not be able to achieve all of those lofty goals. A really great result of learning about ADHD, however, has been that I have found out that I am capable of achieving those goals, and that it just requires a lot more planning for me than the average person!
Last school year I actually did achieve an A+ and an A along with my Bs. I have accomodations at school which allow me to ask for an extension if I need it and to write all of my tests and exams on a computer with 50% more time. All of my professors receive letters explaining my “special needs” status and so I am no longer intimidated by going to them to discuss the problems I am having in writing a particular assignment and I no longer feel that they secretly think I’m lazy and don’t want to succeed or do any work in their class. My work spaces still do frequently look like a bomb has gone off but all of my important dates and details are recorded diligently into a moleskine agenda and since I started taking my class notes on the computer not only are they much more complete and coherent than before, other students are actually asking me if they can borrow my notes!
Finally, another added benefit of learning about ADHD has led me to reassess my career goals. When I originally went to university I was in the concurrent education program where I was working on a degree in French and a teacher’s certificate concurrently. I had excellent marks in the teacher’s ed. portion of my degree but when I dropped out of university and then later reapplied I did not reenter the teacher’s ed. part of my degree. I had decided that I would much rather work in a library. Lately, however, though I still love books, reading and the library, I have been considering applying to teacher’s college next year when I have completed my undergraduate degree. Not only do I keep ending up in jobs where I am working directly with children and youth, I have found that in the past few years I have been able to understand and work with students who have learning disabilities or behavioural issues much more effectively than in the past. Rather than be irritated by a boy who continually disrupts the group and seems to blurt out insults to his fellow participants without thinking I find myself wondering whether this is something he has any control over at all and finding alternative ways to redirect his energy and attention rather than repeatedly telling him to please be quiet or sit still. I think that as a teacher with ADHD I would have many tools to work with this type of student that others may not have without much education and mountains of understanding and patience. I only wish now that at some point in my childhood someone had recognized me as having this disorder instead of labeling me lazy or disorganized or just plain dumb!
Now I must get to work. I think my desk could use some tidying and my Old English text isn’t going to read itself…