When it comes to handling ADHDers at school, I have several issues that have caused me much grief over the years, and that still create uphill for ADHDers and their parents- not the least of which are the teachers who claim they “…don’t believe there is such a thing as ADHD, your child simply needs more discipline…” (a quote from a few of Damien’s teachers, in case you were wondering).
For today’s post however, I’m going to focus on three aspects of teaching ADHDers that are prevalent, and that I personally feel teachers should think twice about.
The first one is the behaviour “charts” on the walls in the class.
You know the ones that have gold stars and black dots on them (or sad faces and smiley faces or whatever) to denote merits and demerits.
There’s nothing I loathe more than having any child’s “bad behaviour”- ADHDer or not- displayed on a wall for everyone to see.
As it is, ADHDers have to work three times harder than anyone else to earn a gold star or a merit, and when they do they are immensely proud of themselves- but when that gold star is added to a wall chart that already has 20 demerits displayed on it, their motivation simply evaporates! And for an ADHDer parent, to walk into a classroom for a parent-teacher-meeting and be confronted almost immediately with a big poster full of black dots or cross faces or some such is very upsetting as well. We’re already intimidated by teachers because we know a parent-teacher-meeting will not necessarily be something pleasant…
Lemme put it another way. Can you imagine if there was a chart up in your office that publicly displayed every single occasion that you had fouled something up at work!? It’s humiliating, and adults wouldn’t stand for it no matter how many gold stars were also displayed.
Why should our children have to be publicly embarrassed like that?
By all means, have charts on the wall- but display only the merits. For all the learners. Put the gold stars or the smiley faces on when they achieve something or do something well, and if you absolutely have to keep a record of demerits then do it in a book or a file.
My Damien had several star-charts at home that we used to try and get him to do chores and do his homework, but we simply didn’t add a sticker if he hadn’t done something the way he was supposed to. Or if he had given himself a sticker for something and it came out that he had lied about that particular point on the chart- he had to remove the sticker himself. And his sticker charts were inside his cupboard door where only he could see it, not everyone who visited him. And not getting the sticker on a particular square on his chart at home was enough for him.
Please try and motivate my child, don’t humiliate and belittle him.
The second point I would like to address is the writing of notes to mom inside the homework diary.
A homework diary is just that. A place to record homework and tasks that need to be done. A place to record the daily subject time-table and class schedule. A place where the school rules, code of conduct and annual calendar should be listed. A place where the learner’s contact details can be listed.
I’m not even going to get into how ADHDers battle to record their homework assignments in the first place.
Personally- I am all for daily checking of the homework diary so that I can help make sure my child does the homework and/ or preparation required of him. And I’ll sign it too, provided my child’s teacher is going to check it and sign it too.
But do not, under any circumstances, write me a note or a message in my child’s homework diary. Communication between teacher and parent should be private, and for adult eyes only. Nowadays there are ample ways to get a communiqué of some kind to a learner’s parents without writing it somewhere the child can read it too. You can give the learner a note in an envelope, you can make a phone call, text a meeting request, send an email or post a letter for goodness’ sake! And if you are trying to get hold of a parent who tends not to answer or pitch up then do all of the above.
But do not write a note in my child’s homework diary.
Do you know what happens to that little note in the homework book? If the child hasn’t already read it and upset himself, he just may give it to his parents. When the mom sees it, she’s immediately upset or disappointed, or both. The learner starts to associate this with the diary itself and will then start “losing” it. Then you’re back to not having ANYthing written down.
Or that learner- especially if he’s an ADHDer- will read that note over and over and over again because it’ll be in his diary all year long. And every time you think you’re making a little progress, he may find that little note and he’ll be taken right back to what happened then and he’ll be upset all over again- even if everyone else has forgotten!
Please teachers, communicate with the parents in a formal way and do it so that the learner doesn’t have to be directly involved.
The last point I would like to address in this post is where teachers withhold break (recess) as a punishment.
Tell me honestly, teachers, how much can or will you get out of an ADHDer in that short space of time? A non-ADHDer may quickly catch up on whatever it was he was supposed to do to try and at least have a little bit of a break, but an ADHDer will not be able to focus on work when all he can think about is Recess! Food! Play! Recess! Food! Play!
And from everything I have learned over time and with all the reading I’ve done is that a punishment should be something that can change behaviour. ADHDers don’t learn lessons that way and they will likely end up staying in for every single recess because they keep doing the same thing over and over again.
Let the kid have his break. Let him have his food. Let him play and get rid of some pent up energy. Find another way for him to catch up on what he’s missed, or to punish him for talking/ eating/ shouting/ walking around in class.
I have a lot more bones to pick with regard to the way ADHDers are taught in schools in South Africa, so I think I’ll be doing a few more posts like this one.
…come play on my rollercoaster…