How to Deal With an ADHD Student?, Part I

I haven’t had a chance to teach in a US high school but I have taught high school students. There was a program at my penultimate university where college educators would offer extracurricular courses to high-school children from at-risk families for free. My year-long course in Spanish literature was aimed at kids from immigrant Hispanic families. I had 24 students ranging in age from 13 to 17.

Several of the students had a history of arrests and gang affiliations. I’m fascinated with the pedagogy of juvenile delinquency, so this was a great opportunity for me to put all the theoretical knowledge I had accumulated on the subject into practice. I blogged about that in the past, so I won’t repeat myself.

Today, I want to discuss how I approached the teaching of a student with ADHD I had in that class whom I will call Javier for the purposes of this post.

Even before I met Javier for the first time, students let me know certain things about him. When I first arrived in class, those kids who were already there, started giggling and saying, “Javier isn’t here yet but I heard he was taking this class. Oh, you will be so sorry you agreed to have him here.”

“He is hyperactive,” one student announced. “All of the teachers hate him.”

“Oh he’s such a loser,” another kid contributed. “Just totally out of control.”

“And a maricon,” somebody else said.

This is how I knew that a) Javier had ADHD; b) he was being bullied by both teachers and students; and c) he was gay, which in a poor Hispanic community is not an easy thing to be. (Javier came out in his graduating year and was viciously persecuted by a classmate as a result. But all that came 2 years after our course.)

Few things enrage me as much as bullying does, so I knew from the start that my goal would be to defend Javier from bullying in a way that wouldn’t make things even harder for him. This means, of course, that giving the students speeches of the “Children, Javier has a disorder. You should be kind and tolerant towards him” variety was out of the question.

(To be continued. . . )

29 thoughts on “How to Deal With an ADHD Student?, Part I”

  1. I loved your linked here post and the current one. Very interesting stories. May be you’ll post a bit on pedagogy of juvenile delinquency in general too?

    Now I think my interest isn’t that strange. Many find the topic interesting, thus Makarenko and Panteleev’s (Respublika Shkid) books on their work were wildly-read in their day and famous even now in FSU. I bet, US culture and those kids’ situations are different in all kinds of ways, which would be very interesting to hear about on your blog.

    Frank McCourt’s third memoir book “Teacher Man” is currently popular in US too. May be you’ll enjoy it. I loved all 3 books of his. McCourt worked with all kinds of students in all kinds of schools and imo has a gift of a storyteller. Seems you too would be able to write an interesting book in this vein, had you had more practical experience of working with teens at risk (I mean, poor or juvenile delinquents).

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    1. I’m a huge fan of Makarenko. 🙂 I read all his books several times and can quote from the by heart. Makarenko says that what Panteleev describes in his book is a completely failed experiment in pedagogy and I agree.

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        1. Makarenko: “В таком же жалком состоянии представлена воспитательная работа и в
          “Республике Шкид” Белых и Пантелеева. Собственно говоря, эта книга есть
          добросовестно нарисованная картина педагогической неудачи. Книга наполнена
          от начала до конца описаниями весьма несимпатичных приключений “шкиды”, от
          мелкого воровства до избиения педагогов, которые в книге иначе не
          называются, как “халдеи”. Воспитательный метод руководителя “шкиды”
          Викниксора и его помощников совершенно ясен. Это карцер, запертые двери,
          подозрительные дневники, очень похожие на кондуит. Здесь сказывается
          полное бессилие педагогического “мастерства” перед небольшой группой
          сравнительно “легких” и способных ребят. До самой последней страницы
          проходят перед читателем якобы занятные трюки одичавших воспитанников.”

          http://antmakarenko.narod.ru/liter/st_lit/detilit.htm

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            1. The person who wrote this post would really benefit from a few courses in art appreciation, in my opinion. It’s sad when one begins to approach artwork exclusively in search of the “correct” political message.

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              1. I loved the 1st photo in the post. But the idea was that:

                1- most photos, like the second (which was on a site full of similar ones), don’t intend to inspire art appreciation, but rather play on feelings on judgement (those people let it happen!) and enjoyment (can’t find another word now) of other’s bad luck

                2- I am sure you agree that all art is propaganda of something. The argument is that ruins’ photo trend in a few recognized cities influences perception of the said cities, their citizens and can lead (or help to lead) to RL consequences.

                I was impressed by the second post, have you looked at it? No street lights.

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              2. Any discussion of what a work of art “intends to do” has no place in discussing art. Art isn’t about anybody’s intention (which we can never know anything about for sure anyways). It is about everybody’s individual response to it.

                ‘I am sure you agree that all art is propaganda of something.”

                ?????

                ‘The argument is that ruins’ photo trend in a few recognized cities influences perception of the said cities, their citizens and can lead (or help to lead) to RL consequences.”

                -Welcome to the USSR. 🙂 “Art should teach a political message and it has to be the correct political message” was the underlying assumption behind the Soviet attitude to art. Anybody takes absolutely anything they feel like from a work of art irrespective of anybody’s supposed intention behind it.

                This is why I love teaching literature. No matter how many times I teach a text, every single time I hear completely new and unexpected readings of it from students. A work of art happens when a spectator or a reader encounters it and reacts to it. There can never be one single “correct” reaction or reading. Criticizing a work of art because “it sends a wrong message” is just barbaric.

                Gosh, people in this country so need more courses in the Humanities.

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              3. ‘I am sure you agree that all art is propaganda of something.”

                ?????

                Haven’t you said it yourself on this blog before? Don’t culture, low (reality TV, yellow press/ books, bad pop songs) *and* high, reflect society’s / artist’s values?

                I also want to differentiate between Art and me taking a bunch of ruined homes’ pictures and posting them under the name “Look Detroit is ruined. Few are left there. Soon complete oblivion. Who is the fool that stays?”

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              4. We have to decide what we are analyzing here, the photograph or the caption. If somebody were to write under the painting by Reubens, “Look at this ugly fat women. Isn’t she horrible? All fatties should die!” Would that detract from the value of the painting as a work of art? What if the caption had been written by the painter himself?

                The most fascinating thing in analyzing art is to see how the author’s ideology gets defeated by the work of art s/he produces. This is what I’m going to say, the author often announces. And ends up saying the exact opposite. 🙂 This is why authors so often hate literary critics. “This isn’t what I was trying to say!” they keep exclaiming. But the work of art is already out there, in the public realm, where everybody will attach any meaning they want to it.

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  2. “speeches of the “Children, Javier has a disorder. You should be kind and tolerant towards him”

    Thank you for hitting the nail squarely on the head. I have a slight hero-complex when it comes to seeing people being bullied, but I simple do not see how the ridiculous “Did you realise your bullying could lead to this kid CRYING in the restroom?” approach is in any way effective. If I were a bully, I’d probably give myself a high-five.

    I simply don’t agree that bullies imply don’t realise their actions hurt others. Their actions are designed and fine-tuned to hurt others as much as possible. It’s entirely possible a small fraction of children are thoughtlessly cruel, but they are, sadly, a small fraction.

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    1. Exactly. Too many parents and educators seem to think that bullies act the way they do because they haven’t been given enough nice speeches about the importance of tolerance. Have they actually seen a real kid? I always ask myself whenever I see such efforts.

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    2. It’s entirely possible a small fraction of children are thoughtlessly cruel, but they are, sadly, a small fraction.

      Huh? Are you saying you wish more students were thoughtlessly cruel? That is how this English sentence parses. Why else would you think it was sad that there were so few of them?

      I personally believe that bullies are evil and should be kept out of decent society by any means necessary. I was bullied as a child, and it is still a problem for me sixty years later. Reading what you wrote, Priyanka, makes me suspect that you must love them, except you feel that it would be better if they were bullies in a completely unconscious way, like an automaton.

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      1. I thought that Priyanka meant that thoughtlessness is better only in the sense that the thoughtless can be educated, whereas the actively malicious cannot.

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  3. I personally believe that bullies are evil and should be kept out of decent society by any means necessary. I was bullied as a child, and it is still a problem for me sixty years later.(David)

    Dont you think that’s just a tad hyperbole. Most bullies were bullied so if anything they probably need some help. Also, you seem to hold grudges for an awfully long time, whats with that?

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    1. This isn’t about holding grudges, this is about childhood trauma. Repressing its effects can never be healthy.

      “Most bullies were bullied so if anything they probably need some help.”

      -This is the first time I hear something like this. Victims of bullies are usually first bullied at home. Bullies, however, are assigned the role of bullies (also at home). But I have never seen any suggestion anywhere that they are victims of bullying themselves.

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        1. As I said, this has to do with roles assigned within each family. A child of too timid, soft-spoken individuals can easily turn out to be a total bully if that’s the role his or her parents subconsciously prepare the kid for.

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        2. Oh my kingdom for an edit button – the word either was needlessly dogmatic – it should be tend – I have seen kids with hectoring parents become neither a bully or a victim, but it requires an unusually self aware level of determination to change the path.

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  4. This isn’t about holding grudges, this is about childhood trauma. Repressing its effects can never be healthy.(Clarissa)

    He’s 60, dont ya think it is beyond repression………….maybe into dwelling?

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  5. bloggerclarissa :
    This isn’t about holding grudges, this is about childhood trauma. Repressing its effects can never be healthy.
    “Most bullies were bullied so if anything they probably need some help.”
    -This is the first time I hear something like this. Victims of bullies are usually first bullied at home. Bullies, however, are assigned the role of bullies (also at home). But I have never seen any suggestion anywhere that they are victims of bullying themselves.

    You are what you eat.

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