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. . . )