Learning The Art of Teacherly Love

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 15 2012

Be the Calm in the Storm

You may think you’ve seen ADHD in action, but you have no idea.

When a child, physically, mentally, and emotionally, has no control due to the neurological functioning of his brain…
When he cannot sit, or stand, or walk even, without throwing his arms up, or grabbing anything within reach, because he felt the urge to… When he breaks 5 pencils you hand him, one right after the other, because he cannot control how strongly he is pressing, or he just needed to release some aggression… When he follows that pencil-breaking with removing the metal erasers from the broken pencils with his teeth, then asks, each time he does it, to spit out the eraser in the trash across the room… When he crawls on the floor during your lesson, because he saw a small piece of trash and wanted to help… When he nearly takes you tumbling down the stairs with him because he cannot walk normally while you are holding his hand to contain his flailing arms… When he asks every 3 seconds to go to the bathroom, get a drink, play on the computer, get a tissue, a new pencil, sharpen his pencil… When one impulsive thought comes out of his mouth followed immediately by another, and then an impulsive movement or action follows that at the rate of a Tornado…

That is when you have witnessed the realities of ADHD.

Anyone who is still in doubt about the existence or impact of ADHD, despite what the research shows, you are cordially invited to visit my classroom. :)

All doubts will be erased.  Within minutes.

While the student I described above is quite possibly the most severe case of ADHD I have personally seen, keep this in mind:  ALL of my students have some mild to severe form of ADD or ADHD, on top of their other Learning Disabilities.  Needless to say, their constant distractibility and impulsiveness impedes their abilities to focus on the academic tasks, further contributing to their cognitive delays.  Hence, why they are with me for the majority of their day.

Now let’s rethink that… That means I have a Tornado, with minor fluctuating Wind Storms occurring throughout the rest of the room, at all times of the day.

While other teachers may let this stress and frustrate them to their core, I seem to have an abnormal response to the chaos:  Complete and total calm; patience.
Do not ask me how I do this.  Do not ask me how I developed this.  It is clearly a gift that God gave me to handle the challenges of the job He has blessed me with.

So, my students, even when they are supposed to be with their regular education classmates, are often sent back to me, during my prep and lunch.
I do not have some sort of magical powers like they think.  I have a God given strength to give my students the Calm they need.
You cannot wait for the calm to happen, you simply have to Be the Calm.

I like to think of it in terms of physical pain tolerance.  Generally speaking, gymnasts have an unusually high pain tolerance… In my new world, this has simply translated into an unusually high patience level.
It also helps that my initial reaction to some of the things my Tornado and Wind Storms do is laughter.
Honestly, I think it’s a little funny when my student is dancing while holding the hand of the school social worker, when he should be getting in line.. silently… But I could be wrong?

Things I wish I could say to the general education teachers who send my students out of their rooms:

  • “Come on, you have to admit, it was kind of funny..”
  • “Just give them more chances, please? They deserve it. They NEED it.”
  • “Patience is a virtue.”
  • “Keep calm. Teach on.” 

The ultimate lesson we need to learn, though, whether we are in a classroom or not:
Be the Calm in the Storm.

Finally, I leave you with this:
Weekly Philly Photo Recap
The Beginnings of “Phall” :)

A Rutgers Fall Saturday
Complete with Bus Tailgating and a Shut-out Knight Victory!

Back-to-School Night Parent Handout

The Philly Skyline View from Mann Elementary

As always,
With LOVE, from West Philly

6 Responses

  1. It truly sometimes gives me the chills to know there is a publisher as soothing as you out there.

  2. Thats good, your blog is cool, i like it. Thanks for the efforts my friend.

  3. Thank you for your thoughtful present of having written this article. The message seems to be given to me specifically. Our son also had a lot to learn from this – though he was the individual that found your site first. Most of us can’t imagine a more superb present than a gift to encourage that you do more.

  4. Laura

    Personally, I didn’t interpret anything that was written here, or in any of your posts for that matter, as condescending or putting down other teachers. I feel that you do a wonderful job in helping your readers understand your story and your experiences! Also, I think that everyone copes with stress differently, and it seems to me that you find ways to remain positive despite the daily challenges you face. This positivity will certainly help you to keep a clear head to decide on the best and most effective ways to remedy any “bumps” you meet in your day. I know you are and will continue to be a wonderful teacher, role model, and positive influence in your boys’ lives!

    It is good to hear how different people interpret your posts, but I just wanted to share my opinion.

  5. bschwam

    Actually, I think you read into this a bit too much.. My experiences so far, with all of my colleagues, special ed, gen ed, and administrators, have been nothing but positive. I have so much respect for them, and admit to them daily that I could not do their job; a classroom full of students. However, this respect goes both ways. They admit to me that they simply cannot manage my students when they need so much personal attention while these teachers have 20-30 other students to manage. Also I hardly ever consider my students to be “acting out” since they neurologically have no control over it. Nor do I always respond with laughter (and if I do my students do not see me do this, it is after they have left). I feel that responding with joy and humor (one of my school’s core values) has been the best response to their behaviors. When their behavior warrants a more severe response, the appropriate consequences are given according to their Positive Behavioral Support Plans. My Special Education Admin and colleagues have reported to me that this response, calm and positive, works best for these particular students. Thanks for your concern about identifying myself and my school.
    Also, I recommend you read the other posts.. you may find out that I am not a “typical” TFA corps member, as I do have education experience.
    Thanks for reading!

  6. Meg

    I’m not sure how you intended this post to sound, but it comes across as very condescending to other teachers. You’re making blanket assumptions about teachers after a few weeks of experience. This is exactly the sort of mindset that makes people hate TFA. Youre in for a rough first year if you laugh every time your kids act out, and if you’re going to continue disparaging your co-workers on a public Internet forum, you should take care to not publish identifying information about your school or yourself.

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Dare to Teach with Love… Never cease to Learn.

Greater Philadelphia
Elementary School
Special Education

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