For the past five years a Colorado elementary school teacher has been asking each of her students to write down one thing that they would like her to know about them. Last year she started sharing her students’ responses online and the Twitter hashtag #iwishmyteacherknew went viral. Last week the story was picked up by The New York Times and the teacher, Kyle Schwartz, recently published a book on the topic.
The honesty and vulnerability reflected in the students’ responses has tugged at the heartstrings of teachers and parents across the country. They remind us that kids intuitively know what our educational system too often seems forget – that their social and emotional lives define who they are as students and affect their ability to learn.
Perhaps more than any other students, kids and teens with ADHD are misunderstood. Their outward behavior and performance often don’t reflect their internal world. Their ADHD symptoms make it hard for them to meet the expectations of teachers and classmates, and they get worn down by the daily struggle to fit into classrooms that weren’t designed with their brains in mind.
Students with ADHD wish their teachers knew that:
- They are frustrated and discouraged before they even get to class because their ADHD makes it so hard for them to get ready for school and out the door on time.
- They don’t choose to only focus on things that are really interesting to them. It’s just that no matter how hard they try they can’t seem to get their brains to click into gear when something isn’t really engaging.
- They can’t stand the fact that they disappoint people.
- They feel embarrassed when teachers criticizes them in front of the class, even if they don’t let their feelings show.
- They get discouraged when teachers tell them to try harder. They’re already trying hard, but it’s difficult to see because their ADHD keeps getting in the way.
- They feel like they don’t fit in and they don’t know why.
- They wish they had more friends, but nothing that they do seems to get kids to like them more.
- They need help. And they know it. But they don’t always know how to ask for it.
There is so much that kids and teens with ADHD want their teachers to know about them, and this list is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe one of the most important insights is that students with ADHD don’t always understand why things are hard for them but they desperately wish they could ‘fit in’ and meet the expectations of their teachers, fellow students, and parents. Every student with ADHD struggles, but how that struggle plays out is different for each individual. I would encourage teachers to spend some extra time getting to know their students with ADHD. Ask them to write down something they wish you knew about them. Talk to them about the things that are hard. Then work together on strategies that will help them reach their full potential.