I teach a student who has ADHD that has caused his educational experience to be quite challenging. Exacerbating that challenge is the fact that he has been told that his ADHD has caused his educational experience to be quite challenging. He’s been told, both explicitly and implicitly that his ADHD means that he can’t focus, he doesn’t have control over his actions, and that there are certain things he can’t do.
In addition to his ADHD, he has a toothache, his support services teacher is mean, he has glasses, his back hurts, he needs more help than he is getting, and also, he doesn’t need any help. I’m not making this up. I’ve heard all of these excuses and more as to why hs is or isn’t doing certain things.
I actually really like him, and I’m excited about who I think he can grow to become if he will stop making so many excuses.
Oh! He also found a way to use the word bullcrap in class on two separate occasions last week (5th grade). As in,
“What?! This is bullcrap” or
“I don’t know how to do any of this. Can I call my mom? Why not? This is bullcrap!”
So last week was particularly interesting.
As he launched into his ADHD defense, I finally asked him:
He wasn’t really sure what to say. So I asked him again.
What are you going to do? Quit? You have ADHD, you wear glasses, your tooth hurts, you don’t like some of your teachers, math is challenging for you, reading is challenging for you.
What are you going to do?
I know I can get there in a hurry myself. I can get to the point where I am telling myself all sorts of excuses about why I can’t do something, why I haven’t reached a goal, or pointed out all of the obstacles in my path.
And I may not like to hear it, but a really important question to ask in those times is:
What are you going to do about it?
What I’ve decided to do about IT, is to make a conscious effort every day to speak the truth to myself, rather than listen to all of the lies that the voice inside of my likes to sell me on. Lies like:
“Good try, but THIS is where you really belong”
“You might able to do X, but you will never be able to be Y”
“You don’t have the ______ to be able to do ________”
“Of course that happened. You are a ____________”
“You can’t do ________ because of your__________”
You’ve heard them. You may have your own that you hear more often, but you’ve heard them.
What’s bullcrap is that we are willing to live life listening to the lies rather than abiding in the truth.
And in speaking to a team today, we discussed the idea of playing a game with perfect circumstances. We didn’t forget any of our gear at home, our jersey is fitting just right, we are starting, our coach isn’t “yelling” at us, all of our teammates are encouraging us, our parents are in the stands (or not, depending on your perfect scenario), and as we warm up everything is going in. The other crowd isn’t heckling us, the referees make NO bad calls and even when they do, they go in our favor. We don’t feel fatigued, and our defensive and offenseive game plan works perfectly.
The question asked was how easy would it be to be successful in that situation. Of course, it would be easy.
And while that example is a clearly an exaggeration, there are certainly games that go more smoothly than others for us, where we feel less stress and face less obstacles. There are stretches in our lives where we don’t get unexpected bills, or bad news, or extra challenges at work, and where our kids are behaving like the perfect angels we have raised them to be.
And during those times, it’s easy. It’s easy to be upbeat, successful and to do right things, when it’s easy. There’s no real honor there to me. I mean, good for us for doing things right when it’s easy, but it’s kind of like the participation trophy that everyone is complaining about recently. Let’s not pat ourselves on the back too hard for doing things right when it’s easy. (almost) EVERYONE can be successful given ideal circumstances.
The truth is, it’s not easy very often. That doesn’t mean life stinks, it is just reality. There are challenges, and pretty consistently, life is tough. So if we are only prepared to be successful and to do well during the easy times, then during the (many) tough times, we are going to find ourselves flailing our arms about talking about how we can’t do anything because of our ADHD, our toothache, our glasses, our bank account, our age, our education, our lack of talent, or any other number of excuses we want to bring up during the challenging times.
It’s easy when it’s easy. But it’s rarely easy.
I think one of the keys to facing the inevitable challenges, is not to pretend they aren’t there, but rather, acknowledge their presence, and then determine, “what now?” Recognize the challenge that has been presented. Tough class, hard schedule, job loss, financial crises, unexpected change, etc. and understand that for the time being, this is where you must operate. You can quit, struggle and complain your way through it, or….
In these moments I want to encourage us to: Recognize but don’t Retreat.
Recognize your challenge, but don’t run from it (because you can’t, really). And don’t be consumed by what you CAN’T do right now.
Tomorow I’ll post on how we can speak truth to ourselves, rather than be crippled by listening to the lies.