More than half a century ago, I came home from third grade with a very red and swollen ear much to the horror of my mother! Sadly my third grade teacher, Mrs. Jones (the name has been changed to protect the innocent) was pulling me around the room by my left ear.
Next day, first thing in the morning, my mother accompanied me to school and walked into a full classroom with me to confront my teacher. A sweet woman, she flushed while her eyes filled up telling my mother that she did not know what to do with me to get me to be quiet and sit in my seat. Without warning, the desperate woman turned toward me, and started shaking me, and asked my mother if rather than pulling my ear, she could try shaking me as a way to get me to behave??
I have spent over 40 years in education trying to battle a one size fits all model of education that assumes that every child is identical to every other child, and that learning differences are learning disabilities, which today are being widely treated with drugs like Adderall and Ritalin.
Frequently, I have tweeted using the hashtag #ADHDProud as a transparently defensive way to celebrate myself and others like me, many of whom became very successful in creative fields where having a brain that operated like a hard drive was a unique advantage.
Working very closely with educators around the world these last 5 years both in person, and virtually on Skype and Google+, I have come to realize that curriculum's under the pressure of standardized testing, have become even more rigid; continue to disadvantage, and even punish those children with learning differences.
What I had not realized was the collateral damage that was being created for many teachers, counselors, librarians and even administrators, whose careers, tenure, and livelihood were now also being affected and judged against these very same tests and standards.
Many of these educators shared my own vision for what education would look like if we taught the whole child, every child, respecting and enriching class time because of learning differences while celebrating diversity.
The stress on students, even the high achievers has been well documented. Happily, in some schools and districts meditation and mindfulness practice have now found their way into the classroom through groups like The New Leaf Yoga Foundation and Kate Munding’s: Heart-Mind Education Program.
This blog post “ADHD Payback” on one level is repaying a debt to Mrs. Jones and many of the other teachers who found me in their classroom throughout elementary and junior high school. But more broadly, it is to all the educators I have worked with around the world these past years who struggle to remain motivated, calm, positive, confident and resilient in the face of overwhelming challenges and stressors that go way beyond the one single “bad boy!” (Me).
The work of Jon Kabat-Zinn and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) has become well known and the driver for much of the momentum that has led to the growth in popularity and increased interest in Mindfulness around the world.
Fortunately for educators in Toronto and Ontario, Mindfulness Everyday, while offering traditional MBSR programs, is also providing a unique program designed specifically for educators: smartEDUCATION Professional Development for Educators in association with the University of British Columbia.
Having enrolled in their accelerated summer program Mindfulness for Educators: smartEducation™ it is my hope that the skills I learn will help me going forward as I continue to work with educators both here in Toronto and around the world.
For those of you with teenagers living in Toronto there are still openings at this summer’s Toronto Teen Retreat 2016 that begins on August 6th. You can find out about other programs like this one happening elsewhere around the US on the iBme website at http://ibme.info/register/
Questions, Comments? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org