A few weeks ago i was in town and I bumped into an old maths teacher of mine. For this Blog I will call her Mrs A. Mrs A is quite a pleasant lady who always had a big smile and hello for me, which is kind of surprising and makes me feel a bit guilty for some of my behaviours towards her when i was at school. Back then I hated all teachers, the authorities. For me they were the enemy and I’m sure they didn’t think much of me either. I recognise that I didn’t give teachers an easy time I lacked the empathy and understanding to recognise that many teachers were just trying to do their best to do their job.
That day in town Mrs A and I had an interesting conversation regarding ADHD. First of all we did the pleasantries, asking each other how we were, Mrs A explaining she had been retired for a number of years and then we briefly discussed how great it is to see the sun. In Co. Fermanagh it is always a topic of conversation if the sun comes out because it usually never stops raining. Then Mrs A asked me what I was working at these days and I explained that I was a founding director of Adult ADHD NI an organisation set up to support Adults and families affected by ADHD etc. etc.. Mrs A said “well done Niall, that sounds like good work your doing”. Then brightly laughing she said “isn’t it funny in my day there was no ADHD we called them BOLD CHILDREN”
Well I was glad she said it because I went on to tell her the following story, perhaps not quite as detailed, but she got the idea. It was actually Mrs A’s class that gave me a greatest understanding of how my school had failed me due to lack of knowledge or willingness to support students with various needs. It was in year 4 that i ended up in Mrs As math class. Mrs As math class was what ye called top maths at my school. The maths class for the brainy students, the students that got everything really easy and the students that automatically understood how a2 + b2 = c2. So what the hell was I doing there? I was still trying to work out when they started adding the alphabet to sums, I must have missed that day. The reason I was there was due to the teacher I had from the year before. For this Blog ill call her Mrs B.
Mrs B was my ultimate nightmare. From the very first moment I met her at the door of her classroom Mrs B was screaming at me. At that particular moment she had no reason to scream at me but I can only assume that she had heard from other teachers that I had been a handful and she was not for taking any nonsense. Nonsense was my speciality, if I couldn’t be nonsensical I had no idea what my role was. She ordered me to sit right in front of her at the top of the class and the second I opened my mouth she was down on me like a ton of bricks.
When Mrs B screamed the walls shook. Her face would go red then purple and what was even more frightening 10 seconds later she had a big smile on her face talking rather soft and polite. This woman scared the living crap out of me. Every day she was on my back, screaming, shouting and humiliating me in front of my classmates. If I missed homework she would scream at me, if didn’t understand something she would stand over my back and in my mind torture me until I understood it, which kind of motivated me to try and learn because I hated her and I didn’t want her in my vicinity. But most surprising of all at the end of the year I got the highest mark in the whole year and because of this I ended up in ‘top maths’.
During that time I also received a hard punch on the arm by a geography teacher who was sure i cheated because i got 97% in the geography exam he gave us. He received a punch in the face in return. Let us call him Mr C because that is the alphabetic letter that describes him best.
So there I was in Mrs A’s maths class and in with the brainies if ye don’t mind. It was like heaven in comparison to Mrs B’s class. I could sit were I wanted, usually as far to the back as possible and Mrs A didn’t even care if I didn’t understand or I missed my homework, she was a nice teacher, or perhaps indifferent.
For someone with ADHD, especially untreated ADHD the entire situation was recipe for disaster. No structure, no support, no attention and no care. I failed that year and I was dropped to lowest maths class and then I flunked it also. I left school with no GCSEs and to be honest not much hope for the future. Mr C got his own back for me hitting him by simply not accepting the only bit of course work that did for my GCSEs but at that stage it hardly mattered.
That day in town I explained to Mrs A how Mrs B had given me a bit of one to one attention every day, even when i didn’t want it, whilst other teachers just saw me as the Bold Child and ignored me. I explained a little bit more about what ADHD was like for me then and the struggle maintaining attention during classes and how many people we support have had similar negative experiences. I felt Mrs A was beginning to get the picture. Perhaps some of the Bold Children as she called them, had also a condition that prevented them from learning as other children do. I also wondered how many of these bold children’s lives ended tragically young through drugs and alcohol or suicide.
Mrs B although her methods may be questionable, her intentions were good. She was a good teacher with a great heart but if i met her my legs would probably go to jelly, especially after writing this. By screaming at me, she must have created enough dopamine in my brain to sustain my attention long enough to learn the boring math and my attention possibly filtered over to Mr C’s geography classroom. My wish is to raise awareness and to offer support and understanding to not only people with ADHD but their parents, teachers, and healthcare providers I hope to reduce stigma and help those with the condition to reach their potential and live healthy fulfilled lives.
Niall now offers One to One support for people affected by ADHD support through Skype. If you wish to avail of this support service please contact Adult ADHD NI by Email – Niaadhd@gmail.com