It’s back to school time. Every September I feel the pull. The dread. School was never a great experience for me.
Each teacher phrased it differently, but all of my report cards bore the same warning: “Ricky is capable of achieving more.”
And the only specific advice the educators gave my parents was, “He needs to try harder.” This was years before Yoda explained, “There is no ‘try’, either you do, or do not.” All through elementary and high school, I would promise to try harder. Sometimes I did do, sometimes, not.
Try harder? What nobody seemed to understand was that I was actually trying has hard as I could. I was working my heart out. I wasn’t holding back. I was focusing as hard as I could, reading as fast as I could, memorizing as much as I could absorb.
And the result was straight C’s.
As a kid, I loved trains. When Mrs. Femson read us the story of The Little Engine That Could, I felt like the Clumsy Caboose That Couldn’t.
What was wrong with me? Lazy? Dumb? Uncaring? Or suffering from low levels of certain neurotransmitters because the reuptake mechanism was too quick. Everyone assumed it was the first three. Including me.
Long into adulthood I still had nightmares of being short one credit, unable to graduate from school. Or forgetting an exam and having to repeat a year. Or late for a class and lost in a maze of buildings.
It wasn’t the low grades that weighed so heavily on me. It’s what they meant. What they predicted. They foretold a prophecy of failure: “If school is supposed to prepare me for life and a career, I’m clearly going to be having a lousy career and a life of underachieving. I’m sure I’ll die alone and friendless, because of my poor penmanship.”
If I couldn’t manage Grade 8, how would I cope in the real world?! Dreams? Ambitions? Long term goals? I was certain I’d be lucky to draw a paycheck.
Of course school is not the real world. Penmanship counts for less than I’d been lead to believe. And no offense to Algebra or Advanced Differential Equations, but a few courses on Personal Finance, How to Win Friends, and Organizational Skills would have been nice. In fact, I suppose the underlying mission of every video in our shop is to give you information on ADHD and tools so you and your family will know what I never knew. Two videos, ADHD Goes To School and Parenting Kids Who Have ADHD, would have been life changing for my parents and for me.
In a way, I was lucky. My mom didn’t compare me to my brothers. (My brothers who were getting high marks in special gifted programs.) She knew I was doing things no other kid in the neighborhood was doing—creating a huge model railroad, putting on magic shows, making movies, drawing cartoons, building huge forts. Creating, creating, creating…
But I couldn’t help compare myself. So when we were making those two videos, on parenting and on school, a lot of stuff came up for me. “If only I’d known… If only my teachers had understood…”
Then I remind myself, what’s done is done.
As every parent knows, our kid’s happiness means more than our own. Armed with knowledge of the disorder and the school system we were able to make a huge difference for our kids. In fact, the videos contain tools and accommodations that were not available even 5 ago. We had access to all this new knowledge and our kids were able to find solutions and get accommodations to succeed. Today, their self-confidence and self-esteem is something to behold. And that’s all that really matters now.