So, I’m a teacher. As I teacher, I pride myself on being a know-it-all. Just ask my husband. He would agree. While I claim to know it all, I need to admit to some weaknesses in the classroom.
In particular, working with students who have attention issues is not one of my strengths. Despite these students’ gifts, like creativity, curiosity, endless energy, and personality, I still struggle. I know this sounds strange coming from a special education teacher. The truth is this: in order for these kids to succeed in a traditional academic setting, they need lots of patience and support from teachers. I rarely get upset or angry, but I do feel ineffective. It’s like as soon as I’ve dealt with one issue, another one pops up.
A typical class period for a student with attention issues may look something like this…
- can’t find a pencil, so I provide one
- can’t find last night’s homework, so I provide an extra copy
- while I’m getting that extra copy, the student starts talking to other students (about nonacademic topics)
- when I deliver the copy, the new pencil is gone
Sound familiar? These behaviors seem disrespectful and careless, don’t they? Oh, these poor kids get into so much trouble. We need to remember that for kids with attention deficits, these behaviors are not intentional and teachers shouldn’t take them personally. I mean, it could be a diagnosed disability, after all! These behaviors are out of their control. Of course, it’s important for us to stay calm. Getting frustrated and upset doesn’t help anyone. I’ve yelled, but it wasn’t productive and left both of us (my student and me) feeling bad.
So, what can we do? Educators and parents need lots of strategies. A few years ago, I created a resource to help. It’s called “Toolkit for Students Who Struggle with Attention and Organization.” The strategies in this resource are aimed to improve focus, simplify the learning process, and minimize distractions. Looking back at this resource is a good reminder for me, too.
Let’s take a look at the situation I mentioned earlier and what I could have done differently:
- can’t find a pencil (I could meet with student weekly to make sure his/her supplies are fully stocked and/or keep a supply of pencils in my classroom for the student.)
- can’t find last night’s homework (I could make sure my student is using a binder with tabs or that he/she carries a “Turn In” folder for assignments that need to be turned in the next day. The student could also have a “Backup” folder with a second copy of assignments.)
- while I’m getting that extra copy, the student starts talking to other students (I could assign the student a seat away from distractions or use that time to encourage the student to take a break, like go get a drink of water.)
- when I deliver the copy, the new pencil is gone (I could ask the student to go get another pencil from the supply in my classroom.)
These strategies are a mix between teaching coping skills and also providing support in the classroom. Both enable the student to fully participate and access the curriculum. That’s what we want, right? So what if I use half of my classroom budget on pencils? I’ve provided access to the curriculum and lowered the frustration level for both of us.
Writing this blog post has been a valuable reminder for me. I’m thinking of what I will do differently next year (tomorrow is the last day of school before summer vacation starts). If you would like my “Toolkit for Students Who Struggle with Attention and Organization,” please visit the Products page. This is a FREE printable with lots of easy to implement suggestions. Just click on “Toolkit for Students Who Struggle with Attention and Organization” and follow the directions to have the printable sent directly to your email inbox.
Once again, I hope you found this information helpful and thank you so much for reading. If you have any comments, I would love to hear them! Please leave your thoughts in the section below.