Thursday, May 10, 2012

"She's sweet, but scatterbrained..." or how can one teach with a neurobehavioral issue?

please bear with me today as I throw a small pity party for myself. It gets a little better towards the end of the post (I hope!)

I told my husband that it would be a disaster -- the fact that I'd be forced to look at my evaluations in order to submit an application for the possible job that took my peace away. I generally don't  read my evaluations -- though I know I should (they didn't required us to do it in graduate school and I did it only  to submit job applications years later and oh... how I hated looking at them! It brought floods of memories of those semesters, how hard I had tried, how long those summer course afternoons were...).

I didn't/don't read them because I know that it's just too devastating for me, I can't handle it. I am fully aware that I have issues, tons of them and I know I need tons of therapy too, and that I need to "grow up" -- I know, this is true, don't tell me it's not! -- and that I'm a pathetic human being -- I know that this isn't true so you don't need to tell me either -- but it does feel that way a lot of the time when you're a "faulty" human being with ADHD.

So... I had to make copies of some of the evaluations, so I had to read, and... well... it was and is pretty disastrous in my head right now. 

The truth is that I can't (and have never been able to) handle criticism -- though I'm a really harsh critic of myself, all the time. I don't know why, but I just can't deal with it at all!! It poisons my entire life, it makes me want to quit and never do a thing again, it proves my point that I can't do anything right and that I'm just really horrible at what I do. (OK, not entirely true, I know).

And I know you have to student evaluations with several grains of salt, but... ultimately? They are writing the TRUTH. They know who I am and I truly am not a good teacher at all. I should be doing something else with my life. (OK, that's extreme again, but still... maybe I should, who knows?).

Those of you out there who receive glowing evaluations semester after semester -- you know what you're doing and how to do it well. You've been well trained (or learned from experience how) to do a good job, you prepare for teaching as you should (and perhaps, unlike me, you're actually paid decently). Well... I'm not you, I don't know what I'm doing, I haven't been well trained to do it, I don't have ANY confidence in my abilities, I just can't do it well... MAYBE, JUST MAYBE, *YET.* oh, and I'm paid next to nothing and I seriously am not going to give more than the minimum necessary time to teach these classes. seriously. (so it is partly my fault and I recognize that without regrets in the way that has to do with dedication of time).

The worst part for me right now is that now that I know for sure that I have ADHD, it's much, much more painful! Because now that I have it, I'm stupid enough to mention it to people, without thinking. And the main thing several students wrote was what's in the title, and that I'm disorganized.Other than that (and a few attacks on the irrelevance of the material -- their fault, not mine! some really didn't care to learn about Brazil at all), they weren't that bad, but it's the bad that stays with you.

One last thing. I know what one of my biggest problems is that I'm too transparent. (and I've always been and I value that a lot in me, I really can't stand hypocrisy). For living in society, though, this trait is a very negative thing because it means I don't know how to "fake" and pretend that I know it all, that I'm really prepared (or, in other circumstances, to pretend that I'm not upset, or mad or disgusted at something).  Regarding the classroom don't know how to look serious and collected and authoritative. I'm just plain old me... all the time. Sometimes frazzled, sometimes more confident, most of the time, pretty insecure.

I remember that one time Professing Mama wrote about her persona and how she posted a photo of her wearing glasses in her blog and how that was part of her "persona" and looking smarter, more professional. I just can't do that. 

OK, pity party over now!! please don't throw rocks at me!! I wrote most of  this hours ago (minus the transparency comments above), about 4:30 pm, but I won't delete a thing, I need to process this.

The post is already too long, but I promise to write another one letting me off the hook and totally blaming the students for their lack of interest and laziness...

P.S. I hope someday I can blog about this whole inferiority complex I have because of how absolutely brilliant some Brazilian professors I had were/are. Oh, and I've had students who were way brighter & more insightful than me in my classrooms. And I felt inadequate.


Spanish prof said...

Teaching gets better with time. I certainly know that. As for authority, I think a great part is believing that you have that authority, knowing that you may be the coolest professor on earth (or not), but that if necessary, I will show them who has the power. It sounds bad, and I've only exercised it a few times, but it is possible to have a friendly and laid back approach while at the same time keeping the distance. In the end, remember ( and remind them if necessary) that you are the one who is grading them. As an example, this semester I had a student who would not stop texting in class, even when I asked him repeatedly. When I enter midterm grades, I gave him a 0 in participation (that in itself was 5% of his final grade), and didn't change it regardless his complaints and begging). He changed 180 degrees the second half of the semester.

Spanish prof said...

As for the ADHD, I was also diagnosed not that long ago, putting a name and explaining a behavior that I always thought was a "defect" I had. The coping mechanism I developed even before knowing what I had, at least as it relates to teaching, was routine and lists. Every Sunday I would either write the class plans for the following week or, at least, a day by day list of what I intended to accomplish the following week and when would I do it. Then, if you remember you have to do something, WRITE it down at that moment. Also, it is helpful before each class, if you have to announce something (quiz next week), to write it down and bring the note with you do that you do not forget.
I've written a few posts in my blog about my rxperiences with ADHD (label ADD). Take a look at them, you may find them helpful. Also, I've found the book "Driven to Distraction" incredibly useful.
Hope it helps.

nicoleandmaggie said...

Re: Evals...

I have my husband go through them and translate them into less emotional language for me. In years where I have to use the evals for something I have him collect the good comments in a word doc. In years I don't, I ask him to summarize anything useful from the evals so that I get the important info without having to deal with the raw comments.

jo(e) said...

If you asked my students if I look "serious" or "collected" or "authoritative," they would laugh like crazy. I am never those things in the classroom. I act the same way as I do in real life. I love the books that I teach and I love teaching, and I think that enthusiasm shows, and I think that matters more.

I think sometimes we have outdated ideas of what a "good teacher" looks like. I think, to be honest, that I'm pretty disorganized, but I prefer to think of myself as "flexible and willing to change plans to accommodate student needs and current events."

I think the key is to figure out your strengths in the classroom and focus on that. Don't beat yourself up for being someone you're not.

Anonymous said...

My students are routinely more interesting and insightful than I am. It's the best part. Really.

You have the authority by virtue of your office as a teacher. What matters after you recognize that is that you embrace who you are and the way you do things. You don't need to be more professional or more serious or whatever. You need to bring yourself to the classroom--your best self but your own self all the same.