As the end of the school year winds down, there is a sigh of relief and reflection on the year gone by. There’s always a list of things that we feel we should have done, a quandary about why things turned out the way they did, and perhaps remorse that we didn’t accomplish all that we intended. No matter the outcome, teachers need to realize that summertime must become a time of renewal. As committed educators we want so much for our students, but without finding in ourselves those many things we have done right, the many positive impacts we have made, we can deplete our self-confidence and spend days commiserating instead of renewing the spirit that took us into teaching in the first place.

My challenge to you, as a dedicated teacher, is to give yourself an inexpensive, stress-free vacation, a renewal of energy, hope, and feelings of self-worth. Vacation, you say, how in today’s tight economy can I afford a vacation? With teacher furlough days, I am barely making ends meet. I have no time, I have Teaching Credits to obtain to keep my license, kids underfoot, friends who think my three months off give me time to do things and be with them. I have a secret for you: If you don’t take care of yourself, there will be no one there for your children; yours, your family, your students.

Summer is the time for renewal. Time to get back in touch with yourself. Time to analyze how you are different. What strengths do you possess that make you the great person you have become? It is time for you to develop a sense of celebrating your achievements and honor the success you have achieved.

Just like during the fall, you need to schedule YOU TIME. You built in time to plan, to grade, to attend staff meetings, workshops. Therefore, it is time to create a schedule with YOU TIME so you can redefine yourself and cherish all the qualities you possess. Teaching is stressful, and none of us can continue in a high-stress life forever without time for renewal.

Begin with your calendar—find a time each day for yourself. It may be a half-hour in the morning before the children awake or after they go to sleep for the night. Your time may be beside the local pool, as your youngsters swim. What about the half-hour before everyone arrives home for dinner? The evening meal may be a bit later, but with the long day folks seldom notice.

Can’t afford that time, as there is so much to do? Laundry to do, clothes to fold, household to tidy, meals to make, errands to run, bills to pay, children to chauffeur, classes to attend, Little League to coach, and a part-time supplemental job. Let me ask you this: What happens if it all doesn’t get done? Does the world end? Granted, paying bills must be a priority, but do it, then reward yourself with time. You are the only one who can give you this privilege and you deserve it.

Next, what do I do with this time? For those of us in the hurry-up world of today, there is always a pile of to-do’s at the end of the day. Slow down. Give your multi-tasking lifestyle a break. Stop: Smell the roses!

Take a moment and reflect upon what passions you have and how you have put them aside. If your passion is reading, find something new, different from your normal focus, and stretch your mind. Read a novel that piques your interest, not a text to teach from tomorrow. Hit the library, the Nook or Kindle corner for their free or 99¢ offer. Wander outside and find a quiet corner. This is a good poolside benefit, or an early morning soothing trip for your mind.

If music is your passion, hunt for a favorite CD. Sit and listen. Give it more focus than just as background noise. Put it on your IPod and listen in your bedroom, then make the bed, instead of doing both at the same time with a get-it-done attitude. Look in the paper for outdoor concerts; many are free on the village green. Take the family or a friend along to share the enjoyment.

Maybe your passion is reconnecting those neurons you worked so hard to establish when you learned French. You have a dream of going to Paris and you want to be able to converse when you get there. Hold on to the dream. Check out French language discs from the library. Use them as your time away from life. A regular session of listening, or for the more visual, the interactive language training series for fifteen minutes a day will raise your competency, make you feel fulfilled, and renew your desire for travel and adventure. If languages are not your thing, explore travel videos, travelogues on the TV, or other fantasy trips to places foreign and unique.

Or maybe cooking is your passion. Use it to the fullest. Find new and exciting meals that support a healthy lifestyle. Enlist your family in picking out the fresh produce; fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and unique pastas so abundant this time of year. Explore farmers markets and local produce stands, selecting for even the pickiest eater. Moving from the McDonald, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A lanes to the household fruit bin does wonders for everyone’s attitude, activity level, and zest for living. That is where we want to go.

If you love the out-of-doors, plan picnics to the local parks, walk wilderness areas, hike the forgotten trail, bring others for a day of fun and exploration. If you’re lucky, you may have a beach or lake close by. If you have small ones and can’t find a sitter, create a secluded hideaway in your own back yard, even if it is under a beach umbrella in a far corner. Walk, bike, swim, play tennis, or just find a park bench and sit enjoying the view. You do not have to be active every moment of the day. Our brains need plenty of outdoor time, as well as plenty of time to just float and reflect.

Remember that it is hot in the summer, and for Atlanta it is already well into the 90s. Hydrate, hydrate, and hydrate. For yourself, drink plenty of water and make it a family choice to run with the water bottle in hand. The way we act models for those around us.

You may really love summer because you can watch special shows you never have time to see during the year. Do it. However, make it a mini-vacation by turning off the lights, and really look and listen. For those with technological genius genes, record the show, edit out the commercials, and really have a wonderful viewing session. Most of us are watching while folding wash, editing a paper, or doing myriad other things. Remember: Multitasking really means not doing any of the tasks well. Shut off the distractors and focus. We need that discipline as much as the kids do.

Practice relaxation techniques. Take yoga via a CD, at the Y, or a local class. Learn the art of focusing within. You may also choose some of the other Eastern meditation techniques, or study Qigong or Tai Chi. Relaxation techniques are wonderful once mastered and help to give you the feeling of being centered and at peace with your surroundings. Lowering stress is so necessary to keep in focus and balance with all you have to deal with.

Reconnect with family and friends. Get reacquainted with neighbors and folks from your church or synagogue. Connect with the older members of your family and learn their stories, as they are so prone to tell them. Later you will be glad you did. Create a drop-in barbeque where everyone brings a dish to share. Pot luck at its finest! Have it in the backyard, so you don’t have to clean the house. Or go to a local park where no one can dare to look inside. This is time to enjoy friends: reconnect with some, get acquainted with others. Toxic folks not invited. This is your time to enjoy and renew. Do not let the toxic negativity of others have you question your motives, strategies or reasons. Your reason is simple. They make you less than you are, so stay away. Bring out the balls, bats, frisbees, and horseshoes. An old-fashioned ice cream social, here we come.

Find old friends via chat rooms, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the like. Join Skype for free and create a new sense of warmth between long-distance friends. Again, shy away from those whose negativity gets you down. Be careful you don’t become an Internet slave—relish, enjoy, and delete a lot. Remember, an early day look at your email may last all day. Don’t be kidnapped by the Net!

Why is all of this about you? Because, Teacher, we value you so. We want you to have the best summer ever. We want you to feel the love we have for you between the pages of each book, the song of each bird, the sound of lapping water, and the soft breeze as it passes by. You are special to us and we need you to know this. Have a peaceful, renewing summer filled with pleasant enjoyment.



What a simple word trust is, only five letters long. It is easy to sound out and phonetically regular. It is something we say constantly, often used in context as Trust me. How do we know more than others?  Why should someone trust us?  What is it with this word?

Trust can be a noun or a verb, can be used as an idiom, and has viable synonyms. It is one word so small, but so vital and powerful when you consider the balance of trust each of us must have in life.

Trust is one of the areas with which our youngsters with ADHD have a great deal of difficulty. Trust is defined as reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, and surety of a person. It is the confidence of expectation that things will work out for the good. But for our youngsters, trust is a word of loss and insecurity. For many of us with ADHD, the phrase trust me has been heard all too often.

Consider how many times a youngster with ADHD tries his or her best, but best is not good enough. Consider how many times impulsive creativity is met with scorn. How many times did she pour out her heart, only to be told her product was unworthy? The fragile self-image of childhood is undermined and the result is a feeling that you are unable to perform. You have lost confidence; surely you are unable to be successful, and certainly you are indeed one of those names you have been called—lazy, clumsy, stupid, ditzy, space patrol, planet surfer, chandelier-swinger, spaz, or moron, and so forth. Is it any wonder that the ability of the ADHD child to have trust in himself or herself plummets after each comment?

Adults report that they are still beset with comments from childhood that never go away. It is as if each one has a backpack permanently attached to his or her mind. The backpack is full of negative tape recordings which, in response to a negative tone, word, or insinuation brings forth the multitude of times when they were told over and over again that their work was of inferior quality, their comment insincere, their behavior inappropriate, their idea insignificant, and their creativity indecipherable. It is no wonder that the child through adult will feel distrust in themselves and a feeling of lowered self-worth. It is no wonder such a person will begin to have difficulty trusting others.

To trust is to rely upon, to place confidence in someone. To trust another to be honest leads to the vulnerability to be bullied. For if you trust someone, you do as they ask. Once the vulnerability is evident the power of the bully has complete control. Once you are under someone’s control, child or adult, your heightened vulnerability makes you unable to move beyond being controlled by another.

To trust should enable you to have confidence, hope, and resilience. These are the powers we must strive to place in our ADHD youngsters. It is imperative that we build confidence by enabling success. For only if one can feel the thrill of success will one begin to have confidence that one can indeed succeed and move beyond the self-doubt. Only then can one begin to trust in oneself and others.

As teachers, one of the most effective ways of developing your students’ trust is to comment honestly and kindly. Pointing out the positive portions of their responses, answers, and projects is important. Remind yourself that they have already heard about their shortcomings. Remember to avoid the use of if only, but if, and I thought you would have, all indicating that even their best response was not good enough. As teachers we so want our students to be successful and to achieve greatness, that we are so quick to point out how much better something would have been if…!

I remember as a child wanting to be able to draw, and I spent hours trying to be creative, often long into the night. The only comments I can recall were how I could have used other colors, media, techniques, and subjects. My most horrifying nightmare came in fourth grade, when I spent an inordinate amount of time drawing a braided rug with a cat sleeping in the center. My mother, bless her well-meaning sarcasm, commented on the spotted cow I had drawn and asked why didn’t I just cut one out of a magazine and paste it on the page. Our impulses of the moment can cut to the quick. When the vulnerability of the ADHD sensitivity is involved, our words must be couched and monitored to hold them harmless.

Many words mean trust: to believe, to rely, to confide, to commit, to entrust, to intrust. Words that radiate from trust include the emotions of faith, hope, belief, and desire. If you do not have trust, you have distrust or mistrust. To trust is to rely on yourself as you become resilient and confident. This simple word is webbed to an emotion so strong. I feel this visual thesaurus tells the power of trust so well. I am sure you can add your own words to empower the wheel.

It is our job to re-establish a child’s belief in self. Each child should be able to trust in himself or herself, and in you. Each child should feel he or she could trust enough to try, to experiment, and to move out of his or her comfort zone. To trust is to permit oneself to go somewhere or to do something without the fear of consequences. A child must rely on us to develop that trust. That child is in our trust. She or he has been left in our care.

I trust you will be there for them.


As teachers we are creative and innovative, always looking for unique and unusual ways to bring information to our students. We spend sleepless nights pondering how we can present this and that. We often wear ourselves out trying to help those who think differently, who need that unique approach. As yet another approach, I challenge you to use a method developed by gamers called Debriefing. Debriefing comes in two varieties: Debriefing as a macro or micro unit or debriefing in the large and in the small.

Debriefing is using the players or students to determine how the event, presentation, or game could be changed, redesigned, and improved. This is a perfect time to capitalize on the thought processes of students with ADHD, as they are often at their best when challenged to think out of the box. Debriefing is important at the end of every game play. According to Gert Jon Hofstede, the act of debriefing is as important as playing the game itself.

During play, the focus is on the activity, the maneuver, the acquisition, the quest. This is much like any lesson session in the classroom if the students are engaged. However, at the end of the session, students and players move on to whatever comes next. Many times the winner of the game is announced when the game is over, and losers move on. In the classroom, the lecture is over and student minds move on. The teacher or lecturer then creates an exam to determine what the student has learned from the experience.

There is, however, a step between. Debriefing is a period of optimal reinforcement and learning that comes at the end of the game or lecture.

There are simple rules for this debriefing:

  • Everyone has a chance to state an opinion, as we all see things in a different light.
  • No one can criticize another’s point of view, as everyone may not agree on your point of view either.

This is a time when the event can be critically reviewed. It has been shown that this is the time that fine-tunes short-term learning and begins to place knowledge in that reserve, so needed, in long-term capture. 

The process is simple:

  • What have you learned?
  • What do you know now that you did not know at the beginning of this process?
  • How did you like doing this experiment, event, game, or role-play?
  • How would you change it to be more fun?
  • Were things easier to learn?
  • How could this lecture, event, experience have been less boring?
  • What would you like to tell us about your experience? 

Reflect on the game I shared with you last month. The questions  

  • Which way of learning did you like best?
  • What did you think of having to respond in so many ways?

led to a discussion in which the students actually redesigned the content and varied some of the learning responses. Students found some of the words confusing, some of the response areas too similar, and were confused as to how they were supposed to answer.

The students’ creativity came immediately to light. They loved the interactive areas, moving cars down city streets, role-playing traffic scenarios. They were somewhat reticent to respond to the question, What would you do to keep those who were at a party and drinking from driving home? They indicated they wanted to help other players change their answers, and at times felt they knew what to do but questioned whether they could respond as expected when the time came. They were quite candid that some of the key instructional words were too confusing.

Together the students designed new instructional words for the acronym DRIVE that were clearer and had more meaning to them. Their results follow.

D         Demonstrate remained the same as it made sense and could be carried out easily. They loved to role-play. 

R          Reflect became R, Rapid Recall.

R, Reflect did not appear to the students to be significantly different from E, Examine. As a group, the designer, instructor, and players created an additional segment to the game and called it Rapid Recall. The player will identify and describe the meaning of as many road sign, shapes and signals as possible in 2 minutes. 5 points for a successful demonstration  (1/4 point per correct identity). 

The students determined that there was not enough chance to rehearse the road signs and that telling or describing what you would do under two areas was not beneficial. All of these questions or scenarios could be put together. They offered to cut traffic signs from the manual and make flash cards with the sign on one side and its descriptor on the other. Their involvement created initiative they did not have before and created a more interesting and involved section called Rapid Recall.

 I           Instruct  became  I, Illustrate.

Although I used the word Visualize when I asked the student to draw what the situation would look like, using sticker icons, and art material they interpreted Illustrate.  My instructions: Visualize what you would see, was interpreted by them as Illustrate as in drawing. We agreed that this was a better word to use and changed the acronym to I Illustrate, a much more meaningful scenario for the student. My instructions, which I thought were guiding them as to how to perform were obviously superfluous, and they could be more direct with their own interpretations.

V          Visualize

The V, Visualize acronym was retained as the student body determined that moving magnetized cars down printed street plots was actually a very visual representation. They kept all of the directions and activities intact for the I Instruct original acronym but the substitution of the word Visualize was more meaningful.

 E          Examine became E, Explain.

Again my terms and those of the students needed to be fine-tuned. The students said they “got it” when they read stories or scenarios of events and agreed they did have to examine the situation to determine what to do about it, but felt the word explain did the trick.

They liked the process, but clearer instructions were helpful.

Lastly: Get rid of the point system! In playing the game, it was difficult for the students to agree that anyone should not receive full value for his or her attempt, no matter how feeble, insecure, or inadequate the response appeared to the facilitator. This is a strong message as the student who is affected by ADHD is often fragile and in fear of failure. In a trusting situation students with ADHD often will reach out in sensitivity to the feelings of others, even if they can’t see their own shortcomings. Many of the insecure and impulsive students do not want a score, therefore insuring they are okay. Considering that students with ADHD often want to win, verbally show the bravado of being competitive, their underlying feelings are often more fragile and they wanted to get rid of the challenge to win. RESULT: “We learned a lot and had fun—we are all winners!”

This is a perfect example of the impact debriefing in the small can have on a game, activity or other interactive event. Giving the students ownership of changing what has happened, giving them the pride in being honest, and having someone listen to their suggestions and comments. Many youngsters with ADHD do not have the confidence to remark on their feelings as to how they learn, respond or interpret what goes on around them. In this way, the whole class has input, and the student with low self -confidence has a chance to respond.

What did I learn?

  • My terminology sometimes comes from my point of view and needs to be more direct. Keep it simple and to the point.
  • Students when engaged are quite aware of when their needs are met and when they are not.
  • Students can tell you how they understand best, and often how they learn best.
  • When trust is developed and a safe situation supported, candid dialogue can benefit both the student and the instructor.
  • Everyone doesn’t have to win. (This interpretation of what happened by looking at the experience as a whole is macro debriefing.)

Debriefing in the large is the process of stepping back as a teacher, instructor, or facilitator and reflecting on what has happened. Going to other professionals and brainstorming what you learned from your results. I found that I wanted to call Gert and reflect on the honesty of the results that developed during our debriefing session, agreeing with him wholeheartedly that the debrief can essentially be more important than the game itself.

Have a great month and I’ll be back with another teacup of trivia next month.


Reference:  de Caluwe, L, Hofstede, GJ, Peters, V, (2008). Why Do Games Work? In search of the active substance. Klower: NUR

Frequently in our classrooms we come across a topic or exercise that appears simple in its content, but for some reason, the students (or some of them) just don’t get it. This month I’d like to share an experience with you that walks through how my ADHD brain collided with another’s and how we solved the problem.

My client Susie is a very inattentive 20-year-old with inattentive-type ADHD, and we are working on getting her ready to take the Georgia driving exam. How hard can that be? Susie reads well, but only if you consider word pronunciation, pausing at commas and stopping at periods. She has learned the technique. However, content understanding is so missing. She daydreams, thinks of other things, like wondering if the Braves will play a good game that night, whether her dog dug out of the back yard, and whether she feels ill, so she doesn’t have to do work! Remind you of anyone you know?

The issue isn’t one of lack of intelligence. Perhaps some passive-aggressive tendencies interfere due to fear of failure. You can explain material to her until you are blue in the face, but the wandering attention and lack of focus get in the way, and you wear out long before she does. She responds best to visual prompts and remembers most clearly when she is actively involved in the learning. A real take on our learners who need active involvement to stay engaged. Therefore, how do we approach this in the most efficient way so that learning takes place?

Spinning the disks in my own ADHD brain, I came up with designing a game to make the concepts clear, the need for action inherent, and the approach energizing to retain focus. Printing off the Driver Manual, it became evident that it was written by politicians on the State Transportation Committee, and edited by a lawyer with an expertise in legal-eze.

Turning Right at a Red Traffic Signal
“Before turning right on red, drivers must come to a full and complete stop before the crosswalk. Do not block the crosswalk when waiting to make a right turn at a red light. This puts pedestrians at risk, forcing them to walk around your vehicle. After looking to your left to find a gap in traffic, you must look to your passenger side to ensure a pedestrian is not crossing in front of your vehicle.” – GA DDS 2009 Driver’s Manual, p.93

The first issue was to turn some high verbal, overly lengthy description into a simple step-by-step explanation.  Make it short and to the point – Keep It Straightforward and Simple.

1. Come to a complete stop.
2. Do not block the crosswalk.
3. Do not obstruct pedestrians.
4. Look left; find a gap in traffic.
5. Look right; check for pedestrian traffic.
6. Proceed cautiously into a right turn checking oncoming traffic.

The second step was to determine how to operationalize the information so it is interesting, has multiple possibilities of demonstrating competency and makes learning operational and fun. As students with ADHD tire easily using only one approach, varying modes of responses were developed to make the game fast, fun and constantly changing. The name of the game soon determined the multiple operational styles.

The word DRIVE becomes the acronym for the various styles of responses the player would perform.

D – Demonstrate
The player will nonverbally role-play the situation presented on a card. Other players may be called upon to assist so the situation can play out successfully.
5 points for a successful demonstration

R – Reflect
The player will give a presentation as to why a particular driving rule must be followed and the consequences of failing to do so. Statements should be convincing and clear.
5 points for a successful demonstration (1 point per fact given)

I – Instruct
Using printed street plots, the player will demonstrate the situation presented on the card. Some situations will relate to rules of the road, others will relate to common courtesies needed to be a good driver.
5 points for a successful demonstration

V – Visualize
Using printed icons, drawings and other available objects, the student will show using their own imagination and skill, how to relate and pictorially represent a situation and its outcome.
5 points for a successful demonstration

E – Examine
The player will examine a scenario and determine whether or not the situation was legal, proper for a driver to have done, or some part of the event needed to be done differently. Clear and concise understanding of good driving habits should be used.
5 points for a successful demonstration

Instruction cards will be drawn for each play. The color on the card will indicate the type of activity requested. Materials necessary for play will be in boxes, sorted by the type of play.

Actual road scenes, cars, school buses, railroad crossings were captured from Google Images to assist in demonstration. I felt that the closer to reality the visuals became, the more realistic the image reinforcement, the more serious the output. For consequential learning, scenes from automobile accidents and other serious outcome images were used, with tact and appropriateness, of course.

For the Demonstrate phase, a collection of hats, scarves, sunglasses enhances the ability to role play.

Scenario: Darin and Phelicia are walking across the street. Susie is approaching the intersection and intends to turn left. Portray the scene and demonstrate the correct safety precautions and procedures for the left turn.

For the Reflect phase, a simple microphone or podium sets the scene.

Scenario: You are at a party with a bunch of your friends. Some of the kids begin drinking beer and appear drunk. What do you say to them to be sure you all arrive home safely that night?

For the Instruct by showing phase, craft magnets were glued to colored blocks with stickers to represent various cars, trucks, buses. Using a simple cookie sheet, street plots with were placed on the cookie sheet. Adding pedestrians, trees to obstruct the view, cars traveling in various directions, you can easily create a motoring situation to address. The materials were easy to find, easily obtained through the internet, big box and/or art store, and in a short period of time, the highly verbal confusing text of the drivers’ manual has become an operational game.

Answer these questions: What do the signs tell you about how you should drive? Indicate the outcome if you do not obey. Show the outcome.

Instructions: Using the mountain road scene, instruct the proper way to navigate this pass using the car and the truck. On your tray portray what you should do. Can you pass safely? What do the lines in the road tell you?

For the Visualize phase, a box of drawing paper, color markers, icons of signs and vehicles printed on sticky labels assists those who are grapho-motorically delayed. Everyone has a chance to succeed.

Instructions: Draw a picture showing what you should do as you approach a schoolbus loading children.

An easy way to develop stickers or icons is to import simple Google images into an Avery label frame. Stickers can easily be removed and placed on diagrams, avoiding the need to draw with accuracy, enhancing the feeling of success.

For the Examine phase, pictures of auto accidents, judges, court scenes, police all help the player to bring his/her message home.

Answer question: When an officer approaches your vehicle, what violations will result in your immediate arrest?

is not completed yet, unfortunately, but using the DDS Manual, having Susie describe events as we wander through the manual, it is a work in progress. Demonstrating, Reflecting, Instructing, Visualizing, Examining all enhance the learning process.

Teaching is a challenge, especially when our learners hit a brick wall.
I hope this gives you some idea as to how to take one simple subject, and by presenting it in multiple ways, create an exciting learning outcome. I’ll let you know how the game develops as our time together progresses.


When we are doing something we like to do, we all have a difficult time stopping the activity and moving on to something new. It is as if the orchestra leader for our executive function loses his place. He appears to have a difficult time knowing when it is time to do something else, change the pace, the rhythm, or the tone. Smooth voluntary shifting and control seems impossible.

As teachers, we are often aware what activity we want to do next, and how we want to move our class onto our next teaching topic or experience. But somewhere along our way, we seem to leave some of our students behind. We don’t do it intentionally, and they do not linger because of belligerence or willfully defiant behavior. Their ADHD brains have mechanisms that interfere.

Students with ADHD have a difficult time sensing the passage of time, and once in focus, even if on the wrong thing, have an even more difficult time voluntarily putting activities aside and shifting gears. The more highly stimulating the activity, the better they are at keeping their focus, therefore, moving onto other activities and subject matter becomes difficult to impossible.

Many of us with ADHD have the compulsivity to do just one more thing before moving on. It makes us late for appointments, angry when distracted, and irritated with ourselves and others when forced to move on without finishing. Therefore, shifting gears is one of the hardest things for the ADHD brain to accomplish. Yes, neurological documentation exists to explain why this is true, but I’ll leave that to the neurologists at Johns Hopkins and Massachusetts General to explain.


So, what are we as teachers supposed to do to get the ball rolling, or maybe even to help it to stop? The first step is awareness. Knowing that all of your students are not on the same page and working at the same pace is a given.  I don’t need to make you aware of that. Next, is to identify those who always seem to be lagging behind. But the most important key is to know what triggers these students to pay attention!

Let’s begin by analyzing how we can get students to shift out of one activity and be ready for the next. Many tricks we use will help the whole class to focus and know when to finish. A total class approach is the best strategy, as we do not want to single out the student that habitually is not ready for change.


1. Call out: 5 minutes until math class, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute.
2. Ring a bell at: 5 minutes until reading class, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute.
3. Play soft music, preferably classical, to indicate a winding-down time. Increase the volume as time draws near. Stop the music abruptly as a final clue.
4. Use a metronome to denote time.  Speed up at intervals, with a super blitz speed and stop at the end.


1. Blink the classroom lights at prescribed intervals.
2. Have a paper stop light that moves from green, through yellow at a 5  minute signal. 
   • The Yellow moves through 3, 2 minutes.
   • Red comes on at the last minute signaling the student to put things away.
3. Note the time left on the board. Count down as time progresses to the final finish.
4. Post time-left-to-finish cards on an easel at the front of the room. Use time sequences that match the age of the students and complexity of the course.
5. Set up a large Time-timer that has a red wedge indicating the time remaining. The triangle reduces as time passes until no red is visible.  The benefit of this timer is its silence.


1.  Stand next to the first student. Motion for the student to stand at his desk, but to keep working. This sequence begins about 3-4 minutes before transition. 
   a. Each student’s goal is to stand and finish the task they are working on, and then begin to put their material away. 
   b. Student 1 becomes the clue for Student 2  to do the same.  As a chain reaction, each student stands and finishes.  
   c. When it is time to insist upon final completion, have Student 1  put his hands on his head, indicating he is ready for something new. As before, each student repeats the behavior.
   d. This exercise takes a bit of rehearsal until the students know the routine, but is fun, nontraditional, and the kids love it.
2. A simpler form of the above activity is for a bell to ring, and all students stand, finish, and put away.
3. Another adaptation is to use one of the other verbal or visual prompts and have the finished students sit upon their desks or stand when their tasks are completed.
4. Assign a prompting partner. When a child is not focusing well enough to be aware of the many cues you are giving, help him to select a non-threatening partner. The partner must have guidelines, rules and limits, as the intensity coming from the bright, accomplished student may seem as bossy and maybe even intimidating. Selections must be made carefully.


What if you really want the student to finish the task before changing to another activity? Sometimes it is so difficult to get students started on a task, you want to take advantage of the momentum.

1. Make special arrangements with the student to let him know he can continue.
2. Give some students the option to continue on if they feel they need more time. Students raise their hand requesting more time when the count down begins. 
3. Give the child something tangible, like a post-it-note with OK written on it to let the child know he or she can continue. The drifting mind may forget he has been given the extra time. Or, the insecurity developed over time makes him sure you didn’t respond.
4. Use other similar responses to connect and communicate, “go ahead and finish”  to your students.


What if the follow-up activity is to move or leave the room?

1. Tap on the first desk in a row, to line up.
2. Whisper to a student by name—this is made easy by having each student’s name on a card, and you can shuffle these so the order is always random.
3. When students enter the room, give them a number written on an index card, shuffled again to make them random.  This number can be used as line placement, indicating who answers first, a way to jumble partners and many other events.  As the student’s number changes daily, everyone gets a chance.

If the end of the activity includes turning in material remember that:
1. Systems of passing in papers should be routine and predictable.
2. Often inattention to details and lack of focus in the ADHD brain also includes being physically present, but completely unaware that it is time to turn in papers. 
   a. By the time the student becomes aware it is “paper time”, or “homework return” time, the moment is gone. 
   b. Shuffling into the desk, book, backpack becomes a scramble of anxiety.  Papers that become wadded as they are shoved into desks, pants, backpacks are impossible to tell one from another. 
   c. Anxiety raises, and the ADHD mind shuts down, retreats into safe territory and decides the paper can’t be found. 
   d. Again a partner can be a great asset. 
   e. Standing up to hunt, having help hunting, having a silent partner that gives out positive vibes, instills confidence that the paper can be found and reverses the negativity of the situation.
3. Teachers each have their own strategies for turning in papers.  The more organized the better for all. 
   a. Bins at their certain place in the room can be sorted by subject, child, or even down to the level of assignment. 
   b. Some teachers have students initial a chart when they turn in papers such as homework.
Sometimes, mini movement breaks help youngsters to keep focus. Scheduled activities are programmed to help students sift gears positively.  When organizing this approach, it is important to have a built in list of rules and requirements as to how to return to task.


Homework—have we done it or not?

1. It is hard to believe that someone can actually spend two hours on an assignment, have two or three meltdowns, and finally finish the work, get it into the backpack—only to forget to turn it in.
   a. First of all you have to understand that once an assignment is completed, or even stopped, it has been addressed and moves completely out of the ADHD line of focus and is stored in Neverland!
   b. It isn’t that the student doesn’t care, but when the assignment has been thought about, if even briefly, it is often “considered” done. 
   c. If this action has created pain, and the situation is especially emotional, it is removed off radar. Therefore, with the fleeting attention it has been given, the impulsivity to move on to greater and better, more stimulating activities, the original task is long forgotten. 
2. Oh, I’m not making excuses, the work needs to be done and turned in to prove its existence. However, knowing how the neurological system works, gives us a clue as to how we must proceed. Knowing the system, we need to analyze how to repair these nonproductive behaviors.
   • Organizational skills are abominable.
   • Sense of timing is offbeat.
   • Inattention supports lack of focus on detail and a seeming lack of concern about performance.
   • Impulsivity interferes with the ability to carry through to completion.
   • Social skills and the focus on responsibility is delayed.  Often students with ADHD are a third behind their peers in maturity.
3. Okay, how do we repair the system? The earlier in the day a homework assignment is requested, the higher the possibility it will be turned in. As a rule, homework must be turned in at the same time, in the same way, at the same place each day. 
      • All of this helps—think consistency + consistency + consistency.
Consider other ways to turn in assignments:
      • Via email
      • Faxed to the school office
      • Filled in online
4. Is this too much handholding? The object is to create a support system, but at the same time to encourage the student to be responsible for turning in his own homework assignments. A certain amount of points are given for physically turning in the assignment; 10 points, for example. Lesser points are given for backup material emailed, faxed etc.; say, 5 points.  Or, start with faxed in material and add points if the paper gets to school.  You need to play “let’s make a deal” with the parents. Points can then be used for rewards.  Rewards are given at home, partnering home and school. Remember, punishment for trying, stops trying. Reinforcement, especially when unexpected makes the student feel better and work harder.
5. Have parents monitor the time it takes the student to do homework.
   a. When did they sit down to the task?
   b. When did the student actually begin?
   c. How long did the student work before stopping or “hitting a wall?”
   d. What emotional responses happened?
   e. How long a break did the student take?
   f. How much was accomplished?


Parent-teacher communication on homework and similar issues often means that  teachers and parents view the task in completely different ways, including the amount of struggle, the ability to perform, the student’s ability to work independently on his or her own, and the ability to understand the material. Communicate, communicate—remember that some of the adults involved may be having some of the same trouble shifting gears as the students.

The Homework Autopsy chart is easy for a parent to fill out and reveals information to share between parent, student and teacher. Fill in a Homework Autopsy to determine what is really going on during homework.


The next issue becomes how to get a student started on an assignment during class.

Frequently we introduce an assignment, give clear instructions, note the page, which parts to read, the questions to answer, the time the assignment should take and when it will be due. 

Feeling confident we were as clear as could be, we gaze over our class watching the eager beavers dig in and begin. 

Oh, but alas, there is one, maybe two or three, whose eyes glaze over like a deer’s in the headlights, not ready or able to begin.  How do we get them to simply start.? Some strategies I’ve found helpful include:

1. Clustering slow starters in an area where you can move easily from one to the other.
2. Leaning close, note where the child is stalled.  Many times they haven’t even put their name on the paper. 
   a. Start with a whisper – “Put your name on the paper.”
   b. “Read the first part of the instruction.”
   c. “In your own words, what does it tell you?”
   d. Many times a few seconds of prompting gets through the stall, allows  the fog to lift and facilitates the initiation to understand the directions.
3. Taping an index card on the student’s desk with a list of steps is helpful. In order to encourage activity, put a paper clip on the card that can be slid down the list. The student has a constant reminder as each step is passed. The list should be specific to the area of instruction. Short simple key words should prompt action.
4. If the instructions are quite lengthy, give the child your list. Even a two-step sequence  is difficult for some students.
5. Instructions may be written on the board, but this still creates difficulties for some. Many youngsters with organizational difficulties also have shifting problems when looking from the board to the paper. They become lost and often have to reread the material over again each time they look up. They often forget what they have done, or what they are to do next. This is a result of their poor short-term memory. A list beside them brings the focus closer and makes success more easily attained
6. Verbal rehearsal helps many youngsters. Being able to hear the directions reinforces them into their short-term memory. Listing the steps as 1, 2, 3  helps to distinguish and differentiate the steps. Speaking aloud and describing  his  performance reinforces the action in the student’s mind and helps him maintain focus.

Well, this might not be all there is to it, but I hope you’ve at least remembered some of the techniques you have let slide, or you believe may need to be retried. So, get into your old Model T, crank that shaft and get it going. You’ll feel so much better, your relationship with your students will soar, your communication with parents will become solid and meaningful, and everyone’s attitude about learning will change as success comes within reach.

Here’s to success, 

Day in and day out, we teachers enter our classrooms hoping that today we can make a difference. Often we hope that we can lift the lid to a child’s brain and find out how it is really functioning. If only we can match our teaching styles to the learning patterns our students need.

Looking at a regular classroom, there are those who are very linear, organizing their thoughts as the curriculum unfolds, filing information in their expansive file-drawers with information readily available and easily found. Then there are those who have impulsive, creative minds that wander from pillar to post. Organization is a mystery, partial understanding leads to misinformation, and sequencing comes erratically as one is thinking without order. ADHD brains on impulse scatter and dump ideas as they come their way. Storytelling is a circular affair, overrun with details, lacking sequence, and often jumping off track to tell another story.

Is there an antidote for those whose brains seem scrambled and disorganized?

Mindmapping was created by Tony Buzan in the mid 1980s and clearly explained in his workbook, The Mind Map Book: How to Use Radiant Thinking to Maximize Your Brain’s Untapped Potential (Plume, 1996). The process at its core is very simple. I found that students from fourth grade on readily adapt to the system, and when they are comfortable with the process, they automatically use it for notetaking and brainstorming for written assignments, increasing memory and understanding. No, this is really not a miracle cure, but from the time I heard Tony speak in 1988, I have continued to use this technique on an ongoing and reliable basis.

Well, what exactly is mindmapping and how does it work?

A mindmap is a diagram used to represent works, ideas, tasks, or other facts linked and arranged a central key word or idea. Mindmaps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas. Mindmapping is an aid in studying and organizing information, problem solving and decisionmaking.

Characteristics of mindmapping include drawings, color, clustering, symbols, and arrows or trails to indicate relationships, leaving a pictorial approach to the subject. Relying on the concept that a picture is worth a thousand words, one mindmap may help a cluster of ideas, enhancing relationships and factual knowledge. Rehearsal is a vital part of the memory process, as is sleep.

One of the easiest ways to understand mindmapping is through Gabriele Rico’s Writing the Natural Way (Tarcher, 2000). As our learners with ADHD are hands-on folks, they are eager to be involved. Learners who are numb to learning take on a new spark.

Let’s begin with a simple writing exercise. Each child in the classroom has a large piece of drawing paper, and an assortment of colored Pentel markers with a fine point, as well as lined writing paper and a pen or pencil. Write a simple word like green in the middle of the whiteboard. Circle the word as a focus. Jump around the room encouraging students to give words or ideas that pop into their minds when hearing the word green. Cluster the ideas that fit together, writing them in the same or similar color. After the bustle dies down, have the students write a story about green. There is no right or wrong approach; therefore, everyone is a winner. Continue by allowing the students to volunteer to read their stories.

Next use a well-liked word like ice cream. Students write “ice cream” in the center of the drawing paper and add whatever they like. I would tell the students that when the ideas began to rush like a train they were ready to write their stories. I encouraged them to use symbols instead of words to help them remember ideas, to draw or express themselves in any way that had meaning to them. It was a task of sanctioned doodling and creative expression.

The student wrote:
It’s a warm sunny day and I’m at the beach. It is so hot I bought an ice cream cone. It had chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream and it was yummy. Oh golly I have to eat fast it’s dripping all over my fingers.

An earlier version from this student was:
 I ate ice cream at the beach and it dripped.

I continually found that with the brainstorming of words in front of them, the student wrote more fluidly, and had a richer story full of descriptors and often humor.

The rules are simple:
1. Start at the center.
2. Use pictures and more pictures.
3. Use colors.
4. Connect everything on the map that you want to use.
5. Use key words or phrases, don’t write too much.

The student now has a tool to reinforce his or her own creativity, a visual to follow and tracking of ideas. Many soon add to their stories and feel much more successful then when asked to write from a starter sentence, such as I ate an ice cream cone and…

As students with ADHD often have trouble adjusting to new ideas and shifting gears to a new way of working, many repetitions will be needed to make the student comfortable with this new process.

How else can we use mindmapping?

Classroom lectures and other repetitive processes are often met with little or no reaction. Students sit, sometimes listen, and engage very little in what is being presented. This is a perfect time to introduce mindmapping as a hands-on intervention that encourages the doodling so often seen, but with style and purpose.

History is a prime example of subject matter that is hard to remember. Facts and situations are often muddled in the student’s cranial storehouse. Often students are not even aware that history is a story of people who lived before them, and that events relate to who they are and what they have now. Let’s change that. Using the mindmapping skills begun in story writing, turn the process toward notetaking and factual recall.

Begin again by writing the focus title in the center of the paper. As information is collected, draw and note critical information, and add embellishments and comments as the story progresses. When the story has been told, the students then rehearse the story immediately at the end of the mindmapping. This process is critical to short-term memory. Students then have a chance to add information they daydreamed through or failed to enter.

Homework is to rehearse the frame once more in the evening, get a good night’s sleep, and read it again at breakfast. As many students do not carry through on assignments and fail to see the value of this exercise, a class rehearsal is held at the beginning of the next history class. In this way you are ensuring better success in memory.

An example of a student’s mindmap after hearing the Paul Revere video follows.

If everyone in the class is encouraged to mindmap their responses, all will be focusing on what they know. While often mindmapping is a technique forced on a few students because they are learning differently, it is my philosophy that all students can benefit from this strategy. It is a win/win situation. For notetaking the list of activities should include:

1. Outline the issue
2. Brainstorm what you know about the issue
     a. Color code to show relationships
3. Q and A
     a. What do we know
     b. What don’t we know
4. Rehearsal
     a. At the end of the exercise
     b. Before and after sleep
5. Chart the student’s progress as to the volume of information retained

Students affected by ADHD will often be silent, as they are reticent to participate due to fear of failing or trying something new. Have patience. Encourage the sharing of mindmaps until they are a more comfortable response method. Mindmaps are the backbone of graphic organizers, and students may move on to these more structured response sheets. Technology supports the technique using Inspiration and its derivatives; FreeMind is a free software.

However, the freedom to initiate and involve the student in a more active learning through interaction and visualization is often the key to concept development. I like the hands-on approach first. The technology adds bells and whistles that need to be learned in order to produce a map. On the positive side, the software can lead the student directly to an outline of the material.

Is this the answer to all your problems? Definitely not! However, the results seen by others include:
1. The super learner gets it right off the bat, is on target and enjoys this new learning style.
2. The moderate learner may not get it at first but when the “aha” comes, they find it a comfortable prop to explain concepts and ideas.
3. The struggling learner finds the idea a release from the struggle of getting ideas onto paper, has a reference to help, and is in the trenches gaining concepts despite their reluctance to learn.

Yes, the ADHD brain’s style of learning is a puzzle to some. We do appear to learn differently. We’re not broken, just focused in another direction, or off to explore something new. Visual reinforcement is vital, as many of us rely upon it to supplement the muddle our brains get into when trying to search for facts or issues.

I believe that I found mindmapping valuable because it spoke to my learning style. After I met Tony Buzan and took his workshop, I instantly recalled why his methods made so much sense to me. It was the way I operated. I immediately recalled a world history exam in high school. I don’t remember the question, but I do remember my answer: Page 237, Paragraph 3, second line. I think the teacher wanted to know some general’s name and year… needless to say, I did poorly on the exam and was berated before the class for my obstinate and belligerent response to the question. It sounded okay to me at the time, and still does today.

We all learn differently, act differently, and retain information differently. For me, learning definitely includes a need for visualization. So, I leave you with my story and hope you can benefit from theses experiences.

Until next month,


Coffee cups filled with candy and canes
Waterproof hats to shield from the rain
     Trinkets and treasures, gimmicks galore
     Pour in from the children, piled on the floor

You’ve had to show patience so many times
When mouths kept running, not even in rhyme
     Attention was lacking,  and focus as well
     Incomplete assignments, as if from a spell

Impulsive remarks blurted often without meaning
Dripping sarcasm, venom, denial, screaming
     Not knowing the impact of social mistakes
     Words hurled, actions taken, whatever it takes

Kids with ADHD mean no harm by their actions,
Unfortunately spinning mostly negative reactions
     Control switches range from wide open to shut
     Spinning emotions take off, landing in a rut

The care you give to our unruly child
Always caring and thoughtful, full of smile
     An applaud for all you do for each one
     Whether they challenge or create fun

You are their lifeline, their role model and guide
We thank you for really being there, by their side
     For searching ways they can have life successes
     Instead of only pointing out when they make messes

We applaud your endeavor whether rocky or rough
“Thanks” sounds so simplistic, not nearly enough
     Your heartfelt caring lends hope to their future
     With your mentoring support,  life becomes super

As a teacher you’ve been the brunt it is true
But understanding it’s the ADHD’s nature not you
     We thank you profusely for the calm patience you provide
     For our ADHD youngsters need you on their side.

For all of the parents who bemoan teacher-tried
Remember the teacher who sticks by your side
Send this simple thank you, saying you know it is rough
Teaching our kids with compassion and a smile is tough.

As I am a parent, a grandparent, an adult with ADHD, and an educator—I share my compassion for the teacher who tries, the parent who is frustrated, and the child that completes the triangle.

Have a wonderful, calm, and peace-laden holiday season.


Being a teacher in today’s classroom presents constant challenges. Dedicated teachers are on a constant quest to learn how to deal with the many issues presented by their diverse students. Some of the issues are easily identifiable and obvious, but those presented by our students with ADHD are often hard to identify and even harder to remediate. These hidden disabilities impact a child’s ability to learn, behave, and interact socially, often leaving a trail of disaster for the success of both the teacher and the student.

Where do we find answers? Is there a light at the end of the tunnel?

Last weekend I attended the Teacher to Teacher training session that followed CHADD’s annual conference on ADHD in Atlanta. Therefore, I can assure you that CHADD has developed a teacher intervention system that contains the most valuable assortment of research-based intervention collected to date. For those of you who are frazzled at the end of the day, frustrated by what you find happening in your classroom: This is the informative training you are looking for.

What can you hope to gain from this day-long training?

> A brief, understandable overview of ADHD (for those of you who are still in a quandary to understand this mystery)
> Ten basic facts every educator should know
  •  Prevalence rates
  •  Understanding the complexity of a neurobiological disorder
  •  Different types of ADHD
  •  Variation within diagnosis
  •  Links to developmental delay
  •  Coexisting conditions
  •  Executive function
  •  Family connection
  •  Multimodal treatment
  •  ADHD is a lifelong disorder
> The impact ADHD has on academic performance
  •  Key teaching principles
  •  Teaching strategies that WORK
  •  Analyzing failure, changing interventions and adaptations
  •  Addressing executive function deficits
  •  How does homework get into this mix?
> The Law
  •  504, IDEA, RTI
  •  How do they work and impact what you can do?
  •  Advocacy
> Interventions for emotional and challenging behaviors
  •  Management strategies
  •  Islands of competency
  •  Cause and effect
  •  Escalation, de-escalation
> Teaching specific emotional, behavioral and social skills
  •  Reducing burnout
  •  Developing resiliency/ motivation
  •  Bully prevention
  •  Self-monitoring / Self-advocacy
> Organization
  •  Why does it seem to be a deficit?
  •  Neurological implications
  •  Impact on learning
  •  Management strategies
  •  Motivating success
> Creating your own ADHD-friendly classroom in your school so all can learn and be successful

Yes, this is an overview of this wonderful new program, which is based upon the CHADD Educator’s Manual. Be among the first to take advantage of this workshop. It’s crammed full of valuable and awe-inspiring information.

On Friday morning, I met a young teacher who left her classroom in order to travel to Atlanta to take part in what CHADD conference had to offer. She was begging for hands-on information and guidance on what specifically to do in her classroom. She was desperate for help. The information she collected gave her a beginning focus, but she was ready for more. Her plans did not allow her to stay and take the Teacher to Teacher workshop, but she returned home ready to bring an in-service program to her school. You too can make this happen.

We now have a core of Teacher Trainer Teams that are interested in bringing this information to your area. This program is for you, whether you teach in a public or private school. CEU hours and a Certificate of Completion are included in the cost of the workshop. A school, a district, or partnering groups can sponsor this day-long immersion to enhance your understanding and success with students who have ADHD.

How do you get a workshop in your area?

1. Contact Jennifer Klotz, Teacher to Teacher Training Coordinator (CHADD national staff), by email at, or by phone at 301-306-7070 ext 135.

2. Check on the availability of a Teacher Trainer Team in your area.
a. Leave a list of potential dates
b. Size of audience expected
c. Contacts for local school administrators
d. Local organizer contacts
e. Costs associated for your audience size and other arrangements will be explained.

3. Please give the staff and trainer teams enough time to organize, advertise and facilitate the workshop for you. It is usual for schools to plan events such as these six months to a year ahead due to:
a. Advertising the event
b. Arranging time, place and local facilities
c. Materials need to be shipped
d. Registration requirements
e. Time to facilitate this for you.

We are here, we want to help, and together we can support all of you in the trenches who want so desperately to help your students with ADHD.

Reaching out to teachers in the trenches,


How often have you as a teacher heard these words? Students and parents come to you with their stories and you are in a quandary. You haven’t observed the incident reported, and yet you feel what they say is true. Your school has a no-bullying policy and you want to respond.

This month I want to address some of the facts on bullying and help to make you aware of the plight of the youngsters in your class who are affected by ADHD. Students play many roles in the bullying cycle. Sorting out each role can be difficult, as many of the bullying episodes are carefully carried out behind your back and out of the sight of any adult.

How prevalent is bullying?

Bullying has become a crisis in this country and across the world. It is listed as the number one cause of school absenteeism in the United States, and is closely linked to teen depression and suicide. In a Harvard interview of high school students, ninety-six percent reported having been bullied at least once in their lives, eighty-five percent reported witnessing bullying, and forty-six percent indicated that they refused to go to extracurricular activities because the bullies are there. Sadly, two percent of their classmates committed suicide after consistent bullying.

Other studies report that 282,000 students are physically attacked in our secondary schools each month. It is a sad reflection to learn that at least one event of bullying occurs every seven minutes. It is appalling to note that adults intervene in only four percent of these cases. Peers help eleven percent of the time, leaving eighty-five percent of the victims on their own with no assistance.

How do we define bullying?

Bullying is a form of aggressive behavior that is intentional, hurtful or threatening, and persistent. This aggression can be physical or psychological, and it is repeated. There is an imbalance of strength, allowing one individual power and dominance over the other.

Where is the line between friendly teasing and bullying?

The bully intends to harm, intends to create fear, and intends to keep repeating the behavior. He or she is delighted with the power of intimidating another lesser-powered youngster. The key words here are intends harm and delights in control by power.

When the situation is one that involves teasing, both youngsters come to the situation with the same power or sense of ability. They banter about an issue and laugh at the outcome.

When the abuse becomes willful, the situation changes into bullying. Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It leaves the victim feeling hurt, frightened, threatened, left out on purpose. There is a line between rough play and bullying when the one with the power sets out to hurt the other. It is a power play. Hitting, teasing, taunting, spreading rumors, gossiping, stealing, excluding, and intending to harm are all means of exercising power. When the activity is repeated and the thrill of the power is accelerated, the attacker is a bully on a quest.

Bullies seldom own up to their behavior. They make excuses to adults for what happened. They play innocent, insisting that it was an accident. They explain that they had no idea that the victim wasn’t having fun, or felt embarrassed, intimated, or hurt.

Bullies target their victims. They want the power, so they look for and target students who are smaller, younger, or less adept. They seek out those who exude a lack of self-confidence. The shy child, the one with slowed speech, someone who walks awkwardly, wears glasses, keeps to himself or herself—all these children unfortunately become prey.

Students with ADHD are often targeted due to their acting-out behaviors. Sometimes they are cultivated as a friend and then attacked. Their impulsivity is seen as vulnerability; the bully taunts until the child with ADHD retaliates, and then the bully retreats so the child with ADHD is caught in the act and takes the brunt of punishment. After frequent attacks, the child with ADHD often turns and becomes the bully, reveling in the power of finally being in control. The cycle is vicious and needs to be diffused and understood.

Who is the bully?

Many folks associate the bully with a ruffian from the wrong side of the tracks, a child from a poor family who has a history of violent behavior. This may be true, but not always. It is true that boys tend to be more physical, obvious, and direct in their tactics. Girls on the other hand tend to be more verbal and secretive, and enlist others to help do their dirty work.

Bullies come from all walks of life. Some are the most popular leaders of the schools. Some are those who are aggressive and want more. Some are driven by impulsive behavior and find ways to gain recognition, although through the wrong means.

Students with ADHD are recorded as being four times more prone to bully. We must examine each case, however, to determine how the bully process emerged. We are not making excuses, just trying to see the process of this behavioral development. Those with learning differences are more likely to be both the victim and the bully as they try to defend themselves and retaliate. Thirty percent of children with learning differences find they are victims of peer rejection, and therefore are vulnerable targets.

Bullies frequently emerge from victims who have had enough. The child who is being picked begins to have violent feelings. Retaliation at all cost becomes his or her new mantra. Witnessing physical abuse at home or being abused leads to lashing out at others. The power gained by bullying creates a rush that develops into a need for more power.


Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, the age of modern technology turns against us. Everyone knows a fourth grader is more competent with a computer than we are. When we interview computer-savvy teens, we find that forty-two percent have been bullied online, and twenty-one percent report receiving messages that were threatening. Yes, messaging is a way of life, but fifty-eight percent of teens admit to sending mean and threatening responses to one another. Of course, the “don’t-tell-an-adult” rule is alive and well. So teacher, you are purposely kept out of the loop.

Our ability to communicate instantly and respond in seconds makes the instant-messaging world a ripe field for attack, smear, and harassment. Unfortunately, anything in print is taken as gospel truth, so rumors can become rampant. Many times the cyberbullying victim is the last to know the ugliness written about him.

Attacks through technology come in two guises—direct attacks and attack by proxy. Direct is as it sounds, a frontal-attack text harassment, perhaps created through a blog or website. It is easy to slander by sending pictures, broadcasting internet polls or surveys, creating malicious codes, porn, impersonation. Intimidation by proxy involves getting someone else to do your dirty work. This includes, but is not limited to, passing slander between cyber buddies for an attack.

For example, a bully arranges a group attack by sending a widespread message to harass a student at lunch by ignoring her, bumping into her, and spilling food on her. This message is sent to many students and results in an unexpected, underhanded unstoppable catastrophe. Being aware of the power of such messages, teachers soon suspect cyberbullying when they see students ganging up on someone.

Cyber messages may be just rude or vicious and are often written without truth. Passwords can be hacked, leaving the bully an open field to impersonate their victim. The reader has no idea the message was a fraud and the perpetrator cannot be tracked. There is no limit to the damage a true cyber bully can produce.

Why doesn’t the victim just stand up for himself/herself?

Remember, this is a situation of power. Victims want to please. They frequently believe that what has happened to them is really their fault. They have been told to behave, and try to. Their parents and the school forbid fighting, and they try not to.

If the victim does fight back, the bully is savvy enough to back away, leaving the victim to take the blame for the altercation. The victim is told to ignore the bully, but the bully knows from the look of fright in the victim’s eyes that he or she has won. The more scared the expression, the stronger the taunt, leading to greater bully power. Often the abuse accelerates to a level of danger. The victim’s safety is in jeopardy and there is the possibility of a tragic outcome. The media circus begins, but the damage is done.

Who can change this challenge of power?

We’ve talked about the bully and the victim, but we have ignored the other players in this saga, the witnesses.

Seldom does a bullying event occur without witnesses. The bully needs someone to see how powerful she is and to verify her existence. She wants a following, to be a hero, so someone must see and tell. However, these witnesses, or bystanders, come in many “flavors”:
• First there is the vanilla bystander. This youngster watches and sees, but does nothing. He is just there.
• Then there is the strawberry witness who continues the harassment, encouraging and cheering on the taunting.
• Next is the neapolitan, who takes on the flavor of the most popular. This bystander is afraid of making his own decision or taking a stand. He is unable to be anything but what someone else tells him to be or do.
• Then comes the blueberry witness. This bystander comes waving a flag for the victim. She boos the bully and sides with the victim. This show of force rolls over the bully, diffusing the strength of power that the bully is fighting for.

As teachers, we need to encourage the role of the blueberry witness. We need our students to feel empowered by befriending the victim. We need to assist our students in identifying the roles of bully, victim, and bystander. We need to give each student a right to be safe and secure in our schools. We need to instruct and encourage students to support one another. We need to make it acceptable to report bullying as inappropriate behavior. Developing a safe environment, we need to encourage the loners to stay on the more traveled paths, to encourage them to have someone with them, especially the supportive blueberry variety. Being safe is to be less vulnerable.

Now, how does one stand up to a bully?

We’ve already determined that running from the bully is not the answer. Changing schools is not the answer. Make your school the safe environment where bullying ceases. A different school may only shift the child’s vulnerability to the next bully. Instead, let’s give our children survivor tools. But how?

Change their mindset

First of all, the vulnerable child needs to get over the idea that he or she should be a victim. He or she did not create this abuse, and it is not his or her fault. Sensitive children feel that they caused the abuse and that no one can come to save them and make it right. Some become so frustrated they react just as the bully expected. This makes them doubly vulnerable. Victims are not to suffer in silence and be pounded into submission. Lastly, they must not feel they can ignore the taunts of a bully and make them go away. That gives the bully the message that he or she has won.

Bullyproofing comes with an “I can and I will” attitude

One of the best preventive interventions is body language. Help your students create an assertive stance. Show them and help them practice. Make this into a classroom activity. This pride in self will support a student for a lifetime. Rehearse until every child in your classroom can produce a look of confidence, by learning:
• To look the bully directly in the eyes.
• Not to hang their heads.
• Not to look at the ground and mumble.
• To make sure of their movements.
• To make their movements crisp and sure.

Talk to your students about personal hygiene and the ‘put-together’ look. When you look good, you act good, and you show you are invincible. Your students may be at the sloppy age and careless about their appearance, but encourage them that a change in appearance may be a first line of defense against being attacked.

Comeback lines

No one has the right to talk down to your students. Help them to learn appropriate assertive comeback lines to use in vulnerable situations. Help them learn to use the comeback statements wisely, so they do not backfire.

Remember, some of our students with ADHD are not readily aware of social situations and need direct instructions for those times when they just don’t get what is happening. Teach them that their whole presence is their best defense:
• Remain cool at all cost.
• Avoid the temptation to throw in the next barb and foil with the next sword.
• Instead use a comeback line.
• Your line must be brief and to the point, giving the message that he did not get to you.
• Look him in the eye.
• Have a poker face that shows no anger. Having hurt or anger on your face makes you vulnerable. Practice making a blank face in front of a mirror, a poker face that does not reveal any of your feelings.
• Don’t trade insults.

Encourage students to use these sample comeback lines wisely, to think carefully as to when they may be appropriate:
    Oh, get a life.
    How does it feel to be this mean?
    Are you talking to me?
    You’re wasting your breath.
    If you say so, okay.
    I hear you, but I don’t care.
    Are you finished?
    Are you satisfied?
    I hope your nasty attitude makes you feel better.
    I could care less.
    Keep talking. I’m not listening!
    Congratulations for being the King of Putdowns.
    Are you bored yet?
    You should be making me feel bad, but you are not worth it.
    I should report your behavior, but you’re not worth it.
    Mission accomplished, so move on.
    You are really just wasting my time.

Put STOP into action

Now that your students have developed these vital skills, teach them to use the STOP method to put the skills into action.

Begin bullyproofing by looking your attacker Straight into his or her eyes. Hold your head high and stand with confidence, even if you are shaking.
Next, be sure no emotion shows on your Totally poker face. Remember showing emotions makes you vulnerable.
With a strong voice state your Opinion with your comeback statement.
Now that you have shown your strength, Pretend the bully does not exist. Totally ignore her.

Here is a chart to help you remember the STOP method:
Straight into the bully’s eyes
Total poker face
Opinion—state your comeback
Pretend he is not there—total ignoring

What are the consequences of bullying?

Victims of bullying are at risk for social, emotional, and psychiatric problems that may persist into adulthood. They tend to internalize their problems and are faced with bouts of depression. They feel insecure, cry easily, and are anxious and withdrawn, as well as feeling weak and submissive. Being unhappy leads to withdrawing from friends. Victims stop participating in extracurricular activities and feel unsafe in school. Often their grades drop, creating another issue that compounds their problem.

The bully loses his sense of life’s balance and is often disruptive, hyperactive, aggressive, and depressed. Needing the feel of power she develops social anxiety, has difficulty concentrating, is highly impulsive, and becomes more distracted, inattentive, hyperactive, and socially maladjusted.

Both the victim and the bully experience an emotional interference and often have symptoms of reading and writing problems. If a learning difference exists, these symptoms are compounded. These students often experience elevated anxiety and have a greater risk of dropping out of school. The stigma of the bully cycle increases the incidence of drug and alcohol abuse. Adolescents displaying these behaviors are four times more likely to be convicted of a crime by age twenty-four. There is no winner in bullying.

Is your school truly involved?

As we know, a lot of bullying happens in or around school property and involves student to student interaction. Many schools have a no-bullying policy and really want to enforce it. Many times action is impossible, as teachers do not witness the events, students have difficulty relaying what happened, and many denials and twisting of the facts occur. Schools that make a difference use a preventive approach.

David Olweus has made a study of the school community and created the most impressive bullying prevention program to date. Students discuss and define bullying. They are encouraged to make a commitment to speak up when they witness a bullying event and to befriend and stand up for the victim. They are helped to express their feelings and to speak openly and candidly through role-play and interactive activities. When the whole community works together, a difference can be made.

Assess the program that is in place in your school. What interventions have been put into action? What more can you do?

I’ve prepared an outline of resources and programs that I’ve collected during my search for answers. You may know many more to share. I hope you will reflect on the involvement you and your school have had in stopping the bully cycle. I look forward to hearing from you.

Remember, there is a positive message for us all:
• The student who bullies and who receives help can become aware of his or her behavior and change his or her focus on life. Of course, the earlier the intervention begins, the better.
• The student who is bullied can be empowered to assert himself or herself, move beyond the attacker, and heal.
• Bystander witnesses can learn to become empowered to care and stand up against bullying.

We can change the bullying cycle if we all work together.


As a teacher just getting to know this year’s class or classes, you readily identify the youngster who makes all the waves. You shudder at the one who is strong and belligerent, the one in constant movement, the one who blurts out answers all the time and has no pause button. However, within your classroom full of unique individuals sits a child trying to escape notice, who becomes a faded image to even the most seasoned educator.

This child doesn’t make waves, appears somewhat spacey, not intellectually prone, seldom speaks up when called upon, and may not participate or turn in homework. You may be observing the youngster with the inattentive form of ADHD that is more difficult to diagnose.

When I first started teaching I came across the book, The Geranium On The Windowsill Just Died, But Teacher You Went Right On by Albert Cullum. This reflective parody shows clearly how after awhile we become insensitive to those around us, and treat activities as seemingly insignificant events.

Because I feel so strongly that our inattentive youngsters must be understood, I want to introduce you to one such student and let you hear her feelings, her point of view. In case you’re wondering, this was me during my school years.

To my teachers

I was quiet and oh, so shy, until I thought of something to say, and then it all came out at once. I often answered questions unasked, or reflected on things that were discussed earlier in the day, or even the day before. My sense of timing was off and my jumping brain attended to the wrong things at the wrong time. I was consistently inconsistent.

Because of this, I was told that I was not listening. Sometimes this was true, and at other times I thought that I listened well, but just took time to respond.

Later, I found out that my listening was impaired, especially if I was supposed to remember what was said. My short-term memory would not keep names, dates, details, or instructions. At that time I had no idea I could write things down, get someone to remind me, or ask for a buddy to work with me.

I was the bright one who just didn’t produce enough, who had good grades—sometimes, and who always talked at the wrong time. Now I know that that behavior monitoring helps me to keep things in order and rehearsal helps to make things make sense.

I had my own style of organization, but it appeared disorganized to everyone else. Long before I learned to mind map, use graphic organizers, and other brain-enhancing techniques like charts and color coding, I drew pictures to remember, made list-like instructions to myself in circles, and avoided the linear outlines the teachers insisted upon. Outlines (I, A, 1. a.) really made no sense to me whatsoever.

I had a wear-out, give-up syndrome. I could not sustain work on one subject or activity for a long period of time. My mind would drift into other things that were more interesting and exciting. Finishing projects that included hands-on, artistic excitement was a snap. But things that included repetitive research, boring note-taking, or memorization of details that others thought were important, took their toll on me.  I finally found that if I moved around from space to space or had pieces of information I could manipulate, I could keep focused and put things in order. Where were those post-it notes so long ago?

By middle school, I was given the responsibility of polishing silver for a local jewelry store. I think it was a subtle punishment to keep me focused and moving instead of hiding in a book as a couch potato, which had become a comfortable way of coping. The job also supplied an income to defray the cost of all of the clothing, books, papers, and other things I was constantly losing. I just couldn’t help not remembering to bring things home, or what I was supposed to do. Other things were more fun and interesting to pay attention to.

For those of you who know me, you may be surprised to know I was a social piranha. I had a lot of trouble making friends and keeping them. I was very insecure and prone to embellish ideas to make friends, and that always bombed. I was young for my class and immature for my age, another common symptom of the ADHD brain. I found my best friends at Girl Scouts because the activities were hands-on, and at teen church meetings where open acceptance was more the norm.

How did I get where I am today? By having the compulsion to hide everything that I could and put on a brave front, and the determination to not let anyone know I was struggling. Like anyone with inattentive-type ADHD, I was determined to please. I did anything I could to be called a success. I went without sleep, went over things, and constantly asked for guidance—which actually helped make me a good advocate for myself. I compulsively asked how to do better, and many times didn’t even understand the answer as to what I was really supposed to do.

So, out of lemons, you make lemonade. You find positive people and surround yourself with them. People with inattentive-type ADHD can be very successful, but the task is large and the energy expended can be great.

Teachers, be the difference

Be attentive to the inattentive.

Don’t assume that lack of production is belligerent behavior.

When a child’s verbalizing doesn’t make sense, set a conference for later in the day. Listen attentively, then suggest when and how those comments might have been better stated, and when the timing and response would be more appropriate. This role modeling is precious and productive.

When short-term memory seems impaired, help the student by instructing him or her in the techniques of mnemonics, acronyms, or acrostics as memory tricks.

Make your teaching as concrete as possible. Add graphic organizers, color-coding, visual prompts, or moveable post-it notes to help students organize thoughts. Use computer programs like Inspiration.

When giving longer assignments, outline how to break the project down into simple parts. Set goals for each part so the end result can be attained. Often a child is only given an essay to write and a due date. The student’s shock and overwhelmed feeling makes initiating the task almost impossible. Sometimes even picking a topic is a stumbling block.

For some children, it helps to draw what they are thinking of researching. They can print out ideas and information from the Internet. Then they can highlight the important ideas, cut apart the information, and paste or tape it together to create an organizer. Then they can begin to write. Written assignments are painful. They are long and involved. So many parts of our sensory system are needed to write a report, that they create a full cement block wall when one system refuses to cooperate with another.

Teach keyboarding as the fingers must only touch once for a letter, spelling errors are immediately identified, and some more sophisticated programs even supply a sample spelling list to chose from. Computers are the new age, and our youngsters must be capable of using them. Often the instant feedback helps performance and keeps them on track.

When possible, have group activities that allow children to socialize more easily and get to know each other, creating potential friendships. These may take time, but are good for the class as a whole, and will save many children the agony of social failure.

These are reminders. I am sure you do many of these every day. Please take this list and tell yourself, Yes, I am teaching to make a difference.

Yes, teacher, you are one in a million. Hats off to you for what you do every day. Hugs for all those you care about. Thanks for all the understanding you give to others, so all can succeed.

Joan K. Teach, PhD