Channing Tatum… so Hollywood, right?

“I have never considered myself a very smart person, for a lot of reasons,” he says. “Not having early success on that one path messes with you. You get lumped in classes with kids with autism and Down Syndrome, and you look around and say, Okay, so this is where I’m at. Or you get put in the typical classes and you say, All right, I’m obviously not like these kids either. So you’re kind of nowhere. You’re just different. The system is broken. If we can streamline a multibillion-dollar company, we should be able to help kids who struggle the way I did.” (New York Times Magazine, Oct. 14, 2014)

Needless to say, I was impressed by this statement. He experienced and described the “education” that many kids with ADHD get — along with the wounds and internal insecurities that open when grouped together with less-able peers.

I won’t even attempt to answer his question, which I’m sure he meant sincerely, not rhetorically. The school system does not support these kids. It’s not a matter of streamlining it. In my opinion, it requires a very different kind of instruction to teach kids who are primarily available for short bursts of time. Yes, there should be more information presented visually. Yes, they should be working longer days, and getting work done under the supervision of a teacher, not forgetting their work and projects and assignments by the time they get home. Yes, teachers should be more sensitive. Yes, instruction should be more kinesthetic/hands-on.

I can agree that the system is broken. Looking at Individualized Education (IEP) reports or 504 Plans, you can see where they either shoot unrealistically high (“Johnny will write a cohesive 5-paragraph essay with a well-developed them in 4 out of 5 attempts”) or do not address the reality of what the child can accomplish without support (“Johnny will independently bring his agenda up to each teacher to be signed after each class”). The operative word here is SUPPORT. That old underdeveloped pre-frontal cortex. We need to continue to supervise them well into high school.

Now that the school year is well underway, many familiar problems are re-visited: Parents want to give support, but they are blind-sighted by not knowing what the assignments/projects are. Parents may be struggling with their own ADHD symptoms, and have trouble piecing together all of the homework, afer-school commitments, and packing lunches. Parents may also internally be struggling with a sense of shame and frustration as they see their kids painfully reliving some of their own struggles (my heart goes out to them… didn’t we finally leave high school behind us?!).

Well, for someone who doesn’t consider himself “so smart,” he’s done all right. He pays attention to what he needs to learn; he works hard; he asks lots of questions and he looks for good partnerships. Those skills he figured out without the help of a teacher… As much as I know teachers deserve respect for educating twenty to thirty-six to one hundred fifty kids a year, we have to know that these “different” learners have just as much potential, and may need “different” skills to succeed.

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