An Open Letter to Classroom Teachers


Dear Teachers,

Congrats on choosing the most important job in the world – the shaping of young minds. One such young mind, myself, is pictured here in my first selfie in 1984. It was totally accidental on one of those old 35mm cartridge cameras. I love the red tongue from the sugar-free popsicle I was eating.

But, this pic says everything about me that I’d like to share with you except for two things:
1. My father had little control of his temper and would abuse (sans-hitting) me and my mother.
2. I had undiagnosed ADHD because it manifests differently in girls – something not widely known back then.

I was a sweet kid and often one of the favorites because I genuinely wanted to learn and would help my classmates without hesitation. My standardized test scores would usually score somewhere in the top 10% and were sometimes the highest in my grade.

The thing is… I sucked at being in a classroom. No. I wasn’t disruptive. No. I didn’t pester fellow students. What would I do? My brain would get hijacked by ADHD and would, what I like to call, roll. Basically, it looked like I was daydreaming, and, in a way, I was but I had no control over it. It was something I couldn’t stop.

I couldn’t focus if my life depended on it, and it did. My dad would lose it over my grades and out would come the insults and the yelling and screaming and the throwing of stuff which was terrifying.

I was 9 y/0 the first time I dissociated during one of his tantrums. I call/called it the mini-blind effect. Some light would get through but not all. Translation: some messages would get through so I could nod at the appropriate time, but I was almost fully checked out. Thank you, Amygdala.

As a result, my Sympathetic and Parasympathic systems were constantly in flux and in recovery. I don’t think I got a break from the fear-adrenalized feeling that I had every day until I was 19 y/o.

But, I’m not telling you all of this for sympathy. I’m sharing this so that what I am about to say will make sense.

It goes without saying that you have the hardest job in the world. Really. You really do. You’re partly responsible for all of these young minds and what they learn. So, when a kid isn’t “pulling their weight”, I can imagine your frustration. You’re trying to HELP THEM, and they WON’T HELP THEMSELVES. That has got to be the ultimate “must-take-deep-breaths-and-stay-calm” issue.

This kid isn’t doing their work, but do they ever seem “checked out”? Do they ever seem overly nice? Do they ever overreact when corrected? Does their self-esteem seem off? Do THEY SEEM OFF?

Between the abuse and ADHD, school was HELL for me unless I had a great teacher, and I had far more of those than bad ones, but I remember those bad teachers to this day and still have some resentment toward them. The last bad teacher I ever had killed the desire for me to ever be a teacher. So, if I had a year (third grade, 1/2 of 5th grade, and a couple of HS teachers) where my teacher was awful AND had my father to fear at home… well, you get the picture. ::ADHD dancing with glee around in my head::

I know that you love your job. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t do it. I love that you love your job! I love that you chose a career of service. I hope that you chose it because you want to make a difference. If you did choose it to make a difference, I’m sure you’re achieving that goal!

Here’s one way to go the extra mile and be the great teacher. Look for any of the signs I mentioned above and think about any of your kids and whether it’s really daydreaming or if maybe they’ve checked out because their brains are just tired from all the garbage that their little minds aren’t meant to deal with EVERY SINGLE DAY.

I wish you all the best of luck and give thanks every day that you are a teacher!

Most Sincerely,
That Kid That’s Smart But Isn’t Applying Themself


2 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Classroom Teachers

  1. “That Kid That’s Smart But Isn’t Applying Themself” Good grief if I had a dollar for every time I heard that growing up… Peter

    1. Sorry, it’s taken me… um… almost three years to reply. Thanks for the comment. I’m sorry you had to deal with it, too. I’m glad to know that I’m not alone…. Bonnie

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