high five

A Letter to My Student: Dear A (10th grade)

(Over the holidays, and maybe beyond, I want to write candid letters to students I have had. Some I have taught for a day, some for a year. These are things I wish I could have or would have said to them. An arbitrary initial has been chosen to ensure privacy. The grade is when I taught them. )

Dear A,

I taught you for exactly one class period. I have seen you in the halls a few times since then, but have not had the opportunity to say hi. Though out interaction was brief, it is one of my most memorable in recent years. The following is, to the best of my recollection, how we met.

I was standing in the hallway greeting you and your class as you came in. I was probably talking a lot and too fast. Or making fun of someone.

You asked, “Do you have ADHD?”

“I think so, but I’m not diagnosed.”

“I am. I take meds for it.”

“I don’t.”

“High five.”

We high-fived. The kid in front of you muttered, “That is the weirdest thing to high five over.”

As the class went on, you were finished with all of your work and we got to talking. You were incredibly articulate and knowledgeable. Along with your diagnosis, you clearly received the tools to understand and explain how you and your brain functioned. I felt like I learned a lot from you through our casual conversation.

Since you had no work to do, were very open about your ADHD, and understood it well, I asked you to read a story I had written. It was a story about a boy with ADHD. After you finished reading, your tone went from jovial to serious. Not only did you enjoy it, but you were insistent that this story needs to be told.

So I want to say thank you. Thank you for reminding me why I started that story. It’s for kids like you who have not yet been given the words to understand themselves. Thank you for reminding me that every kid is unique and capable regardless of of how their brain works. I tend to lump kids with ADHD into one category of behavior. You helped me to break down those expectations.

I also want to encourage you. You have a gift. You are charismatic, hard-working, and articulate. You have the ability to do great things. Whether it is having more conversations like the ones we had or taking on new passions, you can impact and influence people. Don’t take that lightly. Not everyone has that gift and not everyone who does stewards it well. Make a difference in the world. And don’t let yourself be held back because your brain works differently than others. That is your uniqueness. That is your brilliance.

Love,

Your ADHD sub that one time, Mr. Johnson