I took the Sanity School® course first as a parent, and quickly realized that it could greatly impact my classroom. I retook the program through the lens of a teacher, because I understand all too well that despite how progressive special education has become, there is still more to be done. Help for teachers of kids with ADHD is not as readily available as you might expect.
Frustrations and Concerns with Complex Students
As a teacher, I regularly listen to parents as they voice frustration about the struggles their children face at school and at home. I routinely hear my colleagues express concern about the challenge of meeting all of the needs of their complex students inside a general education classroom. I can personally relate to the experience of both parents and teachers.
For me, Sanity School® offered a powerful approach that molded the way I could address my concerns as a parent and a teacher.
Applying Sanity School’s approach is seamless inside the structure of a classroom. Sanity School’s teaching strengthened my abilities to remain in problem-solving mode. As I learned to recognize and manage my own triggers, I was able to better understand my students’ individual challenges and needs.
As I became better at managing my individual students’ needs, they felt safe and supported; as a result, their confidence grew and they became more engaged in the classroom.
Examples of How Sanity School® Helped my Students
Despite numerous examples of the positive impact from this past year, here are two that demonstrate a range of benefits for my students.
Defiance and Poor Performance:
I was struggling to understand the abilities of one of my students. His success on his assessments were very low, especially in reading, and I could not understand why. I tried to modify assessments, but results remained the same. Sensing my frustration, the child’s defiance and resistance in the classroom was increasing.
With the support and guidance of the child’s case manager, I shifted my expectations (as taught in Sanity School®) and considered my student’s developmental age. I met him where he was, not where I thought he ‘should’ be based on his chronological age. He proved to be functioning two grade levels below. As I began using this as my starting place, he began to achieve. He became more compliant in the classroom and started putting in effort in all subject areas. The most remarkable area of improvement was in reading. For the first time, he was able to demonstrate his ability to comprehend a text.
Impulsivity and Distraction:
One day, one of my students entered the classroom with an extreme amount of energy. Speaking very loudly, she was a major disruption to the entire room. During a small group reading lesson, she blurted out she had a dentist appointment that afternoon, again distracting the group.
Instead of feeling frustrated, taking her behavior personally, or determining that she was being disruptive on purpose, I called the child over after the lesson and asked her about her appointment. She revealed she wasn’t sure what to expect and was very nervous about the upcoming appointment. After acknowledging her feelings, I asked what would help her to manage them better. Even though she didn’t have any suggestions, she happily accepted coloring as one option. The coloring page remained on her desk for the day, and her overall demeanor was much calmer.
Teacher of the Year
This year I received the Teacher of the Year award for my building. I do not think that it was a coincidence. Sanity School® has changed my approach to teaching in subtle ways that have had a profound impact on my classroom, and on my students’ performance.
Two of my colleagues, who provide push-in to services to support the various needs in my classroom, each wrote recommendations on my behalf. They had witnessed first-hand how my teaching and approach had changed -- and the positive impact on the entire class as a result.
As the school year came to an end this June, I was able to reflect on how different this year had been -- for me and for my students. Because of the nuanced changes I was making in my approach, my students were getting their individual needs met; as a result, they were better prepared to do what was expected of them.
Today’s classrooms are complicated by a number of factors, many of which are beyond the control of teachers.
But meeting the needs of our complex students does not have to be beyond our control, and help for teachers will make a world of difference, especially for managing kids with complex issues like ADHD and LD. Teachers can learn to use skills from the world of coaching to more effectively support students with complex challenges -- and the benefits impact the entire classroom.