Can I be a teacher?: I've had ADHD most... - CHADD's Adult ADH...

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Can I be a teacher?

TiredlyTeaching profile image
13 Replies

I've had ADHD most of my life and known it... but when I was younger (still in school) I felt like it was more under control. Mostly because I had other responsible people in my life imposing structure on me, supporting me, and making sure I didn't mess up too badly.

Now I'm 30, and I've discovered a passion for education. It runs in my family- my mom, grandmother, and honorary uncle were all teachers. I've been long term subbing and I'm hitting what might be my biggest road bump-- I'm getting overwhelmed constantly by all the sensory input in an elementary classroom.

I've caught myself with my hands flying up to cover my ears a few times, and it's just not a good look. Then there's the emotional cost of dealing with these kids. I love them and I love teaching them, but I wish there was a volume button or that they had more chill. They're second graders and a lot of them have big personalities and emotional needs, and everything happens so much with them.

I want to be a great teacher for them, but lately I've felt so run down and have had panic attacks a couple of times, that I wonder if I can actually manage or if I will burn out before I find my feet and learn the tricks one only learns through experience. I don't know what I would do in that case. I want this badly.

Is anyone around here in a big, overwhelming job like teaching or nursing anything like that? If so, do you have advice? I'm struggling a lot with the whole adulting thing.

13 Replies
Gettingittogether profile image

Sounds like you are going to need therapy and/or a coach to help you adjust to this situation.

Can you afford therapy, even sensory therapy? Really to survive on a high-pressure job that requires us to endure all kinds of pain and distraction---that takes intense guidance of a professional.

Now you might look around and see if there are any grades (maybe slightly older) with kids who aren't as loud as the grade you're working with. Very practical.

TiredlyTeaching profile image
TiredlyTeaching in reply to Gettingittogether

I'm on my state health insurance (they really don't pay educators anything, at least not until I get appointed properly) but yeah, I might want to go for older like 4th or 5th grade. Stuck in 2nd for the last month and a half and will be there for another month minimum.

I do get equine therapy and talk therapy. We're brainstorming strategies to help me deal with the overload. I'm really more afraid of getting burnt out... And jealous that I can't put on the sensory headphones that we have in the classroom for the kids, because I have them at home for the same reason.

My therapist (the one that's not a horse lol) says I need to work on forgiving myself for my limitations and asking for help before I get to the point of a panic attack.

But it's hard- if I get frenzied enough I kind of forget that the option to get help exists. Even if I'm having an attack at home, they go on longer than they should unless Im able to remember that I have Klonopin for this reason.

Thank you for responding, sorry if I ramble.

Gettingittogether profile image
Gettingittogether in reply to TiredlyTeaching

My therapist (the one that's not a horse lol) says I need to work on forgiving myself for my limitations and asking for help before I get to the point of a panic attack.

But it's hard- if I get frenzied enough I kind of forget that the option to get help exists. Even if I'm having an attack at home, they go on longer than they should unless Im able to remember that I have Klonopin for this reason.

I get you here! In the moment, my body fires up and my brain falls apart and runs away. No clear thinking once my panic is activated. But I have gotten better at this. What I find hard is that in the moment I have to talk to myself in a kind way even though my body and brain are screaming "No, this panic is for real. You're in trouble. You EFFED up! And you can't do anything about it. You're stuck."

The hard part is ignoring those sentences and starting on some good self-talk. When I do that, the body gradually quiets down. But hang in there!

BlessedLady profile image

One of my best friends was a teacher. She was not diagnosed until she was in her mid 40's. She taught classes aimed at Gifted third graders and loved it. She taught in public schools. She retired after 20 yrs. Schools and students have changed a lot since she taught.

Hominid711 profile image

Agree with Blessed Lady on this one. I couldn't teach kids in those circumstances where I am discouraged from asserting control with authoritarian means. I did the TEFL course and found that I am particularly good with higher grade adult students who need to be challenged to progress. All this babyish behaviour of teachers rewarding students with gushing praise every time they got the answer right - encouraged by our teacher - was not for me. When we changed teachers to a more normal mature one I for once got that praise. And I loved it. So I would only ever teach small numbers to single students, kids I can call to behave or strictly adults. And I really think career is so important - you have to love it not let it eat you - that you should reconsider. I don't think therapy is what you need. You need a change of work conditions. You don't have to put up with the current situation. Perhaps accepting that you'd rather not ever be again in this situation is called for. After all it is for neurobiological reasons that this is far too much and that you are more suited to different job demands. Trying to overcome the stress this constant mixed high pitch annoying stimulant onslaught on one's natural dislike/limits causes, amplified by ADHD, combined with lack of respect and permission to exert authority by psychological treatment I think would just be self-sacrifice. For what? Whom? For proving what? Do yourself a favour and push another button - the one that brings calm and quiet back. Sorry, rambling.

ADDandMe profile image

Hi there, I’m a teacher. I teach 7-11 year olds in Scotland. I graduated aged 37 and have been teacher for almost 6 years. I knew during my degree that I wouldn’t managing full time - at the time my kids were 11 & 13. I went part time and still find I work and incredible amount of hours. 18 hour contract but work 36.

I started off teaching 4-6 year olds, then 7-9 year olds. So the noise level has dropped a lot. I do have my moments and have recently considered getting noise reducing earplugs (like the loop ones). Could they be an option for you?

I do find dealing with the emotional dysregulation challenging at times and that’s where moving to a different age group has helped me. I always thought I wanted to work with little ones… but I think I would’ve left by now had I stayed at that stage.

I’m not yet medicated either and unsure what difference that could make.

Each year I’ve had at least 2 points in the year where I applied for jobs outside of education because I can’t deal with the demands and my husband gets so resentful.

It’s tricky as when you search up jobs suitable for those with ADHD, teacher, nurse, paramedic etc comes up. Jobs requiring spontaneity, challenge and fast changing environments dealing with lots of people.

Before teaching I changed job every 1.5 to 2 years. So this is the longest stretch I’ve managed. 4 years in my current role (though - would I have left if covid hadn’t happened? - I don’t know).

Good luck whatever you decide! It’s definitely a challenging job - but I do find it cyclical in the nature of the intensity and busy periods. January to March are usually worst here and when there’s usually a big dip in teacher wellbeing. So just being aware of that can help you through.

Hominid711 profile image

And I absolutely think you can be a teacher!

Squidney profile image

I'm a preschool teacher so I have to grin and bare it...and in my personal opinion my students can certainly be overwhelming but I pray that they learn how to do better once they graduate and age up.

Tallis33 profile image

I teach 3rd grade, have ADHD, depression, anxiety ("down graded" cptsd).

I have a few thoughts....

First, most teachers right now are burned out. Therapy helps. Also finding things outside of work you love or help you unwind. Do NOT work outside your contract hours, this one is hard, especially for first year teachers.

Second, see if ear phones like the Loop help and are allowed. See if you can get official ada accommodations.

Third, you are in charge of the class. You set the volume. Check in with some more experienced teachers on classroom management. Learn a way to have a lower volume in your classroom. It can't also ways be silent or way low volume, but fine your threshold amount and teach the kids to be within it. This is going to take time and you will need to find the sweet spot where learning can occured and you don't become overwhelmed.

Four, little kids love to help. Be home at with them. Tell them when it gets very very loud it hurts your body and then you can't teach and help them. Ask them to help with this. Ask them who else doesn't like or has a hard time when it is too loud. Make it a game, how long can they whisper, maybe every 2 min they get a point and after so many points they get some extra recess. I don't drink enough water ever, my students know this, so they will randomly bring me my water bottle throughout the day. It is sweet. When I get overwhelmed, I tell them." I am feeling overwhelmed and am going to the break spac"e, then I do my 2 min break just as they would. At the start of the year I would explain how I knew I was overwhelmed. This is great modeling for them. Elementary kids are learning to regulate their body and emotions, this shows then how and is more then just saying to do it. This needs to go with teaching emotions and recognizing them and how to use a break space.

Five, make the classroom calm... Get some lamps and turn off some of the overhead lights or use those filters on them. Have very soft music playing when they enter the room in the morning, after recess, etc. Do "mindful moments" each time they come in (start at fifteen seconds and work up to 2min).

I hope this helps.

Tallis33 profile image
Tallis33 in reply to Tallis33

I have been teaching for 12 years and taught 2, 3, and 4th

TiredlyTeaching profile image
TiredlyTeaching in reply to Tallis33

This is amazingly helpful actually.

TiredlyTeaching profile image

Thanks to everyone for your answers and support. I think part of the problem is also that I'm only a long term sub, so my agency/authority is a bit more limited than it would be if it was my classroom as well.

I always have a hard time coming into things in the middle... Maybe if I move age groups and get my own classroom it will be better. I'll also research other things I can do with my degree that still are similar to teaching, like tutoring or maybe counseling.

ADHDuderino profile image

Yes you can, no question, its just a question of what will you teach? I was diagnosed last year, I have been teaching for the last 5 years (ish), I am TERRIBLE at the admin side, and will probably go and do something else very soon, but the "Teaching" part, I love it, Im quite good at it (feedback given) its just University admin is overwhelming and relentless! Good luck!🌈🦄🐒

If you can do nothing else, be kind

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