Just an Arm Around Their Shoulder

This morning as I was watching a lovely video by Irina Gorin, I was reminded of the words of Attention Deficit Disorder expert Edward Hallowell, the author of Driven to Distraction. (And eighteen other books including one on Worry that I am going to read next.)

I had the privilege of hearing Dr. Hallowell speak to a small group of teachers a few weeks ago here in San Francisco. I've been reading his books and following his writings for many years, but this was the first time I'd seen and heard him in person.

Ferrari and Bike.jpg

He described a person with ADD as having a Ferrari brain with bicycle brakes. Haven't we all taught a student like that?

Or a student with these symptoms?

  • Distractibility
  • Impulsiveness
  • Restlessness
  • Unexplained underachievement

He talked about how people with ADD only have two concepts of time: Now, and NOT now. As NOT now approaches, they self-medicate with adrenalin to get the job done. They live by chronic procrastination. 

Too often teachers don't stop to remind these students of what they're good at. Instead, they diagnose them as stupid and their treatment plan is to "try harder." Often these spunky kids have nowhere to shine. They get the good stuff beat out of them with the bad stuff.

Hallowell, who has ADD himself, told us a sweet story about his first grade teacher, Mrs. Tabor. As he sat in his first grade reading group, struggling to focus on the task at hand, Mrs. Tabor kept her arm around him. Her arm just stayed there letting him know that he was needed and loved. That powerful connection was all he needed.

He challenged us to mentor someone. To put our arm around them, figuratively AND literally, and THEN challenge them to demonstrate long-term achievement. With the support of a warm, personal connection, anything is possible. 

Irina Gorin is one of the warmest, loveliest teachers I've ever seen. In the video I linked to above, you can see her smiling as her student exuberantly plays straight to the top of the scale. (He should have turned around and gone back.) She smiles and gently shows him what he missed.

Irina has more than 600 videos on Youtube. Pick any one. In it, you will find that teacher Hallowell described. My favorite moments are when she almost imperceptibly redirects a student with a tiny touch on a shoulder or the lift of a hand. She's both subtle and brilliant. 

I hope we can all aspire to that. To mentoring someone. To being that kind person with our arm around a student's shoulder to help refocus and reassure them.

I know that I'm going to try. 

Which brings me to Irina Gorin.