Self Acceptance and My School Work
I never was a ‘teacher’s pet’ and I never could wrap my head around why every teacher since my admission to pre-school over time became frustrated with me. Sure, I had difficulty focusing in the noisy classrooms and admittedly did space out during long and seemingly pointless lectures. But despite my flaws, I was always a hard worker and thus managed to maintain above average grades until High School. I’d like to think that I saw the world through a different lens than most of the other kids in my elementary and middle schools. I liked to color outside the lines. I liked to take risks. Where most kids saw scribbles, I saw art. And when most kids listened, I questioned. My mind was always a cluttered mess, full of new ideas that were ready to spill out. My teachers would often meet with my parents and speak, sometimes negatively, about my lack of focus. At times, it felt like they criticized my creativity and didn’t understand my sometimes unusual connections. But what to do about it?
Slowly I began to feel that a classroom could be quite suffocating, both mentally and physically. Each day we were boxed into a room filled with students, aligned in rows, orderly and attentive. And each day we were told what was right and what was wrong, black and white. If our ideas did not follow the core structure of the public education system, they could be pushed aside. School, at an extreme, felt like an imprisonment of our bodies and a manipulation of our minds. Some students may say that school taught them the history of our world, others are proud to have learned the different applications of algebra, but what I have learned is much deeper – the idea of perspective. I have learned that what the teachers say is not always the exact truth, that in fact, the truth is not black or white, it is often gray. Often teaching is simply relaying facts that were previously agreed upon. Our school system is one of memorization, rote, and without complex thinking, which does not always have the intended results. Through this type of learning, people can become compliant or easily persuaded to conform to the vast majority (Asch’s conformity to a unanimous majority theory). But what to do about it?
I have come to realize that there are different kinds of ‘smart.’ Through most of my life, I have been told that ADHD is an illness, a troubling sickness that prohibits kids from learning ‘properly.’ Until I was diagnosed with this so-called ‘mental disorder,’ I believed what I had been told. My diagnosis for ADHD was an explanation for my lack of focus, but I soon began to realize that I owe much of my personality and much of my creativity to this ‘disorder.’ In the end, I am quite thankful for this important part of me.
From the perspective of a person without ADHD, having this disorder must seem terrible; patients lack focus and often do not receive ‘good’ grades. But what are grades beyond a letter, a label, and a mark? In my High School experience I have come to realize that grades are not necessarily based on how well one understands the material, but on how well the student can conform to the classroom and teacher’s structure. I have learned not to let simple letters affect the way I view myself and further, I have realized that I have, in a way, beaten the system by realizing this. From my point of view–the perspective of a student with ADHD–I see my ADHD as one of the best characteristics I possess. It allows me to space out, dream, create, imagine and take a break from structured learning. It allows me to further develop my creativity and to form new ideas, some of my best, and favorite attributes. However, it was not until I was diagnosed with ADHD that I came to realize this truth. But what to do about it?
I always thought I had ADHD but I never thought I would want medication for it. From the beginning of my education I felt like I was battling against the school system. They wanted straight A’s and I wanted my creativity. I wished there was a way for me to have both, but after a 10-year struggle, I was not sure what to do about it. I cherished my lack of focus because it helped further my originality, it made me unique. Currently, I feel like the school system has me beaten. I want to go to College, be successful, and live out my dreams, but this is that much more difficult without good grades. I realize now that to have good grades I do need the ability to focus and to be organized, and the only way for me to truly focus is to take medication. Although, the happiness I get from getting good grades is short-lived and I often feel as though I am losing opportunities to make new friends and be the social person I naturally am.
I have learned that in life, it is important to prioritize. Often we must prioritize our necessities over our happiness. Although, in the end, when our necessities are prioritized, we eventually end up happier. I chose to take medication to better my grades and therefore my future, but it is not without much resentment that I do so.