Today’s prompt is: If you could choose to be a master (or mistress) of any skill in the world, which skill would you pick?
Executive functioning: Organization, managing multiple tasks either simultaneously or one after another without getting distracted, keeping my house neat, remembering to do stuff. Basically, I would like to NOT have ADHD, or at least be able to take stimulant medications to improve these symptoms.
It has been very difficult pursuing a career in teaching with poor executive functioning skills. I have managed to last 10 years (and now hanging on by a thread) due to other skills I do possess (and feel blessed to have them): excellent language skills, especially the fact that I speak Spanish (also Portuguese, but not so important where I live) and have ESL/bilingual certification.
However, rarely do I last more than one year in a teaching job, especially classroom teaching. I do much better with small groups or individuals where management of strict routines and structures is not as important. Working with smaller groups allows me to shine in the aspects of teaching that are important, but not noticed or considered a priority by many administrators: compassion and caring for each and every student, and problem solving to help them. This is why most of my students – and their parents – like me and feel comfortable in my class. I work very hard (harder than most, probably), trying to keep up with colleagues whose executive functioning skills are fully intact and taken for granted.
(These pictures show a project that I did with different groups of students for Day of the Dead, depicting scenes of skeletons enjoying themselves.)
Every spring after I lose whatever job I have once again, I consider leaving the field of education altogether. Yet every fall, I’m back in a new teaching job. I can’t tell an administrator that I have ADHD, and usually they never find out. Each and every time I try again to be organized, have consistent routines, manage a group of 20 or more kids. It usually works for awhile, and I feel encouraged by that, thinking I have finally mastered the skill of organization well enough to succeed this time.
But it never lasts. My ADHD gets the better of me, especially as I become tired from working so hard as the school year progresses. Then, because I changed careers to go into teaching in middle age before I was diagnosed, I regret having been so hasty in pursuing this career. It would be hard for me to do something else at this point though. I really do love education and working with children. And I need medical insurance, so I have to keep working until I can retire.
I wish I lacked a skill that I could master, that someone could teach me. I’m a lot better at teaching than I used to be and can anticipate some of the pitfalls before they happen. Yet maintaining a consistent level of executive functioning is not only impossible for me, it isn’t something I can be “taught.” I can get better, perhaps, at using coping mechanisms – which I have done – but I will never be able to compete with those hyper-focused, super-organized colleagues out there.