View Full Version : English/Composition Instructor and PhD Candidate with ADD

04-10-16, 12:31 AM
Just recently, I was diagnosed with ADD. Currently, I'm taking Adderall which has helped tremendously. Since this post is about Adults with ADD and Higher Education, I thought I would share my thoughts since I wear both hats in academia at the moment (teacher and student).

I've been teaching English (mostly composition) for seven years. In 2012, I decided to go back to school to jump the last hurdle: getting a PhD. I obtained my Master's in Multicultural Literature and Women's Studies in 2010.

Yet, like I tell most students who take my classes, I was not an exceptional student when I was getting my Bachelor's. I actually struggled quite a bit during my four (well more like five) years of getting my Bachelor's. I struggled at taking (and passing) tests, especially with multiple choice and true/false questions. I was always just a bit slower than my other classmates completing the exams. I found it difficult to find a good study regime. Soon, I started skipping classes out of boredom, anxiety, fear, or dread. I failed a few classes. Passed many classes with Ds. If I made a C in a class, it felt like I had made an A. And anything above that, I would immediately begin to question if the instructor gave me extra points for doing nothing, which actually made me feel even more inadequate.

The only time I felt that I had a shot at succeeding was if I was given a written exam or writing project. In contrast to a timed exam, a writing project takes several weeks to accomplish. As such, I had more time to collect and gather my thoughts. I could pace myself in whatever way I saw fit. If it was a written exam, I knew that even if I gave the wrong answer, if I articulated the wrong answer with some sort of rationale, I knew that the instructor would give me some points rather than no points. And so, the majority of the classes I took in college (the ones that I actually attended) were the classes that were writing intensive.

When I graduated with my Bachelor's in Anthropology and couldn't find work, I knew that I needed to go back to school. It was then that I realized that I needed to go into English. When obtaining my Master's, I did struggle quite a bit with the demands of the program. Most students who get their MA often take three classes a semester. During my first semester, I took three classes. After that, I dropped to just two. I couldn't tackle all of the work required for three classes. While my classmates also struggled taking three, it didn't seem to affect them nearly as much as it affected me. And I never knew why that was the case. So, instead of it taking me two years to get my MA, it took me three years. During my second year of teaching, I started teaching college composition.

And after graduating with my MA, I was an Adjunct Instructor at an urban community college in North Carolina. Although I don't know the exact percentage, I knew that a good portion of the students who took my courses had ADD or ADHD because they told me. I spent a large amount of time researching information, tools, and strategies about how to help students with ADD and ADHD. And I spent a good amount of time creating, adapting, and modifying assignments and activities in ways that would foster a space for ADD/ADHD students to shine. All the while, I also started using some of the tools and strategies on my own because it also seemed to work for me. It never dawned on me that maybe these strategies worked for me because I also suffered with ADD. I just thought, "Well, they would be good for anyone!"

Now, I'm in my fourth-year of PhD school. During my second year in the program, I started noticing that I was having problems that I didn't have before (or at least I thought I didn't have). However, I didn't really tell anyone about them for fear that I would be judged by my mentors in my department. However, after I took my comprehensive exams to be considered a candidate for a PhD, I knew that I was in a bad place. I took my exams Spring 2015, and since then, I have been in a bad place. I couldn't get it together. Everything feel a part. I started taking Adderall three weeks ago, and I finally feel like I can do it. But for almost a year, I was drowning, and I didn't know what to do. Because of this, I was pulled out of teaching classes, which probably was not a good idea. I thrive when I can help others. I die when I don't.

This semester I'm teaching a class. When I was diagnosed with ADD (about a month ago), I told my students my diagnosis. Most instructors are afraid to confess such things for fear of social/political/financial punishment. But, as one that goes against the grain more often than not, I told my students of my diagnosis.

I know that this forum is mostly meant for individuals who are seeking education. I am a student who is seeking education, but I am also one that provides that service as well. And it's not any easier for the ADD/ADHD individual who is providing the service of education. It can be frustrating and taxing, especially for the instructor who cannot tell students in her courses that she too suffers with a condition.

04-10-16, 05:24 AM
Were these issues something you experienced and had to deal with in childhood?

04-10-16, 05:41 AM
Hello and welcome to the forum. I hope you find what you're looking for here. There are a handful of us who teach or have taught, and a few who are pursuing or have advanced degrees. It's a tough road to hoe. I couldn't imagine teaching and trying to write a thesis. The world had to stop when I wrote mine. I couldn't do anything else but write.

I had trouble with adderall and direction of focus. OMG did it help me focus, but I could get sucked into things like video games and lose even more hours than I did before. I'm glad you were finally able to get help and I wish the best for you in the future.

04-10-16, 11:44 AM
Sarahsweets, yes, I struggled with most of those things as a child. I struggled at taking tests. Even if I knew the answers to the questions on the test, I would always second guess myself and would receive a poor grade. I also struggled with math. As a child, I remember spending many nights at the chalkboard at my home doing fractions with my mother at the helm. My mother is a retired English teacher. She retired in 2001 after teaching for 36 years. Before majoring in English, she was a Mathematics major. So, I guess I had the best of both worlds at home. For me to understand Math (or at least pass the class), she taught me all different kinds of mnemonic devices for me to remember rules related to Math in addition to constant drilling. In contrast, I didn't have problems reading or writing. I received many awards for my writing, and the only time I didn't do well in reading or writing was when I was given a test. If I was able to articulate my thoughts with enough time, I did fine. I also didn't suffer from hyperactivity. But this was in the 80s and early 90s where doctors were just beginning to understand ADD/ADHD. I was also raised by a mother that believed all children (regardless of conditions, disorders, or disabilities) could learn, that if the teacher fostered a space for these children to learn and applied different kinds of techniques, tools, and strategies, all children could learn and grow. My mother was also a staunch opponent of standardized testing or any kind of testing on children to assessing learning capabilities. So, it may have been that because of my mother's beliefs, my ADD flew underneath the radar. Or if anything, my mother taught me enough learning strategies that I was able to cope.

04-22-16, 12:59 PM
Your story is one of grit, determination, and great humanity towards others.
Writing was always my salvation for both personal organization and emotional growth. I have a body of poems, songs, stories and science models that stretch back thirty years. The amount of time it took me to understand my problems might be rooted in ADD was very long. Because I have severe ADD I learned to think certain ways. I've always had a gift for process of elimination style dot test. My processing speed is incredibly low, but the inner restlessness of ADHD built up a large pool of knowledge and associations. Suffice to say I would test high in theory as very capable but would execute in practical application abysmally.

Thank you for sharing your journey of realization, it registers and I can identify with the slow dawning realization of approaching and identifying the root cause of the mysterious phenomenon that is ADD/ADHD.

Having been diagnosed by a specialist, after a dispute erupted between my therapist and nurse practitioner; I am still stunned at how long people are left to wander deeper and deeper into the darkness, to satisfy the social orders clinical pathology. This disorder and these medications have been stigmatized and politicized to the point of mass insanity.

Glad you survived and triumphed.
Best to you.


I had an idea for a public awareness campaign.
It would be a youtube channel with a name like ADD-Lifepaths.
People would submit 5-7 minute summaries that follow an outlined
list of the magor events of their ADD-ADHD journey.

The whole range and gamut including people who slipped
into denial and floundered, those not diagnosed until very late,
and very young people in the context of their immediate culture.

It would be a worthy powerful tool.
Something you have previously done but in a different format-medium.

Moderator - if you censor this please send original to poster, its topical.