Navigating Adult ADHD: A Personal and Professional Journey

Show Notes

In this episode of “Empower Students Now,” host Amanda interviews Vanessa Jones, an English teacher, writer, and voice actor who has recently authored a guidebook on adult ADHD. Vanessa discusses her personal experience with an adult ADHD diagnosis, the unnoticed symptoms in women, and the impact on her life and career. She shares insights on teaching with ADHD, the benefits of structured environments, and the accommodations that helped her succeed. The conversation also touches on Vanessa’s transition to voice acting and entrepreneurship, and the importance of recognizing neurodiversity in education. Both Amanda and Vanessa reflect on the strengths that individuals with ADHD bring to teaching.

Get Vanessa Jones’s Book Here:


Amanda (00:00:24) – I am so excited to have a guest on the podcast today. Her name is Vanessa Jones and I’d like to tell you a little bit about Vanessa. Vanessa is an English teacher, writer, and voice actor. Vanessa did a deep dive into ADHD research when she received her adult ADHD diagnosis. She applied this knowledge to her teaching practices with ADHD students, and she wrote down her own stories to make sense of the impact of ADHD on her life. The result is an ADHD friendly guidebook, and we’ll put a link in the description of this episode and in the show notes, so you can go and click click it and buy it. And I’m really excited to read it. I haven’t read it yet., so this guidebook is complete with an engaging, poignant laugh out loud personal narrative woven throughout that illustrates the various challenges of ADHD, one symptom at a time.

Amanda (00:01:34) – And the book is called How Did That Happen? Understanding adult ADHD through Stories of Lived experience and the picture is hilarious. On the cover. You’ll have to click the link to see it., Vanessa, welcome., I would like to you to add more to this., tell us about you and,. Yeah. What else would you add to that bio?

Vanessa (00:02:01) – , first of all, Amanda, I am so excited to get to actually talk with you. Finally, after years of following you, following your podcast, having your curriculum to use in my classroom., discovering that it worked, just the whole writers workshop approach was amazingly helpful for all kinds of different student needs. And,, now I get to talk to you. So I’m really excited about that., yes, I am. I call myself still a teacher because I do still teach online a little bit, one on one, but I’m no longer in the classroom. And as long as my, my,, professional teaching certification stays current, I figure I can keep calling myself a teacher.

Vanessa (00:02:40) – I did leave the classroom, though, to,, in the pandemic to pursue voice acting as a career, and,. I continued to work on this book that I recently published, which I had been working on in the summers while I was teaching, and,, just needed more time to get it finished. So I got it finished, and it was really, really a book close to my heart since I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. And. I had many, many ADHD students who I desperately wanted to help and and often felt like I was not serving them nearly as well as I should be. And definitely our whole school model was not serving them the way it should be. So I wanted desperately to to learn as much as I could to give. To give young people and older adults who are newly diagnosed and don’t really understand anything about how a diagnosis has, how adult ADHD has impacted their lives and impacted their trajectory, their relationships, how they did in their jobs, all these things.

Vanessa (00:03:49) – I wanted to make sense of it for myself and put that into a book to help other people. I actually began writing the book as my own marriage was falling apart, and I was trying to make sense of what was happening and why.

Amanda (00:04:06) – Wow. Okay., I yeah, I can’t wait to read your book. I love books that kind of weave in story and humor., and I do feel like people with ADHD are often very funny people, you know, like, they just. Yeah. So,. That’s awesome. I’m. I’m really curious about the story. Because you were diagnosed as an adult. I was two,, just a year ago., how did that actually come about? Like, how did you finally discover this about yourself?

Vanessa (00:04:45) – Well, I mean, I think that’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask, because how do you spend your entire life into your 40s not realizing that you have this? Entirely different way of seeing and approaching the world than a lot of the people around you.

Vanessa (00:05:05) – , I think because ADHD is such a misnomer that it really throws people off, and because it’s so frequently has been in terms of the symptom checklist applied to and taken from observations of boys. And so as a girl and as a woman, I didn’t exhibit a lot of the traits of ADHD that were considered,, red flags. So I just scooted on by, you know, I, I had great grades. I seemed to get along okay with everybody. I,. Seem to be developing normally as as normal as normal is. And,, it wasn’t until and I never thought I had a problem with focusing and attention. I mean, I could focus fine. I just didn’t really realize that I could focus best on things that I was really highly interested in, and not at all on things that I wasn’t. I didn’t realize that there was this dichotomy., it’s just. Not until I took a continuing education class for my to keep my my teaching certification, that I was sitting there in a lecture and I was falling asleep, as I always did, because when you’re ADHD, you’re either on or you’re off.

Vanessa (00:06:19) – And if you’re not engaged, you’re pretty much off. And suddenly the the the presenter talked about how he drinks like five pots of coffee a day because he’s ADHD. And I thought, wow, that’s a lot of coffee. And it suddenly just sort of woke me up. I’m thinking about, gosh, what is that caffeine gonna do to you? And then he starts talking about how ADHD has affected him and how it impacts his teaching. And I thought, wait a minute, I have a lot of those same issues that those challenges sound like me. And that’s when I started looking into it more. I was 42 years old. My marriage was falling apart, and I was trying to find answers to what had happened between me and my husband. And all this. All this friction that we had had with him, accusing me of not caring about him, not understanding his needs, not doing enough to help or to to hear what he was asking or to remember what he expected me to do. He thought he took it personally, as so many spouses or partners of people with ADHD do, because it looks like you just don’t care enough.

Vanessa (00:07:31) – Like you’re selfish, like you’re lazy, like you’re too preoccupied with your own stuff. And you’ll get to that there thing later. When in fact there’s so much more going on. So I looked into it and, and went to somebody for,, looking at a diagnosis and got one.

Amanda (00:07:50) – Wow, I really appreciate your vulnerability sharing about,, especially your marriage and that all of that really resonates., just kind of being accused of being insensitive., I think because, yeah, we are so passionate about our interests that we neglect things that, you know, and people, and I can so relate with that., we.

Vanessa (00:08:18) – Don’t just neglect, we literally forget about them because they’re out of sight. They’re out of mind. Like my husband would go on a business trip. I’d forget he was gone, and then he would come back and it would throw me. I’d be like, what are you doing here?

Amanda (00:08:32) – Yeah. Wow.. And. Yeah, and I can. That’s just incredible that a professor.

Amanda (00:08:38) – Just a lecturer. And that must have woken you up from your your board. Your board. It did, it did., so were you teaching at the time?, when this all happened?

Vanessa (00:08:50) – I was actually in a program that we have in Virginia called the Career Switchers, which is,. A really quickly accelerated course to get people certified to teach in the public schools. I had been a teacher before, but it was in North Carolina at an independent girls school, and I didn’t need a teaching certification for that. I have a master’s in English and that was plenty enough for them. But when I wanted to teach in the public school system, I had to go and get,, you know, the certification for that. So that’s what I was doing. I was getting certified to teach,, sixth through 12th grade at that point.

Amanda (00:09:29) – So how? Like, as a teacher, you,, before you,, knew you had ADHD. What sorts of challenges do you feel like you had,, in the classroom because of of having ADHD? And I guess I’m also asking, like, how did your teaching change after,, discovering that you had ADHD, like kind of the before or after picture? Because I feel like there are a lot of teachers and there is this huge movement right now of women, middle, middle aged women uncovering this about about themselves.

Amanda (00:10:12) – , and I think there are a lot of people listening, and I’ve actually received messages from people about my episode where I told everyone I was diagnosed with ADHD and teachers saying, wow, like, I actually really resonate with a lot of your experience. And I’m, I think I might this might also I might have it too. And really, it’s so I don’t know if you could tell us a little bit more about before and after, kind of in the classroom.

Vanessa (00:10:42) – I think the teaching is actually a really useful for profession for people with ADHD, because everything is structured in your day, you know, you know exactly how much time you have in this period. You know exactly how much planning time you have. You know when you need to be in the next class. It’s so regimented, and that works really well for us that that routine and somebody else structuring our time is super helpful. So that was not an issue. I in the independent girls school where I worked, we moved from classroom to classroom to teach our classes, so we didn’t have one classroom that was assigned to us the way it often is in public school.

Vanessa (00:11:22) – So instead I had an office, an actual office, like a professor. And I remember all my all my colleagues kept their office doors open all the time. And you, you know, be able to peek in and see them working, typing away on their computers. I could not do that at all. I kept my office door shut when I was in there for a planning period. It looked so unwelcoming. Students would have to knock on the door. Miss Jones, are you in there? Your son? So I finally put a sign. I’m in. Just knock.. And thank goodness the administration never came to me and said,, you need to open your door because you look unwelcoming. Because if they had, I would have fallen apart. I wouldn’t have gotten anything done. Luckily, they never said that I could keep my door shut. And of course, I didn’t know that I was ADHD. All I knew was that if I had that door open, it was like chaos was just swirling in around me and I couldn’t do anything.

Vanessa (00:12:19) – And if I shut it, I put it all on the other side of that wall and I could focus. And. I had a really great mentor teacher who said to me that she used to when she was teaching, she used to print out everything that she had created for her students, and she would put them into sheet protectors, and then she would put those into a spiral notebook and our three ring binder, actually, and she would label it with whatever the category was that she was teaching. And since I was an English teacher and I was teaching different novels, I would have one for Great Gatsby, one for The Scarlet Letter. You know, I had a binder for everything with all the assignments. In their ordered with the sheet protectors. And somehow this gave me a sense of control over everything. And it was before we had learning management systems, you know, there was no canvas. There was there was barely.. I mean, there was really not even online grades. I mean, I had to do everything by hand in a book, so.

Vanessa (00:13:26) – It was a way to keep everything organized that I could see it visually and hence it remained. In my field of. Memory and I didn’t forget about it or just lose track of what I was doing. In some ways moving into more of the digital age. When I went back to teaching was a little harder because I kept everything on the computer in different folders, but I couldn’t see it, I couldn’t touch it. And so it was less easy for me to keep track of.

Amanda (00:14:03) – So so it sounds like you had issues with, like, just,, time management organization, like memory., and. Yeah, like and that something that helped was kind of boundaries, like closing the door and isolating yourself so you could get get your work done., and I love that you said that teaching is actually a wonderful,, profession for someone with ADHD, because I actually left teaching to do my business full time, and I just utterly failed at that because of my lack of ability to manage my time.

Amanda (00:14:50) – And yeah, I mean, just time blindness and just feeling really overwhelmed with like, all of the hundreds of things that you have to do and not knowing how, like what’s most important, like being able to prioritize,, what’s important., because I just, I just get so sucked. Like, as someone with ADHD, you just get so sucked into,, whatever is interesting. We’re exciting, you know, like, and not really. Yeah. Like, managing my time well and, and and teaching is very dynamic. I mean, it’s structured like you said,, and it you have to be certain places at certain times. You have to be teaching certain things at certain times. And I have realized that I need to be in a structured system because,, so, yeah, I’m not doing the full time business stuff anymore because it was it was so overwhelming and chaotic for me. I just, I couldn’t and I’ve only I only recently realized that, that I had to go back to teaching.

Amanda (00:16:00) – But teaching is just such a everything. Every day is different. You know. And that is good for ADHD too, because we, we, we like desire constant stimulation. And it is a very stimulating profession, you know,, so I yeah. And so I’m curious, like, how has when you transitioned into,, going from being a teacher to becoming a voice actor and it seems like, you know, you’re having a lot of success. You published a book. I’ve always wanted to publish a book. Never done it., I mean, I’ve published a lot of curriculum, and it’s so funny. Before we hit record, you were saying,, I thought I didn’t know. You didn’t even know I had ADHD. You thought I was the most organized person in the world because you bought my curriculum. Actually, come to find out, I’m a mess, you know, like, I’m very, like, chaotic, disorganized person that can’t prioritize and all of these issues., but.

Amanda (00:17:02) – So I’m curious, like,, how has it been, like being an entrepreneur and, and how long have you been doing that? When did you leave the classroom?, I have.

Vanessa (00:17:12) – So many thoughts in my head right now, and I want to go back to things that we were talking about.

Amanda (00:17:15) – I know you.

Vanessa (00:17:15) – Want to respond to what you just said, and I said too much. No, I mean, So I will answer that. I hope I can remember it, but okay. But let me go back to respond to what you just said. So. I think that’s part of your ADHD, is part of why your curriculum was so wonderful and so thoughtful and why you would you would constantly be looking at things and growing yourself and and wanting to redo and redefine how you were. Helping us teach so that we were more mindful and,. And not just teaching from one perspective. You were so. Thoughtful about. How can we be more mindful of racial issues, of socioeconomic issues, of diversity issues? And I’ve never seen anyone else put that much time and thought into constantly.

Vanessa (00:18:14) – Revising their own stuff. Publicly, you know, with all of your all of your people that were using your curriculum kind of on on the ride with you saying, okay, you know what? I gave you something and I worked really hard on it. And and I stand by, you know. The major core of it. But we need to look at this again. And I loved that you did that, I thought. Now that I think about it, you couldn’t possibly be a linear thinker if you were doing that because you kept coming back around, back around. Everything that you were doing was curvilinear, right? You were. You were spiraling into the new places as you grew as a person and then helping us do the same thing.. So I just wanted to respond to that. And then you had asked me. How are things different from what I did not know about my ADHD until I did know about my ADHD, and in some ways it was better at the first school, the independent school.

Vanessa (00:19:15) – Not because I wasn’t aware of my ADHD, but because the administration was much more tolerant of me as a person and my quirks, and they were accommodating without me realizing that they were accommodating some of those things. And that really made it easier for me to teach, giving me an office and letting me shut my door. They allowed me to bring my dog. I got to have my dog with me, and my dog helped me focus and made me feel secure and,. It was almost like a therapy dog in a way, and for my students to when they would come in and and work with me. So. Those two things, and the chair of my department always asked for just a basic outline of what we were going to do in a semester before each semester started. And so I didn’t have to write, you know, like detailed assignments. But I had to go through a calendar, and I had to show her where I was going to have the, the major assessments,, where I was going to have the minor assessments.

Vanessa (00:20:12) – And that forced me to have a basic structure for every class before I even started fleshing it out with, you know, the big assignments. That was super helpful. In the in the public school that I taught at in Virginia. The things that I was forced to do did not help me at all. In fact, they made it a lot worse because of my ADHD. Things like having to write an objective on the board every single day. The student will be able to. The student will learn. I had such a hard time doing that. It took so much work for me to do that, that my creative energy was stifled. It was not good for my ADHD brain. The do knows you. I’m sure you know about the do nows. When you have to have every single day on the board. You’re going to do this as soon as you walk in the classroom. It was supposed to help with discipline problems, get the students focused as soon as they got into the classroom. I hated the do nows.

Vanessa (00:21:10) – I felt like the do nows were bad for me, and they were bad for the kids because the kids didn’t get the transition time that they needed. They didn’t get the chatting with me, time that they needed they. Didn’t need to have that due. Now, every single day. I wanted control over when I gave them a do now. I didn’t want it to be every day. So anyway, I had some real problems with the different styles.. Probably partly because of my ADHD.

Amanda (00:21:40) – Yeah.

Vanessa (00:21:42) – So I just wanted to say those things. And then going back to the question that you asked me, and because my working memory is not that good, I forgot the question. Darn, I meant to remember it. What was it?

Amanda (00:21:53) – Yeah. Yeah. Well, I’m really, really absorbed in just thinking about you as a teacher and the things that that you that helped and the things that didn’t help. And I, I just connect so much with what you’re saying because. Yeah, I hate to do now, too.

Amanda (00:22:11) – I hate to like bell ringers. Oh, my., there’s. So I don’t know, anything that feels like I’m that it feels like I’m forcing kids to conform to some sort of, like, Stepford standard, I guess. Yes. Yes, always. But I always get kind of sucked into that like mentality. Like. And I feel like a lot of teachers, all teachers, not just teachers with ADHD, are kind of told to conform to a certain standard, to maintain behavior and to make sure your class is. Yeah, like like if your class isn’t behaving in this specific way, then that’s a reflection of your teaching abilities and skills. And I’m I mean, I’m teaching an intervention class. I’m teaching ninth grade,, and I’m teaching a reading intervention class, and there’s only like 12 kids in the class. And I have vacillated between, like, being super structured and, and strict and, you know, and like, we need routine and we need and and then also being and then kind of going back the other direction of being really kind of.

Amanda (00:23:31) – , flexible and adaptable to what they need and their opinion and and the structured stringent strict. It always goes bad. It just never I don’t know like. Yeah. Like it’s I think it yeah, it’s the creative brain. It’s the like wanting to be able to kind of pivot based on what the kids need that at that moment. I mean, and that’s what I love about teaching. But also we need structure too. So I don’t know, it’s just a hard balance of, you know, being structured and having like expectations and like having routines because kids need that and so do we. But also being able to break away from those, you know, and yeah. So anyways, but the question you asked me what the question was, I mean, we could keep talking about teaching, but I also know that there are a lot of teachers that are leaving the classroom to,, pursue other careers. And yeah, like what that was like for you,, going into entrepreneurship., yeah.

Vanessa (00:24:38) – Well, I was. Basically. I joined a networking group that meets once a week, which really helped with structuring my day, and I joined another,, sort of business mastermind group that also met once a week on a different day. So I tried to structure my day with different groups of people, even though it was the pandemic and most of it was online., I had at least three days a week where I got to be online with different people for different reasons, and that really helped me put my day together. And then because I was working with other entrepreneurs, like real estate agents, for example, I got to see how they structured their day and where they spent, you know, their time hustling for work and where they did the work. And, you know,, where they made materials that were relevant to giving out to customers and whatever. So that really helped me understand. Okay, I need to do about 80% of this and 20% of this and then a bunch of other stuff, which I didn’t have time in my day for.

Vanessa (00:25:45) – That I do it that way. Did I actually follow that order? No. I kept making myself orders of things to do, and then I kept ignoring them. Yes, fundamentally, ADHD is an interest based nervous system, so I would get involved with making TikTok videos and that’s what I wanted to do that day.

Amanda (00:26:01) – Yeah.

Vanessa (00:26:03) – Yeah. You know. Yeah. So I gave myself grace for that as much as I could. I knew I had to send out a certain number of emails or make a certain number of phone calls to actually production agencies, that sort of thing, to get my name out there and get my demos out there. But that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to do other stuff., so it has it has been a journey just in everything that I’ve learned with marketing, with technology, practicing, practicing, practicing for hundreds and hundreds of hours just to do the voice acting and do it well,, coaching. So many things, and there’s been a lot of novelty, which has helped because it’s been very stimulating.

Vanessa (00:26:46) – And I’m passionate about words and I’m passionate about finding meaning in words, and I’m passionate about telling the story of those words. So that has kept me going, and I’ve given myself little rewards along the way. I’ll do something that for somebody else might not be really easy, but for me, it took a lot of effort and I’ll say, okay, I get a cup of tea, okay, I can walk the dog, you know, putting off the things that I love just enough to get something done that I don’t want to do., we need to reward ourselves, and we need to give ourselves grace for veering off and doing something else. And,, we need to not compare ourselves to other people that we’re seeing online who are getting so much done and seem like they’re so efficient because we’re not like them. And that’s okay, because what we do get done is so freaking interesting, and it’s so different and creative, and nobody else in the world can come up with the things that we come up with in our brains.

Vanessa (00:27:49) – So if we don’t do more than one thing in a day, but that one thing is pretty cool, well then, good for us.

Amanda (00:27:58) – Oh, I love listening to you. Yeah, you sound like you’ve been empowered,, with this diagnosis. And I have to,. But there are also times when, like, I realized, you know, in this past year that being an entrepreneur isn’t for me., and, you know, and I don’t know if a lot of people even realize this. I know a lot of people that were in my membership., and I sent them an email saying, I’m shutting this down. They know that I’ve stopped., and yeah, it was exactly because of what you were describing, like being able to structure my day,, being basically, I felt like I, I was being forced to do things I didn’t want to do, of course. And I was the only one in charge of making myself do those things. And so. And I would rebel like, I mean, I do I do feel like I have a very big rebellious streak, like when I set goals and when I try and say, I’m going to use this system, you know, I’m going to calendar, you know, I’m going to do this and not and, and I just and then I don’t follow through.

Amanda (00:29:13) – And then I beat myself up about it., and just yeah, the giving yourself grace and being self compassionate about. Yeah. Your, your tendencies to kind of go off off the rails., it sounds like you’re doing really, really well. And I’m super curious. Like what?, kind of voice acting,, jobs have you got? Like, what exactly is being a voice actor? I don’t like I’m going off the rails a little bit here, but I it’s just it’s just a curiosity of mine because I’ve considered that, too. Are you, like, reading audible books out loud or what would you voice actors do?

Vanessa (00:29:51) – So voice actors certainly can go into audiobooks. Audiobooks are something I’ve done., some of I did a 30 hour audible not audible series, but a series for pocket FM, which was 30 hour,, series. It wasn’t a book because it was episodes. And I’ve done some children’s stuff. I did some Paw Patrol stories and things like that. Typically, I don’t do a lot of audiobooks because they take for every hour of finished.

Vanessa (00:30:21) – Material with all the editing and and mastering, which is, you know, tweaking the sounds and all that that you do. It probably takes if you’re good, it takes two hours for every one hour if you’re. And that’s if you’re like super, super professional, you’ve been doing this, you know, you’ve got hundreds or thousands of books under your belt. If you’re not in that level, it can take 6 to 8 hours for every hour of finished material. Now, if you’re getting paid. And if you’re, you know, not hugely up there, you might be getting paid $200 an hour. For an hour of finished material. That means you’re getting $200 for potentially eight hours of work. Wow. That’s not so good. Yeah, so I don’t do that. Many audiobooks I’ve gotten certainly faster, but most of my voice acting is., corporate work. So corporations, businesses, they always have a message that they want to convey, whether it’s to their stakeholders, you know, or it’s internally, it’s for their employees, it’s for a commercial, it’s an explainer or an overview video, something that is, you know, inspiring and shows what their mission is and what their past was like and how they’re moving to the future and what’s exciting and special about them.

Vanessa (00:31:43) – Those are the kinds of voiceovers that that I do.

Amanda (00:31:48) – That sounds really fun, but I will not. I will not,, you know, cave to shiny object syndrome.

Vanessa (00:31:57) – Don’t do that. Don’t do that. So you say that you’re not an entrepreneur. And yet I would say that a huge percentage of entrepreneurs are neurodiverse. Yeah. ADHD, autistic. Learning challenges, all kinds of things. Because being an entrepreneur allows you to control your own life, your own schedule, your own environment, and you don’t have people forcing you to do things that you don’t want to do. Yes, you still have to do things that you don’t want to do, but there aren’t other people forcing you to do it. You’re forcing yourself to do it. So. Somehow I find that easier. It’s still hard to do those things, but at least I’m not dealing with a boss who doesn’t understand me, or coworkers who I’m having friction with because I’m asking a question and they’re getting defensive because they don’t understand that my whole M.O. is to ask questions, to understand they think I’m criticizing them.

Vanessa (00:32:50) – And so we have a horrible, you know, relationship as a result. Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything, but,. I did a TikTok video actually, most recently where I came up with this idea that. We are so good about loving other people and being thoughtful and kind to others when we’re not in a hyper focused mode of our own. So I was thinking about this and how I’m often not motivated to cook or to even eat because I get involved in work and it’s just too much trouble. But if my son, who’s a teenager, is coming home from school, I know he’s going to be tired. I know he’s going to have a bunch of homework. I know he’s going to have had a really stressful day just dealing with all the stuff at school, and I want I’m become motivated to make him a snack, and I will get up from my computer and I will go into the kitchen and I will make him something that he likes, and I’ll put some effort into it, something that I would not do for myself.

Vanessa (00:33:51) – I will do for him because I want him to know that I love him. I want him to know that you know I’m there to support him and that when he gets home, he’ll have something nice and familiar that he can sit down to a snack that he likes. Right? So I was thinking about this, and I was thinking, what if I treated myself with that kind of positive love? What if instead of saying to myself, oh, I don’t want to start that project, I can’t even figure out the steps that I need to get started. And I got a bunch of negative feelings about it, because I don’t even think that that client is treating me fairly, and I’ve already done something for them four times, and now they want it again, and I don’t know what they want. What if I didn’t let all that negative stuff happen? What if I pretended that I wasn’t the one who had to do the task? What if I pretended that it was somebody else who had to do the task, and all I was doing was preparing the foundation for them, whatever that meant.

Vanessa (00:34:50) – If it meant making them a snack, then that’s what I would do. But I wasn’t in charge of eating the snack if it meant downloading some files and putting them in the right place so that everything was on the screen and ready for the person that I love to do their task, then I could do that part for them. But I don’t need to think of myself. As the one who has to get it all done right away. So somehow this makes it easier to begin a task, because we don’t feel a lot of motivation for things that we don’t want to do. But if we can think of it as. Caring enough about the person who is going to do that task to get it started for them, and then we can leave and let them come back later and do it. I think that mindset shift can really actually help us get motivated enough to do it.

Amanda (00:35:40) – I love, I love that, I mean, you’re helping me right now. And it is. I am in a program, a mindfulness and meditation certification teaching certification program, and they talk a lot about,, taking the seat of awareness or taking a seat of the observer.

Amanda (00:35:57) – So kind of separating yourself from like, what’s going on,, and just kind of observing yourself. And that’s kind of what you’re describing. It’s and it is this is true self-love. Like what what you’re describing. You’re you’re taking care of the person who has to do the thing that they really don’t want to do. And you’re, you’re you’re being empathetic, you know, with them. So yeah, I love that because I do feel like the biggest challenge that I have as someone with ADHD is, yeah, just this feeling of, yeah, like I don’t. This resistance to being told what to do., yeah. Or or having to do something a certain way or. Yeah. Being given a rule that you don’t agree with, you know, like for example, can curriculum, you know, and having to I mean, there’s a can curriculum for this intervention class that I’m teaching and yeah, forcing my students and myself to do that,, it’s really hard. It is.

Vanessa (00:37:07) – And that actually has a name.

Vanessa (00:37:08) – It’s it’s PDA. I don’t know if you’ve heard it.

Amanda (00:37:11) – Yes I do, yeah, I know that pathological demand avoidance that’s more associated with autism though, right.

Vanessa (00:37:17) – Like but ADHD and autism have so much of the same parts of the brain that are. That are maybe less developed and therefore the brain is using other, you know, parts to, to compensate. And hence all the interesting, you know, creative stuff happens that I think it would make perfect sense for PDA to also be something that that was, at least for some of us, ADHD or,, an issue. And. Another name for it would be,, demand for autonomy instead of. Yeah, instead of just,, avoidance because. The way you you’re talking about it, you can see that you just want to have the control yourself. And you don’t want to be told that it must be this way. And I have that too. And so does my son. It’s it’s,. Certainly with teachers, I think we can all understand that sense of needing our own autonomy and our students desperately pushing for their own autonomy, and all of us from from the top down being kind of squished.

Vanessa (00:38:28) – Yeah, we become part of that.

Amanda (00:38:31) – And we need more creative thinkers. We need more people who, you know, aren’t conformist, you know, who do question why are we doing it this way, especially in education? Yeah., because, you know, we I feel like, yeah, our society and technology, it’s all kind of outgrown the educational system that is in place currently. And we need to start thinking about. Yeah, like, how can we maybe do things differently to allow for more autonomy, to allow for more critical thinking, to allow for kids to question, you know,, things and think for themselves? Yeah. Because I feel like when they’re constantly told by adults, do this now, do that now, they’re just learning how to jump through hoops, you know, and then the kids who have ADHD and autism, they’re getting in trouble,, for refusing, you know, or whatever they’re doing., did you ever read,, autism,, or. No.

Amanda (00:39:33) – Yeah. Autism Unmasked by David Price. No, I have it. Unmasking autism. Oh, it’s such a good book. You have it. Oh, I love that book.

Vanessa (00:39:43) – I think Devin is awesome. I discovered Devin on Medium and then. And then got their book. Yeah.

Amanda (00:39:50) – Wow. We need to talk again. I think because we are definitely on the same,, we’re on the same page. The same. We’re on the same wavelength for sure. And I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast are also their minds are being open to, yeah, what neuro neurodiversity is and neuro divergence. And I feel like we’re just only scratching the surface of like,, like these terms ADHD and autism or Asperger’s., I just, I feel like, yeah, they’re all very interconnected and interrelated. And there’s probably even more terms within them, you know?, yeah. Yeah. I mean, I don’t.

Vanessa (00:40:29) – Think it was until 2013. I think Devin talks about that in the book that it was 2013 when.

Vanessa (00:40:35) – People were even allowed to be diagnosed with both ADHD and autism combined. The psychiatrists and psychologists weren’t even able to consider that those two things could be together in one person. Before 2013. That’s crazy to me. Not crazy is a bad word. Sorry. It’s not a word I should be using.

Amanda (00:40:53) – That is so.

Vanessa (00:40:54) – Interesting and surprising.

Amanda (00:40:58) – Wow. Good for you for for trying to, like, change the vocabulary. I say that word all the time. I think it would be really hard for me to stop saying it., okay. What else have we not covered yet?. Do you, do you. I know you wrote on an envelope some notes. Oh.

Vanessa (00:41:18) – I have my my retirement statement, which I can’t make myself open because then I have to deal with it, so I just keep it unopened. And then I wrote a bunch of notes on it. So let’s see what I have here.

Amanda (00:41:28) – Yeah, let’s let’s make sure that we cover,, everything that you might want to say about.

Amanda (00:41:36) – Yeah, being diagnosed as an adult, being a teacher,, with ADHD. Yeah.

Vanessa (00:41:44) – Well, I would say that in the classroom, once I understood ADHD a lot better and I understood how it was impacting me, I really tried to. Be more understanding of my ADHD students, and not just force them to conform to the standard of sitting quietly and answering when you’re called on, or raising your hand in order to speak. And,, the whole writers workshop thing really worked extremely well for all of my students because they were allowed to write about things that interested them. I was able to talk with them about things that interested them, and push them to something that was rigorous but relevant to their lives. You know, the three R’s, the relevant, rigorous, and the other one I can’t remember now, but they’re always taught to teachers,, that assignments are supposed to be real here. All relatable, relevant and rigorous.

Amanda (00:42:42) – Yes. There you go.

Vanessa (00:42:43) – Anyway,, when you’re ADHD, if you can understand how something relates to your life and you can have some emotional investment in it, you’re much more likely to remember it.

Vanessa (00:42:56) – Because the emotional part of our brains is the workaround for the kind of lesser abilities that we might have with working memory and executive functions as a whole. So that’s why stories and the the personal relationships and the feeling like you want to do well because you like your teacher,, and your teacher respects you. All this stuff is super important for the ADHD brain. And if you’re writing your own stories and you’re getting a chance to really explore your own thinking, and your teacher is encouraging that, of course that’s going to help with the ADHD brains engagement, right? So that was a great thing. And then I discovered the 20 time project, which is this idea that you get 20 minutes each period to work on a project that that student has chosen, that they’re really interested in, and they can present that project at the end of the the time that they have to work on it, and they work on it for like months, 20 minutes a period. And then there are different,, thresholds that they have to meet over that time where they have to show that they’re working on it and, and whatever.

Vanessa (00:44:04) – But at the end, when they present it, they can choose to present it in a bunch of different ways. It might just be an oral presentation with a bunch of pictures, or it might be a PowerPoint, or it might be a movie. But because they get to make so many decisions about it and they have,, you know, different deadlines that they have to meet along the way. I have found that students who might not have engaged really at all, or done any work during the semester suddenly were thriving when it came to the 20 time project and were so proud of themselves when it came to the sharing of the final work because they showed the class something that they loved and. They put so much thought and effort and creativity into it and it was wonderful. I still remember my sixth graders giving their final presentations, and it was it was incredible. I learned so much and there were so many different ways that they presented.

Amanda (00:45:01) – I’ve never heard of that before, like I’ve heard of passion projects, but I have never heard of this.

Amanda (00:45:06) – What is it called? 20. It was a.

Vanessa (00:45:08) – 20 time project, but it’s the same concept. It was just 20 minutes each, each class period that they were done it.

Amanda (00:45:13) – That sounds wonderful. Well, and also workshop really incorporates choice I feel like and I and and I like I’ve always been a teacher who was obsessed with engagement. Right., you know, and I think it’s because I have ADHD and because I get really bored to like, very easily. And so it’s important to be as engaging as I can. And I do feel like that is a superpower that comes with ADHD. We’re so sensitive to when things are boring or when a kid is, you know, not paying attention. At least I, I’m very, very aware of when a kid has just checked out and, you know, that’s just kind of my cue to be more dynamic. And I feel like kind of yeah, teaching is I do feel like I have a gift for it because I have ADHD. Yeah.

Amanda (00:46:12) – Like just being kind of entertaining and dynamic and, and and being just so hyper focused on engagement., but like, you know, workshop has really been being criticized lately, you know, with the reading, the reading wars and Lucy Calkins and you don’t know about the reading wars and all the. Well, how long have you been out of the classroom?

Vanessa (00:46:38) – . I guess. Three years.

Amanda (00:46:42) – Three years. Yeah. So it I think it was like in 2021 or 2022, there was a bunch of bunch of research that came out. You’ve heard of the science of reading, right? Yeah, yeah. So that’s directly in opposition with the units of study and, reading specifically reading workshop., and so there’s this push, you know, it’s like this pendulum, right, where especially at the elementary level is where Lucy Calkins like, and not just Lucy Hopkins, like, fondness and Pinnell., I mean, there’s like documentaries about them and and how about curriculum companies making millions and millions of dollars profiting off of schools when it’s not actually research backed? And,, this is all new to you? Oh, man.

Amanda (00:47:33) – I am, like, obsessed with with with listening. There’s a podcast series about it called Soul to Story. Have you heard of it? No I haven’t oh, man. It’s it’s it’s pretty mind blowing., but it’s still like, even with all the criticism about reading and writing workshop, I still think that it has a place in the classroom because of what you’re describing, because of it, it creates a community of of respect between the teacher and the students. There’s so much more choice and engagement is prioritized. But basically the science of reading, people are saying like, we need much more explicit direct instruction in phonics because our kids are not learning to read at the elementary level.

Vanessa (00:48:23) – I understand about the phonics, and that’s fine. I think phonics are important, and I think the kids do need to learn how to read using phonics. That makes sense. Yeah, as they’re getting a little older, not that much older once they can read, you know, like late kindergarten. Yeah., or first grade.

Vanessa (00:48:39) – They can also be engaging in the mentor texts. They can be engaging in writing based on those mentor texts and,, you know, working in collaborative groups to come up with questions and, and thoughts that they want to share for the rest of the class about what they’re reading., it’s just it expands their own ability to read and ask questions and think critically when they can work with others and, and put all that stuff together. And I, I had huge success with sixth grade, giving them small groups to work in for short stories, and then they would go and write their their top three questions on the whiteboard, and we would have each group,, categorized and we would look as a whole once everyone was done at the top three questions of each group, and we would start to think about how questions could be kind of combined or moved around, or how they maybe made a bigger question or whatever, and it just gave us incredible insights into these stories. And me too. I mean, the kids were taking me deeper into the stories than I could go myself.

Vanessa (00:49:49) – It was amazing.

Amanda (00:49:51) – Yeah, yeah. Well, and I feel like in every classroom there needs to be balance. You know, there’s balance of like, direct instruction and lecturing and explicit step by step,, you know, teaching. But then also this idea that we’re partners and learning and that, yeah, that we’re a community and that whoever is doing the talking is doing the learning. I mean, I still believe that, but I also yeah, I think that also that we also need to talk to we also need to lecture. We need to read out loud to kids,, more than I think is happening in classrooms, especially secondary like I’m teaching high school now and there’s just a lot of homework and a there’s just a lot of work. Honestly, at the high school level, it’s so much more rigorous,, and stressful for kids and demanding and lots of hoops to jump through., so it can be rough. Are there any like, are there any things that you feel like and maybe you’ll think about this after we stop the recording, but like, is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you want to share? Now we probably been talking about an hour or so.

Amanda (00:51:07) – We should maybe wrap it up. We’re very we like to talk, don’t we? We could probably talk another hour. We could, we could.

Vanessa (00:51:14) – But people don’t want to listen. I think I’d like to just,, maybe end by talking a little bit more about my book. So. So my book, which is called How Did That Happen? Understanding adult ADHD through Stories of Lived Experience does have a very hilarious cover. And the cover, it comes from a story that’s in the book, but it’s. It was my attempt to help people gain an understanding of the symptoms of ADHD and their impacts on adult life, without being bored to tears. I found that I really wanted to understand my own diagnosis when I got it in my early 40s, and I read all the standard books, and they were really they were well done. But the problem was that they weren’t very engaging because they didn’t engage my emotions. They had these little, these little boxes that were, you know, blocked out from the bullet points of the text.

Vanessa (00:52:09) – That would be like Sarah’s experience in driving her car was blah, blah, blah. Her husband thought that she was blah, blah. And, you know, it was a couple sentences and that was it. And then you never heard about Sarah again. And it wasn’t even her real name, for Pete’s sake. So I wanted to have my stories with my real name and my talking about parenting, talking about the the problems with my marriage, talking about difficulties with teaching and what I was being asked to do, all the things that were happening in my adult life, trying to take care of my household, whatever, and weave those in. Look at them through the lens of ADHD. Explain why things were happening, what the neurobiology behind those things was, and help people feel less alone. Be able to relate to these stories. Have some emotional engagement which would help them remember and understand really fully what it means to be ADHD as an adult. And so far, I think I’m having some really good feedback.

Vanessa (00:53:12) – I mean, I’ve been talking to. Often, often women, mothers,, whose children are ADHD or people who’ve been ADHD their whole lives and they felt just a sense of shame that’s been,, they’ve been pulling along like a ball and chain and, and never feeling like they were good enough or could live up to whatever their potential was that people were expecting of them. And I just. I feel like it’s this whole tribe of people who are. Are just suffering with. This lack of belief in themselves, and it makes me really sad. And I want people to know that being ADHD and neurodiverse is such a is such an amazing gift, but we’re so disabled by the society that we live in that it’s hard to see it. So first we need to see how we’re disabled by the society that we’re that we live in. And some of that is not comfortable. Some of that is is very negative and doesn’t feel good. But if we can understand it and grasp what’s happening and why, then we can start moving forward with a different mindset.

Amanda (00:54:22) – You are such an inspiration, and the fact that you’re approaching it with humor is just brilliant. I can’t wait, I’m I’m in your cart right now. I’m like, about to buy it. Oh, cool. So. And I’m just so impressed that you published a book. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do, and I’ve not lived up to that potential yet, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it., but yeah, it it is a tribe. And, like, it feels really good to meet other people who’ve had similar challenges and to see,, that, you know, you can overcome those challenges and actually, like, realize your potential or, or at least be compassionate and empathetic with yourself, even if you never reach your potential. It’s okay. You know, at least.

Vanessa (00:55:14) – What is potential anyway? Is it something that other people expect of you, or is it just your own sense of feeling secure and confident in who you are?

Amanda (00:55:22) – Yes. That’s it.

Amanda (00:55:24) – You just gave me goosebumps. And that’s what our job is. Teachers is. And my opinion is to help our kids feel that about themselves.

Vanessa (00:55:34) – , and that they’re not they’re not feeling that. And there’s so many of us who are compassionate, loving teachers who are so beaten down by the whole process that we’re. We’re unable to help our kids really get to that place of high self-esteem and feeling like they’re an asset to the world and being of service to others and all of those things that we want for the for the kids that we are with every day. It’s just hard. It’s hard to balance it all for sure.

Amanda (00:56:07) – Yeah, well, I thank you for the work you’re doing in the world. And,, maybe. How about I read the book and then you come back on a week? I could ask you some questions about the book. Oh, I.

Vanessa (00:56:19) – Would love that. And I would love to talk with you more about what you want to put together into a book, because I still remember very fondly your essay about going skiing with your husband and going off the trail.

Amanda (00:56:29) – Oh, out of balance.

Vanessa (00:56:30) – Oh, it was so good. It was such a great essay and I would love to read more.

Amanda (00:56:35) – Oh, that. Yeah. And that is something that I every day I’m like, you should write. And then I don’t, but I do talk a lot. So that is I have been doing recordings. I just like record things I don’t know. And my friend Trina were doing this teacher shortage series on the podcast and, and we want to turn that into a book. So yeah, let’s talk more about that. All right., but thank you so much, Vanessa, for coming on. And,, thank you everyone, for,, listening. And definitely,, go check out,, Vanessa’s book. I’ll put a link in the description and the show notes and everything for everyone to go and,, and buy it. Thank you, Vanessa, for having me.

Vanessa (00:57:21) – Bye bye bye.



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