ADHD is not a bug but a feature. At EMC, we know how to work with it

Teaching children with ADHD requires more attention from the teacher. These kids are able to learn, but they are slower to acquire certain skills. They have difficulty keeping their attention on one thing at a time. This is due to their slow development of working memory.

Working memory is responsible for holding information in the mind for short periods of time while performing mental operations on it.  We use it to control thinking and behavior, and to remember where we were and what we were doing just now. Closer to old age, working memory problems begin to reappear in everyone, however students with ADHD tend to be distracted from reality since childhood. 

Our director, Anna Margolis, herself has ADHD. She knows how to overcome it in her personal life and she selects teachers for EMC who know how to work with it. Here are her main principles:

  1. To prevent such a child from losing focus, they need to actively participate in the lesson. The role of the teacher at EMC is not to lecture but to engage in interactive conversation, ensuring the child doesn't sit passively and only listen.

In our system, we require short focus and immediate response from the student — something to do, say, or solve. This way, even if a child missed some explanation, they won't get distracted for long and will have to return to participating in the lesson. This approach has shown impressive effectiveness.

  1. Children with ADHD also have the ability to hyperfocus on things that interest them. And what can be more interesting than their own ability to do something and see the results? Our teachers are very interested in understanding the thought process of each kid. We embrace this mindset.

Mathematics itself can be very interesting too. Math competitions, unconventional problems, intriguing problem-solving mechanisms. For example, when we teach fractions, we tell the story of how ancient Egyptians came up with them.

  1. Children with ADHD are very capable, if not simply brilliant. During my lecture on the history of mathematics in New York, a 7-year-old boy with a high degree of ADHD attended. He couldn't stay in one place, wanted to talk to me, be close by, and demanded special attention. The phrase "Not now, please wait" would upset him. Out of the 60 minutes, he probably listened to me for only about 20 minutes. In that time, he managed to understand everything and came up with an original quite sophisticated problem about ancient Maya numerals!

  1. We are not afraid to mix children with ADHD and those without it in the same class. On the contrary, we enjoy finding ways to integrate such children. We want different children to accept each other and learn together. We try not to exclude anyone, giving them the freedom to act without disturbing others: turning off the microphone and then singing a song during the lesson, leaving the classroom for a while and then returning...

"There are no bad children. If something is not right, it means we simply need to find the right approach." - Anna Margolis

It's certainly not an easy process, and children don't always fit into the group immediately. We had a case in second grade. There was a group of six 7-year-old children, which is our standard class size. There was one boy who couldn't control his behavior and disrupted the lesson, not intentionally, but he was just like that. Here's what we did: we divided the group into two parts and involved me as the second teacher. We started the lesson together, all six of them, and always did the first problem as a large group before splitting up.

From an economic standpoint, this was not beneficial for the school. But we knew that we could train the children over time. We continued in this format, sometimes increasing the number of children in the mini-group, sometimes extending the time when they were all together. By the end of the year, this boy had learned to respect his group, not disturb others, and fully participate in the process.

Why didn't we give up on this child and exclude him from the school? Because we are interested in challenging problems. There are no bad children. If something is not right, it means we simply need to find the right approach. We observed his progress, and it was very satisfying.

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