This is me in 1972. This is me, happy, in 1972.
But this photo saddens me because I know I was as happy as I could get when I was 15. Do I look happy? I had such low self-esteem and felt so out of place all the time. I was the oddball, the one your parents didn’t want their kids to play with. I laughed too loud, swore, wasn’t a “good girl,” and had “dangerous” ideas. I have two friends from my childhood, Jill (above, left) and Roberta, and both sets of parents did not want me around their daughters.
At school, teachers thought I was unmotivated and disruptive. They also thought I was rude (not a “good girl,” once again) and deliberately controversial. I remember the day I told one of my teachers (at an alternative elementary school, mind you!) that I could work better with a radio. She said, “NO ONE works better with a radio. That’s ridiculous.”
I also had an insatiable curiosity. When I was interested in a subject, I mastered it. I was reading at 3 years old, and before I was 9 years old, I was reading books that older children had trouble with, I had taken multiple classes about dinosaurs, rocks and minerals, outer space, and Native Americans. And I was an honorary member of an Adult Stamp Club that I attended every week.
But at school, no one knew what to do with me and I couldn’t tell them (Not that it was my job to figure it out for them….) It’s hard to be rejected by your teachers when all you want to do is learn.
And then I met Rabbi Joel Gordon.
Yosi, as we called him, was the Assistant Principal of Los Angeles Hebrew High School and he was my Bible and Hebrew Literature teacher. LAHHS classes were held after school and on Sundays. Yosi started working there in 1972, I believe. Until then, I didn’t feel understood by anyone. Not by my parents, not by my teachers, not even by my friends much of the time.
Yosi changed all that. He fed my thirst for knowledge. He was never once afraid of or put off by my ideas or my passion for learning. He understood me from day 1. He never saw me as a misfit. He met every single one of my challenges with a challenge of his own. “You’re bored in class? Here, translate this medieval document.” “You’re not able to sit in class with Dr. Z? Then you may not graduate.” One time, I ditched class and he found me. He told me, “Just because we’re friends doesn’t mean you can ditch class.” That line still brings tears to my eyes. A teacher could be my friend too? A teachers could actually value me? He never punished or rewarded but he was always straight with me, held me in high regard, and satiated my curiosity about life.
In my sophomore year of college I called him and told him about something great that had happened to me. He said, “I’m so glad people recognize your genius.” Tears again.
Teachers, you have SO MUCH INFLUENCE BEYOND THE CLASSROOM.
Yosi is the reason I do what I do. What he did for me, I wanted to do for others. He made me feel worthy and important and I wanted to do that for others. I’ve actually written about him several times, because he made such an impact on my life. My book, “Getting Schooled,” is dedicated to him.
Now Facebook friends, I asked him recently if he knew about the turmoil that was going on in my life during my teens. His response brought more tears and more love. He said, simply:
“I just thought you were awesome and unique and exciting and infinite.”
This is the influence that teachers have, if we choose to use it. If we can see ADHD kids as awesome and unique and exciting and infinite, we can change lives, open hearts, nurture brains, and repair feelings of inadequacy and confusion.
If you’re a teacher, would you be willing to commit to offering healing to your students as well as teaching them?
If you’re a parent, would you be willing to show this to your child’s teachers? It could change your child’s future.
Copyright 2017 Yafa Luria/Margit Crane All Rights Reserved
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