Master's Project Spotlight: Henry Lang

Master's Project Spotlight: Henry Lang

By Henry Lang

Title of Master's Project:

“U the GOAT, u get it”: The ELA Teacher’s Role in Supporting Learners Who Have ADHD

Tell us more about your Master's Project:

My project involved liaising with students who learn differently about their unique learning experiences and needs during blended instruction. Specifically, I interviewed students with ADHD and evaluated their written work. Their stories and feedback prompted me to interrogate the effectiveness of my graphic organizers, transition cues, and time management mini-deadlines.

What inspired you to research this topic?

I only know two other teachers who have ADHD. I believe I am in a unique position to advocate for students with ADHD given our shared organizational challenges. Interestingly, the first time I landed a job interview was when I took my ADHD advocacy off my resume. There are many misconceptions about how folks with ADHD learn and work. I'm still questioning my impact in the current landscape: What repercussions will I face for advocating on behalf of “troublemakers” as a previous “troublemaker” with ADHD myself? How can I ethically disrupt a system that deems students with ADHD disruptive simply because they struggle to mimic the everyday learning strategies their peers without ADHD master more easily?

Did you find any interesting research by other scholars that connects to your topic?

I was surprised to learn that research is lacking on adolescents with ADHD. The most significant work I found through Northwestern's library resources focused on elementary and middle grades learners.

What did you expect to find before researching?

I expected self-advocacy to be a key theme. I can't name many teachers who would say, "You know who I'm going to fight for today? Easy: my hyperactive learner who can't focus on my precious instructional activities."

Did you learn anything that surprised you?

On average, students with ADHD have been found to be more likely to be cyberbullied than their peers. I didn't realize the ostracization extended from the physical classroom to the digital space.

What was it like researching with students? How did they react to your research?

Several learners told me, "You know? This [20 minute interview] is really the first time I've felt validated by a teacher for feeling this way about having ADHD." One of them actually inspired my title with his short and sweet email response: "u the GOAT, u get it." We had a cool connection. It was rewarding to hear learners reflect on their growth as self-advocates.

Will you incorporate your findings into your future practice? If so, how?

I'm applying for grants for developing a learning environment that accommodates more mobility and flexibility, specifically for my neurodiverse learners with autism and ADHD. I teach 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th-grade literature, creative writing, and playwriting.

Will this experience as a teacher-scholar shape your future practice? If so, how?

I've also realized that accommodations are most helpful for learners when I actually make time to ask for their input on each summative assessment. One week a paper might feel great to write. Two weeks later, they may pitch an enthusiastic podcast proposal instead! I'm all for flexibility with modality, as long as the product provides a considerate response to our conceptual line of inquiry.

Do you have any advice for future MSEd students working on their Master's Projects?

Pick a topic that fires you up with a purpose! Give yourself permission to think back to why you invested in our profession in the first place. Sometimes revisiting our roots helps us grow juicier tomatoes when June rolls around and you're wishing you had spiced things up! I'm so grateful for all of Mari Altshuler's advice and support throughout the year. And shout-out to our extraordinary former student affairs program coordinator, Jasmine E. Tucker, who believed in me when I lost my way. SESPLove!

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