Focus and the Lack Thereof


A.J. Peña, Author

ADHD stands for Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. Children and teens with ADHD face more challenges than the average student. ADHD symptoms, such as inability to pay attention, difficulty sitting still, and difficulty controlling impulses, can make it difficult for students with this diagnosis to perform well in school.

According to the K12 Teachers Alliance, on the website of, students with ADHD are frequently frustrated. This is largely due to their minds racing ahead of their bodies. This can make it difficult for students to perform well in class.

Learning is very different for students with ADHD than for students in general education. Children with ADHD who are hyperactive have difficulty sitting still, so they spend a lot of time trying to satisfy their need to get up and move. Children with inattentive ADHD have a problem with zoning out.

Distractions such as the tap of a pencil or the movement of a chair are difficult to filter out for  students with ADHD. In a crowded classroom, it can be difficult for them to complete assignments or pay attention to a lesson. The frequency of these attention lapses, whether caused by hyperactivity or distraction, frequently indicates that they are missing out on critical instruction.

Finally, also according to K12 Teachers Alliance, because ADHD students frequently struggle to demonstrate their understanding of concepts in school, they may not complete assignments on time and may even fail tests as a result of this learning disability. This frustration can result in negative self-talk, anxiety, and stress.

Teachers can provide and use specific accommodations for these students to ensure they succeed in school.

Mr. Weed, a history teacher at Santa Fe High, says he comes across a lot of students with ADHD and even with his own brother. Mr. Weed says he will usually let those students take walks and he has a red ball to break up the sitting-still aspect. If it becomes serious, he will sit down with the student and come up with an individual plan of action to handle it.

“When students are having a really bad zone day, I encourage them to turn their voice recorder on. And I post my slideshows to help them do the work later on,” Mr Weed states.

Mr. Weed says his brother had ADHD. He noticed that he would constantly move his leg and would help his brother by doing physical activities like football and soccer to mellow him out.

Mr. Weed advises, “Chunk your homework. Instead of trying to do something that will take you an hour all at once, do 15 minutes of work and then try doing 15 minutes on your phone or video games.” He explains, “Most people will give up halfway through and have a bad paper if they are trying to do it all at once.”

Science teacher Ms. Valente has five general biology classes, three of which are co-taught, meaning there is a high enough percentage of students in need of accommodations to warrant a special-ed teacher.

“Focus can be really challenging for a student,” Ms Valente says. “It can make you feel like you hit a brick wall. You have an idea of what you should be doing, but inside you’re just stressing yourself out saying, ‘I know I should be doing things but can’t get myself to do it.’ ” 

Ms. Valente shares that she was diagnosed with ADHD in college. It was rough for her to go through the whole portion of school not knowing that ADHD was why she was struggling. She had to work twice as hard because she saw everyone around her succeeding and that was the expectation she put on herself, but it also burnt her out and contributed to her developing anxiety. She said she didn’t know how to tell other people what she was going through. When she got diagnosed with ADHD, it was very important to her because she understood herself more and was able to get treated for it.

Constant refocusing is Ms. Valente’s new method in her classes. She will have her students put their phones on her desk because the slightest little buzz on a phone can make them constantly check their phones. 

Ms. Valente believes that students should also develop their own coping strategies and that part of the process is teaching them how to cope with their issues.

Ms. Valente states, “My goal is never to judge a student for struggling. It’s just to say, ‘I know what you’ve been through and are going through, but I also know what you are capable of.’ ”

Assistant Principal Christian Mendez says that the school doesn’t automatically discipline students who have IEPs, and that he works with those kids.

“Every person is different; some students are literally off the walls and others are more chill,” Mr. Mendez says, adding that he is around a lot of people diagnosed with ADHD. He encourages students to take breaks and relax. He will let kids take breaks in his office whenever they are having a bad day, especially those with ADHD or other needs.

Mr. Mendez explains that the wellness coordinator of the district educates teachers about different diagnoses and advocates for awareness by sending out mass emails for the principals to send to their school site teachers. Mr. Mendez says that Mr. Richards is the wellness coordinator for Santa Fe High.

Mr. Mendez says a danger is that some students could end up mimicking people they hang out with, or family, or even social media, convincing themselves unconsciously that they have ADHD.

Antonio Urioste, a student, is one of those who suffers from ADHD. Antonio stated that he was diagnosed a little over a year ago and is now being treated for it.

“It’s always been hard to pay attention in class due to zoning out and having a hard time finding the motivation to do my homework, but I always put in the extra effort to get everything done,” Antonio says. He has learned many tips and tricks to help with ADHD, such as listening to music and chewing gum.

He tried football this year after hearing that a lot of movement could help level out the symptoms, which worked for a while but ended up making him feel more tired and exhausted, making it harder for him to find motivation again.

Antonio explains that his symptoms would interfere with his daily life, schoolwork, social skills, and procrastinating at everything from work to school. He said he has improved while on medication and expects to graduate at the end of the year.