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“Dear Professors….”: A letter from students to their professors and teachers

By: Pam Barton, Academic/Life Coach

As an academic coach for students with ADHD, most of my demographic is college-aged, and during this pandemic they have struggled mightily. I’m sure all of you reading this are nodding in agreement, whether you have a student going to college, or a student in high school — or you ARE a student doing online classes. Let’s just say this:

Many of my clients are attending community college because A) they want to learn “how to college” in a safer, less stressful (and closer to home) environment before they set out on a 4-year university, or B) they crashed and burned their Freshman semester/year and they need to learn more organization, motivation, life balance and stress monitoring skills before they return.

At the end of the semester, I encourage them to “pay it forward” and write an honest review about their professors on the “Rate My Professor” website. After all, they religiously utilize these reviews when deciding on which professor to choose for a course, so why not help out a fellow student? I really don’t know if any of them have done so, but if I could write a review to professors in general about their online performances, this is what I would write:

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“Dear Professors…..”

We, the students with ADHD, know how equally hard it has been for you to teach your course online as it has been for us to bring ourselves to the cause. Here are some tips we’d like to share on creating a successful learning environment:

Encourage/insist that all students have their videos on. We, with ADHD, do better when we feel connected to the class through interaction, and seeing other students helps us feel like we’re part of the experience.

Have your lecture notes and/or presentation slides available to us before the lecture, or at least right after the class. Some of us have trouble taking notes and watching the presentation at the same time and we would benefit by being able to review the material in class so we are more prepared to be in rapport with you and have questions lined up that make sense.

We know it can be super difficult to teach your subject matter online, and you’re used to having face-to-face discussions in in-person classes, but SO ARE WE. it’s also hard to engage with a professor who lacks zeal for their subject matter and reads directly out of the textbook. OK, we could have done that ourselves…and probably did. So what are you bringing to the class to grow our young minds? Make it worth everyone’s time to engage, inspire, challenge, and interact in whatever way possible

Not knowing how the university or community college administration trained professors to use the virtual meeting platform for online classes, but we would like you to know that there are a few nice things about it – a whiteboard, for instance. And breakout rooms for group projects. If you were not given the opportunity to be trained to use the online platform, but want to know more, ask us – we are digital natives and can, and probably have, utilized many of these attributes that could help you!

Our interactions with professors during office hours has been rewarding and positive. Thanks for being there for us.

Communication can get dicey as dates for assignments and exams can move around during the semester. We appreciate your consistency in providing updates and other pertinent info via email/announcements page, etc.

Don’t be surprised if we ask for accommodations on assignments and exams towards the end of the semester – it takes some of us awhile to admit and embrace that we truly need these supports. We don’t want to be “different” that the other students, and we think we can do it on our own, but eventually we find out that we do, in fact, need that time-and-a-half for exams, or a couple extra days on turning in an assignment. ADHD is a REAL struggle and we appreciate your understanding and support.

All of you out there – the struggling students – what would you like to add to this letter? What positives and negatives have you encountered with online learning? What would make it more bearable?

We are uniquely integrated program of College Readiness & Success Training. Academic Coaching Mental Health and Career Counseling for high school and college Students With ADHD.