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June 22, 2010

Landon Donovan: From Pre-K to World Cup

200px-LandonDonovan_20060410 If you follow popular culture, even a little bit, you probably know people listed below.

Will Smith: Twice nominated for academy award for best actor.
Sir Richard Branson: Billionaire and founder of the company Virgin.
Terry Bradshaw: Earned 4 Super Bowl rings for Super Bowls IX, X, XII, and XIII.
Bruce Jenner: Winner of 1976 Olympic gold medal in the decathlon.  
Michael Phelps: Winner of 14 gold medals in 2004 Olympics in Athens and 8 gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

You also probably know that they are all considered the best in their respective fields. These famous people also have one more thing in common. They have all been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

If you have been reading our blog for a long time, you may remember that early education played an important factor in Michael Phelps’ life. Michael wouldn’t sit still, keep his hands to himself or be quiet at circle times. His teacher said he wasn’t gifted, he just had “too much energy.” His mother, a middle school principal, refused to consider her son’s energy a curse. Eventually, that “too much energy” turned out to be a gift.

As preschool educators, we don’t always realize what a difference we make in a child’s life until they are grown. It is just a part of working with our youngest learners. How can we realize that every decision, every response, can lead a child down another path?

One way we can really make a difference in children’s lives is in how we respond to their idiosyncrasies. I have taught more children than I can count who might have been considered to have ADHD. Sometimes a parent might bring a child to school the first day and say, “He’s hyper. He can’t sit still.” But, I never let that kind of talk dissuade me from trying to get the best out of a child. In my 12 years of teaching in public pre-k, I never referred a student to the child study team because of their behavior. I felt it was my job to educate every child in my charge to the best of my ability, based on their needs.

Landon Donovan, captain of the U.S. World Cup soccer team was one of those overactive kids in preschool. Sports Illustrated reported it this way:

There was no way to see it coming. He was not raised in a soccer family. He did not grow up in a soccer-driven community. "He was just a really hyper kid," his twin sister, Tristan, says. "He had a lot of energy—a lot of energy. He was a little bit aggressive with the other students. ['I think I bit another kid's nose,' Landon says.] We had to leave a couple of preschools. And then we were at this great preschool, and a counselor suggested he play soccer. She said, 'There's a lot of running around in soccer.' "

Luckily there are strong preschool educators like the one at Landon Donovan’s third preschool, who believe that lots of energy can be a gift, in the right context. On a soccer field, football field, business, or sound stage, there is a place for over-activity. This tells me that sometimes, it is not the child that is wrong for preschool; it is the preschool that wasn’t right for the child. I wonder what might have happened if Landon had continued to be put out of preschools. Would he have given up on school completely?

Image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:LandonDonovan_20060410.jpg


Congratulations US Team. It wasn't Landon Donovan's speed, or skill, or intellect that scored the game winning goal today. (although they all contributed) It was follow through! Go Landon Go USA!

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