November 19, 2007


Tom over at LifeGoalAction responded to an email I sent with a request:

Thanks for your kind words Jim. I really appreciate it. I've been over and had a look at your Teacher Ninja site. You have some great posts over there and I'm am going to have to spend some time going through your archives. I couldn't find an "About" page there. One of the first things I like to do when I visit a new site is to check out some context. I like to find out who is writing, or why they are writing or at least what is it that links it all together. Do you have an article like that? Thanks Tom

(I don't think he'll mind me posting his note. Check out his about page and you'll see that he's a pretty open guy.)

Anyway, here goes:

I have ADHD. As a kid I was a bright but terrible student. I wasn't hyper, but could not focus long enough to finish, well, almost any homework. But I like to read and got by ok. I even did well in college. Out of college I began tutoring adult illiterates and ESL students on some of my evenings. It sparked an interest in teaching of all things and I got a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education. But I was very much enjoying a low-pressure job at a bookstore and didn't actually begin a teaching job for five more years. I think I suspected the whole ADD thing, or at least knew my limitations.

Teaching confirmed my suspicions. I had to fill out ADHD checklists on students and realized this was me. I read an Edward Hallowell book about adults with ADD and knew I should see someone. It took me a while (due to procrastination and finding the right Dr. and drugs), but I finally got the medicine. It's exactly like getting the right glasses prescription and the world snapping into clarity.

But even the right glasses can't teach you to read. I had more focus, but hadn't really learned how to be effective or productive with that focus. Trolling the web last year, I ran across Merlin Mann's I went to college with Merlin and he was like me (only smarter). We both were scattered and flaked out on some assignments. He was pushing a book called Getting Things Done.

Now I loathe self-help and businessy books, and I personally think David Allen (who also went to my college--not the same time as Merlin and I of course) isn't the best writer. But the system made sense to me. Hallowell implores ADDers to "write everything down." David Allen takes you to the next step and tells you what to do with all those scribblings.

It's an old saw that to learn something well, you need to teach it and so I started blogging about my attempts to Get Things Done. I know there are a million GTD blogs, but I thought perhaps my perspective as a teacher would be somewhat unique. It would also give me a forum to mention books, articles, or anything else about teaching and/or productivity. I was going to call it TeacherHacks, but the name was taken (by a very unproductive web site). My wife says I have Jedi powers (I tend to disappear in retail outlets and she finds herself speaking to the air), but I thought TeacherJedi would get me sued, so I went with Teacher Ninja. It also vaguely fit all the Karate references David Allen Makes in his book.

As I continue to blog, I realize it will probably stray for only GTD, but it's also something I'll always be working on and looking for things to share about.

How's that, Tom?