The Brooklyn BrainLady

teaching & learning, in a fancy dress

In my post The Force is Strong in This One, I explained there are two sides to my AD/HD superpowers. Both sides were on full display in the past 24 hours:  I lost my keys, then I used The Force to retrieve them. Let’s set the scene:

Beautifully sunny day. Busy sidewalk in Downtown Brooklyn. Ventilation shaft in sidewalk covered by 5’x5’ metal grate. Beth’s keys at the bottom of shaft, about 20-30 feet underground. The key to my safe is down there, and I have no spare.

Having no interest in spending the time and money involved in getting professionals to help me solve this problem, I took matters into my own hands:

How to Retrieve Keys from a Deep Hole

Part One

  1. Rummage through home collecting magnets, string, various adhesives and sets of keys.
  2. Make a dummy set of keys that approximately match the weight and materials of actual keys.
  3. Test magnets in home until one is strong enough to lift the keys. Attach string.
  4. Stand on table and attempt to catch keys on magnet from above. Repeat. Stay on table and indulge cat in new game.
  5. Realize magnet will not fit through openings in grate. Text science teacher friends. Ask to borrow smaller strong magnets.
  6. Go to bed.

Problem-Solving Time: 30 minutes


Game Face

Part Two

  1. Get dressed. Look extra professional. When doing something crazy, you should present as sane.
  2. Bike to former employer. Pick up fabulous selection of magnets from enthusiastic former colleagues who offer words of encouragement.
  3. Put on game face. [see right]
  4. Rope friend into meeting you on random street corner at lunch, preferably one who thinks “this is more fun than geocaching.”
  5. Stare into hole. Locate magenta carabiner on keys. Get excited that this might work.
  6. Attach magnet to twine with voodoo adhesive you bought to make Christmas cards. Listen to friend who suggests reinforcement with tape.
  7. Lay on ground. Take deep breaths because you are afraid of heights. Pretend you’re playing the crane game at the arcade.
  8. Lower magnet through grate slowly. Assess trajectory. Repeat until greatest potential accuracy is reached.
  9. Lower, lower, lower. Allow patient friend to field questions like, “What are you girls up to?” and “Isn’t this like the episode of Peppa Pig when her father loses his keys?” and “What kind of magnet is that?” (C’MON.)
  10. Make contact with keys. Squeal. Tell each other to calm down and focus.
  11. Jiggle to ensure maximum surface area contact.
  12. Slowly begin to raise keys. Mutter, “Holy s—. This is working.”
  13. Get keys almost to grate. Have small moment of panic. Devise on-the-fly strategy for getting keys through the grate without dropping them again.
  14. Use extra magnets to hold keys in place while you coach each other with statements like, “OKAY. You grab the carabiner. I’ve got the rings.”
  15. Pull keys and magnet through grate.
  17. Jump up and down, hug, scream, “Oh my God! We did it!!!” while a stranger claps and regret not filming the moment.

Total Problem-Solving Time: 15 minutes

I kid you not. Fifteen minutes, folks. Who says people with AD/HD are bad at planning?


Keys? Pah-lease.

February 28, 2017

This school year I am a private tutor here in fair Brooklyn, traveling on my bike between clients’ homes when the weather is nice. (Yes, it’s dreamy.) It usually goes quite smoothly…until early last evening, when I dropped my keys through a grate and into an Alice-in-Wonderland hole about two stories deep. I’m standing there in the dark, bike still locked to a railing, 15 minutes from my next session, listening to my life tink-tink-tink its way into a distinctly different Monday night.

Apparently my efforts to build an ADHD-proof single woman’s existence came in handy as I attempted to remedy this problem. Simply follow these steps should you or a friend ever encounter such a situation:

How to Lose Your Keys

  1. Tell yourself to solve one problem at a time.
  2. Send craziest email ever to cancel last session. Remind yourself to get that phone number later.
  3. Follow random old lady into unknown building. Explore the basement. Find the office. Take pictures of the super’s phone number written on the whiteboard on the door. This will help you eventually get the key to your safe back, which you maybe don’t have a spare for at home.
  4. Go home.
  5. Use your negligent landlord’s crazy rock pile to hide a fake rock with your keys in it. Get keys.
  6. Use extra Clinique Bonus Days bags to keep all bike accessories organized. Get spare bike key.
  7. Jump back on subway to retrieve bike.
  8. Pretend you’re on the last episode of Grace and Frankie. Slo-mo strut to bike with unknown hiphop track playing in your head because you are a badass.

Total problem-solving time: 40 minutes


Because when you are wired for disaster, you anticipate disaster, baby!

Well, folks, it looks like Secretary DeVos is having a hard time getting her head around the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Hey, we’re all been there, right? That’s why I created these handy dandy postcards for us to send along in support. Feel free to share, print and send away! Don’t forget:

  • Make sure you trim them down to 4″x 6″ or you’ll have to pay full postage.
  • Page 4 has the address side of the postcard already filled in. Just flip and print!
  • Disclaimer: I am making fun of her, not our children.


This month, I packed 16 years of traditional teaching in four boxes and brought them into my home. They are still there. Like a threat. I can’t unpack them.

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Student: Beth, what did you say you have again? OCD?

Beth: Nope! Though I understand your confusion. I have AD/HD.

Student: Huh? But you’re not all, “Blaaaah!!!”

[flaps arms, runs in a small circle with tongue wagging]

Beth: That’s not what hyperactivity looks like in everyone.

[student accurately senses a lecture, flees to his next class]

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This past month, I took the state exam that would officially allow me to teach students with disabilities. This is huge news for several reasons: Continue reading

On my commute home tonight, “How was school today?” was taken to another level. Through a series of question and answers, a son explained to his father that he joined the “Identity Exploration” group during his affinity group class. He said, “That’s where kids who aren’t sure about how they self-identify yet and can learn more about it. I mean, on one hand, it’s easy because I’m Jewish. I know I’m not going to join the Christian group, but what about sexuality and other identities? I’d like to know more about those so I’m going to explore.”

Yup. Tears of joy all the way home. We’re getting there, folks.

January 28, 2016

My previous post pointed out the dearth of time dedicated to educational planning for students with learning disabilities, prompted by Tracy Thompson’s piece in the Atlantic, The Special Education Charade. The article spoke many unfortunate truths, however the words that rattled me most were those in the commentary below it:

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