It’s Hard to be a Verb: (And hard to live with or teach one)

by Dianna Fulreader, Assistant Principal, Florence Roche Elementary School, Groton, MA

verbIt’s Hard To Be A Verb is a quick read for all those parents and educators with little beings around them who are always doing something, just usually not the right thing. Meet Louis and see first hand what it looks like to have difficulty paying attention, self-regulating and managing impulses. Poor Louis gets itchy, twitchy and just can’t sit still. Throw in some working memory, organization, time management needs and you have a good example of a child with poor executive functioning.

I should know, I live with a verb. Here is an example of one day in my life with a 6th grade verb. On a gorgeous spring afternoon, when I was anxious to get home for a walk outside, I asked the usual questions at pick-up: “do you have your agenda book, your math book, your instrument”? Upon hearing the words, “I can’t find my agenda book” for the fourth time, I took drastic measures and marched him through the school in search of it. Walking through the school with your agitated mother is not how a middle school boy wants to be spending his afternoon! Our search led to his locker, where we found this ==>locker

We left after a lot of invectives and ranting, each carrying an armload of stuff: crumpled up paper, torn binders, eight sweatshirts, a pair of sneakers, three hats and no agenda book!!! Messy, unmotivated and lazy were some thoughts that went through my mind about my son. Disrespectful, disruptive, rude, defiant are not uncommon descriptions educators use for students when we mistake a willful intention with delayed development of executive function.

Let’s support the development of these skills rather than label or punish students. Develop a plan to address the needs with the student, not for the student. And finally, model, model, model and practice, practice, practice! We wouldn’t expect students to master comparing two fractions without direct instruction and guidance, nor can we expect students to improve their executive functions without the same supports.

So whether your verb is sitting at your dinner table, in your classroom or frequenting the main office, when they get “jumpy” don’t get “grumpy”. Exercise patience and do what we do best, teach!


  • Executive Skills Video
  • Website
  • Cook, Julia, and Carrie Hartman. It’s Hard to Be a Verb! Chattanooga, TN: National Center for Youth Issues, 2008. Print.
  • Cooper-Kahn, Joyce, and Laurie C. Dietzel. Late, Lost and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning. Bethesda: Woodbine House, 2008. Print.
  • Searle, Margaret. Causes & Cures in the Classroom: Getting to the Root of Academic and Behavior Problems. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

DiannaDianna Fulreader, LICSW is an Assistant Principal at Florence Roche Elementary School in Groton, MA. As a former adjustment counselor and social worker supervisor for DCF for 20 years, she continually seeks ways to support the social, emotional and behavioral growth of all students in all settings. You can connect with Dianna on Twitter at @dfulreader.

Are you interested in sharing your ideas, insights and questions? If so, click here to sign up for a post. Julie Vincentsen, Principal of Ruggles Lane School, will reach out with specifics. Are you interested but nervous because you’ve never blogged before and don’t know where to begin? Don’t worry – as long as you know how to use Microsoft Word you will be up to this challenge. We write for our communities all the time – this just changes your audience. You probably could even take a current newsletter you’ve written and repurpose it for your colleagues.

















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