Thursday, December 15, 2011

Miss Read Discloses Herself

Hi everyone! Now that I've been blogging here for a whopping two and a half months, I have a secret to disclose! Its not so much of a secret in real life, but it is something I probably will not tell my professors, cooperating teachers, future employers, etc. Well, maybe. I don't know. That's what I wanted to ask you about. 
I mentioned in my very first post that part of the reason I decided to become a special ed teacher was because I have my own "special needs" that went undiagnosed until I was an adult. I have Aspergers and ADHD. Anyone who knows me believes the ADHD part because I'm super disorganized, forgetful, always moving, have trouble focusing my attention on certain things but can become completely hyperfocused on other things, etc. The Aspergers part is what people always have trouble understanding because they imagine a person with Aspergers Syndrome to be very rigid, very mathematical and scientific, having no attachment to others, etc... basically a stereotype. Not only is that stereotype not accurate for all people with Aspergers, but with females it can be manifested very differently. I love this chart that describes common traits of females with Aspergers, because a lot of these things describe me completely. Check it out... if you work with girls with Aspergers (even if they're not diagnosed yet) at all, this may really help you understand them! 
Anyway. When it comes to working with children with special needs, having my own needs has pros and cons. 
PROS... It makes me very patient and empathetic because I know what they are going through.
              It makes me a better teacher, because when I teach in ways that I think I would have been able to learn, the kids are often able to learn. (For instance, making it relate to real life, including multi-sensory experiences, etc.)
              It makes me a better employee, because my ADHD comes with hyperfocus. When I am dedicated to something, I am really dedicated to it. I'll put in lots of extra time, lots of thought. I really put my heart into things. 
              I love to read, do research, and learn new things, so I will always be developing professionally. Want me to learn about a new curriculum? A new approach to teaching? Need me to attend a conference on how to work with kids with a particular need? I'll be there, happily! 

CONS... One of the major cons is my interviewing skills. If someone were to write out a list of interview questions, I could write back with wonderful, accurate, well thought out answers. But speaking aloud is not one of my strengths. Coming up with the right words, while on the spot, is difficult for me. I often stammer and seem unsure of myself. Plus, I just present as awkward. My facial expressions, posture, etc, can strike people as odd. I think this is the BIGGEST problem for me. If I can just get a job, I can prove myself, but getting through the interview is the challenge! 
          ...Some behavior management can be hard for me. I've worked with young children with very severe behavioral disorders (I'm talking children in foster care who have already been abused so badly and tossed from home to home so much, they think all adults are the enemy) and a lot of it is making a safe environment, providing lots of structure, being patient, using positive reinforcement, etc. I can do that. But with older kids, the sarcasm and sneakiness is more difficult for me to deal with. 
         ...My social behavior is delayed. I can't do parties. I can't mingle. I can't dance. I have gotten pretty good at chit-chat, if I only have to do it for short amounts of time. Therefore the staff holiday party, end of the year pub crawl (Yeah you know you have one!) and other things teachers do to bond, is like a flashback to my nightmarish middle school years. I was always the kid sitting alone in the cafeteria or on the bus. And I am still the "kid" sitting alone in the teacher's lounge! (This isn't to say I don't get attached to people. At the school where I worked as an aide several years ago, I loved my co-workers, and had wonderful times in the classroom together. We just really bonded as a team. But on that end-of-the-year bus trip, I was just so disappointed in how different I still was. While I fit in perfectly in my classroom with the teachers and a handful of aides, I stuck out like a sore thumb in a large, noisy group.)
      ...Along with this, I have trouble with things like, being observed by the principal, having to ask for help, etc.

        So my question to you, as teachers is, what do you think of this? Have you ever met a teacher who had special needs? If you were a principal would you hire a teacher with special needs? Do you think it is better to disclose the information in the beginning, so the principal knows what to expect for you, or is it better to keep it to yourself and try to "pass for normal?" I am definitely interesting in hearing your thoughts on this! 


  1. The chances are I've met stacks of teachers with special needs - but not known it, because it's not obvious. Usually, my instinct would be to be upfront about things. My only worry is that disclosure may cause problems for you with some people who don't understand Aspergers/ADHD. I wonder if you could preface your interview with an explanation that you are nervous, and hope they'll forgive signs of nervousness? Later, once hired and as you get to know people, you could work out who to tell and how?

  2. Wow, good for you for working through that and not letting it affect you adversely! I can't say that I've worked with any (noticably) special needs teachers, except maybe a few with ADD (including my wife, who's also a teacher).
    Keep up the good work!

  3. I've worked with some pretty strange teachers over the years. (And I am sure there are those who think that of me.) In the end I think the only thing that matters is how effective you are as a teacher and how well you connect with your kids. So I give you the advice I give my students going out into the world.

    Life's a game- learn the rules. You don't have to be normal, just figure out how to act normal. Practice the interview about a billion times with a friendly adult- and then get that friendly adult to pull in a friend of theirs who is a stranger to you to practice with.

    Get good at the art and science of teaching. Know your stuff and know how to get others to know it. Prove yourself as valuable asset to the community- and then - when they can't live without you- then and only then should you fess up being a square peg in a round hole.

    Good luck!

  4. This is a tough one. I'm not a teacher but I am a parent who has hired both a speech pathologist and occupational therapist for my children, who happened to have a diagnosis. They did not disclose this to me when I hired them, and I personally would have preferred that, but everyone is different, and I can see how it would be difficult to know if you should be open or not. I think, although I'm not positive, that I would disclose the information to be fair to BOTH of you. I mean... would you want to work for someone who wouldn't be open to hiring you based on a diagnosis? rather than look at your qualifications?


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