WALKING ON EGGSHELLS: Excerpt #3

One of my coping mechanisms for when I get stressed out due to my Asperger’s tendencies: Looking at nature scenery like this…

 

Just like I did for the first two chapters of the book I’ve been working on, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, Which I still plan on (self) publishing by the end of this year, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Three, called “The Bullied Life: We Were Just Playing”:

 

I will always recall – not at all fondly – the moment when Marlon (not his real name – if you grew up with me in Santa Monica, CA you can probably figure out who he is) first started to torment me. It’s a cliché of course, but it was as if it was yesterday instead of forty years ago…

I was in the fourth grade and had just started Will Rogers Elementary School, being among a most ethically diverse group of kids, rainbow-like in that all colors were represented after having exactly one black classmate (she was in my first grade class) during the previous four years that I went to school in Riverside combined.

It was around mid-morning when it happened:

My class, room 404, was outside on he playground with another fourth grade class, milling about on the blackish-gray asphalt in the cool, gray overcast weather that Santa Monica is famous for, waiting for P.E. class to start.

I was just standing there in line with the other nine-year olds when all of a sudden I felt this hard, sharp punch on my arm. I turned around to see who had hit me and here he was, this cocky kid with a big, toothy, arrogant-looking grin, posing like Joe Frazier with his fists up saying “Come on!”, looking like a wolf who had just spotted his prey and was getting ready for a possible meal.

It’s obvious from the perspective of a middle-aged guy that Marlon, in the grand tradition of inner city African-American youth, was “testing” me to see how tough I was, a requirement for social survival among that crowd.

Unfortunately to a nine-year old aspie, it was not so obvious to me what was going on – at all.

I had absolutely no clue whatsoever about how one needs to have a certain toughness or “hard” factor to be respected in the “hood”; I was a weirdo on the Autism Spectrum Disorder from the country, what the hell did I know about needing to fight (among other things) in order to be seen by the other black kids as “cool” as up until that time, about 99.99% of the youngsters of African descent that I knew were cousins, and even there I felt there was a culture clash as I was a rural kid with cows and feral cats as pets, playing in open spaces and hearing roosters crow in the morning, while pretty much all of my cousins were city kids from L.A.

When you put all of those factors together, I suppose it was inevitable that I would be a target to Marlon.

That little punch that Marlon gave me that morning would greatly pale in comparison to what would happen two years later in the sixth grade, the reason being that great Satan and I would be in the same class, room 502, and his unadulterated evilness would result in grade six being the worst year of  my pre-teen life as to say it was nine and a half months of hell would be an understatement.

To be fair, Marlon wasn’t the only kid in that class putting me through such nastiness that year; I’d estimate that roughly a quarter of the class, maybe a little more than that, including many of the boys, either did something or said something to me that made me feel bad in some way. One boy –  not black (to show that it wasn’t just an African-American thing) – who was harassing me said, when I asked him what I did to make him be so mean, forcefully answered, “You came to this school!”, as well as warning me to not go to John Adams, the junior high school across the street, near the end of the year.

Actually, I should have known that my social life at Will Rogers wouldn’t be great the first month I was there…

It was yet another cool and overcast morning: I was walking to the playground and was just about to step onto the wide open part of the asphalt when about eight boys bum-rushed me and , in my mind, were bugging the hell out of me, tugging at me and pulling on my shirt sleeves as it felt like I was being attacked by an invading army.

It was all a blur; as far as I was concerned I was being attacked by strangers for no reason when I just wanted to be left alone…which was why I threw a mini-temper tantrum, commencing to push one or two of those kids away and taking off running afterwards, those kids yelling “get him!” as they intended to jump me and try to beat me up. I ran to a teacher and ended up hiding in a classroom until recess was over.

I specifically recall one time when the teacher had me, Marlon, and another boy in the hallway outside the classroom door because of some shitty thing that he and that other boy did to me in class. When confronted, I’ll never forget what Marlon told her:

“We were just playing.”

This is a commonly used phrase for bullies when taken to task for their evil deeds, the teacher then telling Marlon and the other boy to leave me alone.

Needless to say, it didn’t work.

 

COMING NEXT MONTH:

Excerpts from chapter four of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, called “The Black Alienation”, which describes my struggles with being accepted by my fellow African-Americans, particularly in the low to lower-middle income neighborhood I spent much of my childhood in, and my trouble with completely adapting to black social youth culture after spending my early childhood years almost exclusively among whites.

 

This reminds me of what I went through during my preteen years, especially in the sixth grade – only I wasn’t a red-headed kid with glasses. Photo courtesy of aceofgeeks.net

 

 

 

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RANDOM THOUGHTS OF SUMMER

Being that I grew up in Santa Monica, I thought it only appropriate that I posted a picture of its beach. Photo courtesy of shutterstock.com.

 

I think it just comes with the progression of life in general;

The notion of summer being one long holiday when you’re a kid, ala the end of school and that “No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers…” thing.

Think about it…

Unless you screwed up in class and got bad grades during the regular school year, thus sentencing you to hard time in summer school,

Or if you’re of high school age and working at some crappy minimum wage, no benefits or basic rights, one step up from slavery type of job – or trying to get such,

Summer is three months (or two and a half today) of fun as in going to camps specializing in things you love to do, taking vacations to far off exotic places, visiting paradises like Zuma Beach in Malibu or Disneyland or whatever theme parks you may fancy, and watching spectacular fireworks displays on the evening of July 4th – and buying firecrackers and setting them off yourself.

Which you can’t do anymore in all but perhaps one or two communities in the Los Angeles area.

Not to mention hanging out at the local swimming pool and eating delicious barbecue at parties.

Or doing nothing at all, like many of us did back in the day – or at least I did as the majority of my summers were spent lazing around at my grandparents’ in Riverside, CA, not venturing outside until dusk due to the 90 + degree weather, watching TV, getting to play outside until 8:00 p.m., and essentially just vegging.

 

 

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I forgot how good this song was; an essential tune of summer by Will Smith, or the Fresh Prince (& Jazzy Jeff) as he was known then when this dropped in 1991. Courtesy of YouTube – just click on the link.

 

Unfortunately, all that ends when you become an adult in society’s eyes.

Contrary to when you’re a kid, life doesn’t stop when June 21st comes around;

Rent and bills still have to be paid,

Your place of work doesn’t go on a two-or-three month hiatus as the best you can expect is two-week vacation – and that’s if you’re extremely lucky as you can’t put it past your overseers – I mean supervisors – to come up to you at the very last minute and inform you about some big project that you need to do, thus nuking your long-awaited freedom.

Personally, like more or less every other youngster I used to think that summer was the best time of year, for obvious reasons.

Now, and for pretty much my entire adulthood – I would say since my early 20s – that is not the case as I prefer Spring and Winter.

Spring? the leaves are just budding and it’s not so hot.

Winter? I like the chilliness and bundling up.

Not to mention the major holiday commemorating the birth of our Lord and Savior that anchors that season.

 

Another essential thing about summer; fireworks displays like these in Long Beach, CA every 4th day of July. Photo courtesy of timeout.com

 

Speaking of chilliness, there’s one big reason why summer doesn’t particularly hold my fancy anymore…

THE HEAT.

My body has gotten less tolerant to it as I’ve gotten older.

And the fact that it’s gotten hotter the past decade or so – we all know how temperatures have reached 120 degrees in places like Phoenix, AZ the past few days (my condolences to those folks) – hasn’t helped.

To sum it up in three words…

I HATE HOT.

And to sum up my feelings about this just-begun season…

I miss the way summer was as a kid, the way it was something to look forward to with all the fun and relaxing that often went along with it.

Now, that’s not really the case.

It’s a bit of a pity, but also inevitable as that’s part of one’s evolving as an adult, the responsibilities that don’t stop just because it’s June, July and August.

As such, for those who can afford it,

I hope your summer’s a good one.

 

I like the rainbow-like colors of these lounge chairs at this beach. Photo courtesy of the odysseyonline.com

 

 

 

An Open Letter To Adolescents Who Are Seen As So-Called “Losers”

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Ezra Miller and Emma Watson from “The Perks of Being A Wallflower” (2012); I SO wish I had friends like these in high school, the way their characters, Patrick and Sam, accepted and befriended Charlie, played by Logan Lerman. Photo courtesy of musingsofabookshopgirl.blogspot.com

 

THIS IS A REVISED VERSION OF AN ARTICLE I DID ON THE SITE HUBPAGES.COM IN 2010.

AS I FEEL THE SUBJECT MATTER IS RELEVANT TODAY AND ALWAYS WILL BE, IN LIGHT OF A NEW SCHOOL YEAR STARTING I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE A GOOD IDEA TO PLACE THIS ON THIS BLOG.

 

If you are a tween or a teenager who isn’t seen by others as popular or “cool”, read on…

Greetings Young People,

Assuming that my calculations are correct, you have started a new school year after a summer that I’m sure seemed to fly by.

I’m also fairly positive that many of you, if not most of you, have been dreading the start of school like the plague because you’re seen by far too many of your classmates as different in the way you look, behave, or in the way you march to the “beat of a different drummer”.

And I imagine those differences have led to some bad times.

You have probably spent years being called a “dork”, a “geek”, a “loser”, or a combination of those names.

Kids may have done some blatant harm to you such as push you into lockers or throw things at you,

The opposite gender shudders at the thought of standing anywhere near you,

And I wouldn’t be surprised if you find yourself sitting all by your lonesome at lunch, or with other so-called “geeks”.

 

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Something that broke my heart every time I saw it, which was quite a bit during my time working in the education field. Photo courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

 

Or perhaps you’ve been the victim of cyber-bullying, where people have called you all sorts of vile things on the Internet for all to see, which seems to be a popular thing to do these days.

Most likely, you’re probably like I was at your age, mostly alone and lonely because you’re seen as strange; hardly anybody wants to hang with you, and the ones who do pay attention to you do so in ways that induces feelings of inferiority and other negative feelings.

Believe me when I say that during the bulk of the seven years I spent from sixth grade through my senior year of high school, I was a lot like you as for quite a bit of my first month of 10th grade I stayed home in bed because I didn’t want to be shunned or abused, which is how I felt many of my fellow students interacted with me in calling me stupid, ditching me, and letting me know in no uncertain terms that they had no desire to even get to know me, let alone become friends with me.

I know how it is to be bullied and disrespected, causing strong feelings of inferiority and depression as a result.

I would also like to let you in on something…

 

YOU ARE NOT INFERIOR IN ANY WAY, SHAPE, OR FORM WHATSOEVER.

YOU ARE NOT A DWEEB, A LOSER, OR ANY OF THOSE NASTY ADJECTIVES.

YOU ARE A WORTHY HUMAN BEING WHO DESERVES LOVE, RESPECT, AND ACCEPTANCE FOR THE PERSON YOU ARE.

 

Just because you don’t look or act “cool” does not mean there’s anything wrong with you.

I remember when I was a P.E. teacher, there was this ten-year old girl who was made fun of regularly and considered by her classmates as a so-called “geek”. I went up to this girl one day before class after someone had dissed her and said,

“Don’t worry, they’ll be working for you some day.”

Which is often the case as the ones who were so-called “nerds” in school are oftentimes the ones accomplishing great things as adults with their seven and eight figure bank accounts, going to their class reunions in stretch hummer limousines.

 

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I think it should go without saying that the world would be a better place a million times over if every young person was accepted and liked by everyone else like these young folks seemingly are. Photo courtesy of pinterest.com

 

If you don’t believe me, try googling the name Bill Gates sometime.

What I’m trying to say is although you may be having a rough time socially in school and your world in general, know that there are people who care about you.

And not just your mom and dad, either.

Regardless of how bad things may get, please don’t do anything stupid to be “accepted” by changing your behavior to fit in with those so-called “cool kids”; trust me when I say it’s just not worth it because you’ll lose yourself and feel like a phony deep down.

Always be yourself and find friends who’ll accept you just the way you are, warts and all as believe it or not, they really do exist.

Coming from someone who was seen by too many of his peers as a so-called “dork”,  please believe me when I tell you this:

 

YOU ARE PERFECTLY FINE AND DANDY JUST THE WAY YOU ARE.

 

I don’t know how I can make that sentiment any clearer.

So even though life may continue to be socially difficult at times, please do your best to hang in there and stay strong.

Find somebody to talk to anytime you feel desperate or mistreated, anyone who will listen; an adult is an ideal option.

And always keep in mind that you are worthy and you matter, regardless of what those arrogant jerks and mean girls may say or do to you.

Suffice it to say, I wish you nothing but the best for this school year – and beyond!

 

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I like this picture, an image of how things should be. Photo courtesy of scattergood.org

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEVER SAY NEVER: My Feelings of Working With Young People Today

 

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Something I did for approximately two decades: coach youth baseball. Photo courtesy of obyl.org

 

I’LL TRY TO MAKE THIS AS BRIEF AS I CAN, SINCE I DON’T WANT TO MAKE THIS TOO LONG…

 

My previous article on this site was something detailing my disillusion of the profession I chose; education and working with children and young people.

I mentioned how – largely, but not completely due to my having Asperger’s Syndrome as I freely admit that I made too many mistakes in judgement, mistakes that should have told me many years before my actual realization that the “Kid Business” was and is not for me – various incidents and episodes contributed to the depression-inducing disillusion that I experienced after roughly two decades of struggling in the line of work that I chose.

How I thought I would have nothing but fun in the school atmosphere and interacting with kids, only to receive some rude shocks.

One thing I did NOT mention was the attitude I have today as far as ever entering that field again.

Pretty much everyone would assume that there would be no chance whatsoever of me earning paychecks on a school campus or a park.

And they are more or less right as after all I went through, I have no desire of working with young folks at the present time.

However…

Surprisingly enough, if anyone asks me whether or not I ever plan to return to teaching and coaching youngsters, I’ll say something that I heard someone say in a movie once:

“NEVER SAY NEVER.”

The reason?

Despite my problems and issues stemming from being an aspie, I had enjoyed interacting with kids as I always found it easier to converse with them than with adults.

They are less complicated, particularly at the elementary level, where I spent the bulk of my workforce life as the younger kids are, the less complicated they are.

Of course, it would have to be an absolutely perfect situation, one which I could do things my way without any interference.

Which I know, considering the atmosphere today with teachers, coaches and counselors walking on eggshells – something that’s pure poison to this aspie – would never be the case.

Still, if the improbable conditions were to come to fruition, I could see myself coaching a baseball or a softball team or teaching a physical education class at a small school; I have imagined myself doing just that.

Like I’ve stated, the realistic chances of that happening are zero and next to zero.

But “Never Say Never” will always be my sentiment.

 

 

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An illustration of the profession I spent years in, physical education. Photo courtesy of theeducationnetwork.com

 

 

Disillusion In The Education Profession: A Tale of Burn-Out

 

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I know that on the surface, this photo may not have anything to do with the subject of this article directly, but I’ve always liked wide open spaces like this. It’s where I go for my mental “Happy Place” whenever things get stressed. Photo courtesy of everydayaspergers.com

 

BEING WORN DOWN AND BURNED OUT IN THE WORKING-WITH-YOUNG-PEOPLE PROFESSION

 

When I was a little kid, among the things I did to pass the time was to play school in my bedroom.

With Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the rest of the Peanuts gang as my students (I was an absolute Peanuts freak), I would pretend to be a teacher; calling the roll, giving lessons, etc.

Fast forward several years…

As I grew older and saw my mother and many of my relatives enter the field of education with much success, the combination of that and the fact that I’ve always been attracted to the school atmosphere made a career influencing young minds appeal to me that much more, as I found myself wanting to join the family business.

There were other reasons why I wanted my career to be in schools, among them being:

1.   Teaching, being with, and being a leader of kids sounded like a fun way to make a living.

2.   The school schedule – working weekdays with weekends, holidays and summers off. I had always liked that kind of schedule as a child, and saw no reason why that should change as a working adult.

However…

After roughly twenty years in various positions – a physical education teacher, a sports coach, a tutor, a noon playground aide and an after school leader – and after experiencing quite a few bad episodes with different kids, parents, administrators and supervisors, never lasting more than three years at any one school,

I ultimately realized that I was not meant to work with children as after working as hard as I could, including entering a graduate level program to get my master’s degree and teaching credential – and doing very well in my classes – I found myself disillusioned with the whole thing.

That’s the best way to describe it.

Several factors contributed to this realization and eventual abandonment of this field.

First:  The students I worked with that had behavior and attitude issues wore me down and burned me out to the point that I simply couldn’t deal with them anymore as over the years while working at different schools, I have been viciously cursed at and nastily talked back to on many occasions.

I have even had money stolen from me at an elementary school in Los Angeles where I worked as a cafeteria clerk in the mid-1990s, sorting out applications for free and reduced meals, working the cash register, and distributing meal tickets – and it wasn’t even my money!

One day after lunch at this school I went back to my office to count the day’s tickets and money when I noticed that the cash from that morning’s breakfast sales were missing from my desk. Although I freely admit it was my fault, since I neglected to lock my office door, the incident alarmed and angered me as I think it would anyone.

Later that afternoon another kid told me that a girl had snuck into my office and took the money out of my desk. Her and I told the assistant principal, who got the money back and suspended the thief, but this particular incident contributed to my getting fed up with that place.

Along with the behavior problems, I discovered that I did not have enough patience to be effective with certain sections of the student population as I found myself working with kids I did not want to work with, wishing that I could pick and choose the kids with whom I did want to interact.

Certainly those youngsters who mouthed off, cursed regularly, and showed no respect or consideration led me to the point where I even dreaded the sight of them, let alone working with them.

But I also dreaded the sight of those kids who were extremely spoiled brats, whining and complaining whenever they didn’t get their way as I encountered quite a few of those. I grew fed up with them, too.

Those young people with issues, behavioral and otherwise, would have been more bearable to deal with if it were not for the fact that in several of the dozen schools where I was employed over 20 some-odd years, I felt that the principal didn’t give enough support when it came to dealing with certain situations the way I felt it needed to be dealt with.

These were the folks who, because they wanted to be “sensitive to the kids’ needs”, using a phrase that I absolutely HATED: “These are just kids”, would let the problem youngsters get away with near murder.

For example, there was this elementary school near my home , where I taught P.E. for three years.

 

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A good message that should always be remembered.

 

 

During my third year there, a new principal arrived who I felt was soft on discipline. During that year there were about fifteen fourth graders whose behavior made life at that place a near hell because this particular principal didn’t deal with those troublemakers the way they needed to be dealt with.

One day during recess one of those kids slammed another kid down on the playground asphalt, knocking him out cold.

You’re probably thinking, surely he was suspended, right?

Nope – he was back in school the next day and more or less got off scott free.

It was only after another one of these problem children sexually harassed a fellow female student that this principal finally used her suspension powers.

These episodes, along with others I was told of such as a student escaping expulsion after he threw a chair at his teacher because his mother sobbed for mercy to the school board, or a teacher somehow getting into trouble with her principal when she sent a student to the office for an obscene gesture, showed me that teachers and staff were basically fifth-class peons with very little power.

This was particularly the case with aides and non-credentialed staff, where I spent the majority of my career as; almost anything can be done to them and the perpetrating child would go unpunished.

The absolute last straw in the education field for me came in 2007, when I was working as an after school teacher at an inner city school.

I was assigned to a group of fourth and fifth graders for the mandatory homework hour, where the kids would do their assignments and I would help them. Since the school was roughly 85% African-American, being Black myself I was looking forward to being a good role model to those students.

Unfortunately…

Disillusion reared its ugly head yet again as after a few weeks, I felt like I was in hell as a large group of those children, particularly a group of about seven 5th grade girls (as well as a few boys), were the most disrespectful, lying, big-mouthed smart mouths I had ever worked with.

Which is saying something since my time working with young people went back around twenty years at that point.

Still, it was tolerable until early January of 2008 when the program coordinator, who was supportive and allowed me to be as tough as I needed to be to deal with those kids, suddenly quit and was replaced by two people who I knew wouldn’t allow such, who I knew would want me to be like Barney the Dinosaur in my interactions with them.

After a lecture from one of those new supervisors on how badly I was treating some of the kids, and a nervous breakdown from me as I didn’t show up to work for three days, I submitted my resignation not only from that job, but from the field of education in general.

I had had enough and couldn’t take one more day.

I even remember the exact date: February 6, 2008.

One may think from reading this that I was a sympathetical victim of tyrannical circumstances.

That is not true, however.

Without any reservation, I admit that much of my lack of success in working with children was my fault, in the sense that I had quite a difficult time taking orders from different people and getting along with certain co-workers and higher-ups.

I failed to understand and accept that in working with kids – and in any kind of work – you are paid to do as you are told and to make everyone happy; kids, parents and supervisors alike.

This was due to my Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder negatively affecting social interaction, which in my case involves an aversion to being ordered around and trying to please everyone.

The one thing I learned about myself while in the workforce was that I worked best under minimal supervision and influence, if not by myself.

Where I can be left alone and simply do my job without any interference whatsoever.

If I was working with someone, the only way I was truly effective was when that someone treated me as a complete equal, even if they were my superior on paper.

Unfortunately for me, the majority of my school jobs weren’t like that as by the time I arrived at that inner city school, I was completely sick and tired of what worrying about what kids, parents, co-workers and supervisors thought of me.

I was fed up with the notion of my job security depending on so many people as trying to please everyone, as well as the periodic evaluations which to me was merely an excuse for the boss to tell me how bad I was at my job, caused much anxiety.

And I grew absolutely sick and tired of that, too.

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A photo of someone with ASD (apparently) at work. Photo courtesy of cbc.ca 

 

Here’s what was so disillusioning about it all – silly, naive me:

I thought that teaching and working with kids would be like what I saw on TV shows like “Head of the Class” from the 1980s and “Room 222” from the 1970s, where the teacher was loved and (at least in the case of “Head of the Class” ) where the students were bright and desired to soak up the knowledge.

I had no idea that there would be a glut of in-service meetings that to me were nothing but a big waste of time.

I didn’t know that you had to pass about five different exams, which you had to pay for, in order to be officially called a teacher.

I knew nothing of the notion that new teachers usually ended up at the worst schools with the worst kids – check out the movie 187 with Samuel L. Jackson sometime – schools with kids that no one else wants to work with, who either have no interest in learning or are too tough to teach, too far gone for anyone to have a true effect (at least in my opinion).

I know it sounds to some that I was nothing but a spoiled quitter who couldn’t hack it or cut the mustard.

What it all comes down to, however, is this:

A career in the education field and working with young people was and is too ill a fit for me.

By the time I left that last job in 2008 I felt like a waiter or a parking valet, catering to everyone’s whim.

Or a glorified babysitter or nanny.

Or a servant.

I should make something crystal clear…

This is NOT a diatribe against either the teaching profession or education.

It is NOT my intention to bash this field.

How could I be against a line of work that so many of my loved ones have been involved in for decades?

And believe it or not, I like and enjoy being around young people and helping them. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have spent two and a half decades trying to make things work out for me in this area.

It’s just that after experiencing so many failures and frustrations, including either getting fired or resigning from the vast majority of the jobs I held, I realize that my talents, personality and personal chemistry are much better suited to something where I can be left alone to do my thing.

Which was the main factor in starting a career in writing, as I now have two blogs and am working on a book.

While it was all disillusioning, and while I did feel quite bitter about the whole thing the first couple of years after I left that last gig, I feel more than OK now because more than ever, I see that it was all for the best.

Leaving the “Kid Business”, as I sometimes like to call it, left me free to pursue writing, which is a much better fit for me.

And which is ultimately all that anyone wants out of a career.

 

 

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An excellent quote that I thought must be shared. Photo courtesy of malaysianpsychology.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

Signs That The Education Profession Was The Wrong Field (for me)

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An elementary school physical education class; I spent the bulk of my life in the workforce as a P.E. teacher at this level

 

HOW I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT WORKING WITH CHILDREN WAS THE WRONG CAREER CHOICE

 

I once read that for every five teachers beginning their career in the classroom, three leave within the first five years ranging from stress stemming from being unable to control a classroom to a tried-and-true standby – the salary being too low.

As someone who unceremoniously left this profession in 2008 after approximately twenty years, I can certainly relate.

Particularly when considering the two main reasons why I no longer work with young people and decided to pursue writing:

1.  I was ultimately ineffective with working with students with learning and/or behavior problems.

and…

2.  Having Asperger’s Syndrome, a part of the Autism Spectrum Disorder, rendered me as  not always being able to interact with co-workers and supervisors in an appropriate manner on a consistent basis.

Due to my aspieness being the root of my communication problems on the job, the longest I was able to work anywhere in the Education field was three years as I was ether fired or forced to resign from 11 of the 12 positions I had at various school sites.

Looking back from my days as a student, I realized there were signs that should have told me that working with children was going to be “Square Peg in a Round Hole” type of thing…

For instance, a basic commandment of working in education is firmly believing that all children can learn and succeed, regardless of background, skill level, or any disabilities a kid may possess.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have that mentality as a youngster as I specifically remember during my elementary school days thinking that those fellow classmates of mine who struggled with the reading, writing, spelling and math lesson that we all received were – to put it simply and bluntly – lazy and dumb.

I know nothing about the learning disabilities, or background, or cultural differences that apparently played a factor to whatever lack of success my struggling classmates may have had, as school came easy for me and my grades were usually near the top of the class.

Since that was the case, in my closed and unenlightened mind the kids who didn’t get it were – pardon the expression – “retards”, which was the term that was used at that time (the 1970s).

A perfect example of this was during fourth grade, whenever my class received ditto worksheets as part of our lessons, this girl who sat across from me would constantly plead, “How do you do this?” to a point where I grew annoyed. When I told her to just read the directions, she would say, “I can’t read”.

As an adult I realize she was from a poor, immigrant family from a part of Mexico where education was not necessarily a priority. She may have had a learning disability on top of that, but as a nine-year old I thought she was just plain stupid.

Which I’m not proud of in the least, but it was what it was.

Unfortunately, that mindset didn’t change upon adulthood.

Fast forward thirty years:

I’m working in an after school program in an inner city area, helping fourth and fifth graders with their homework and doing various other things with them.

One day a 4th grader, who had behavior issues in the form of constantly back talking and slacking off with her homework throughout the year, asked me what time it was. In response to me pointing to the clock on the wall, she exclaimed in a rather whiny voice, “I can’t tell time!”

I was flabbergasted at what this little girl had said, being ten years old and unable to do something that she should have mastered at age six!

Though I eventually realized that she had a learning disability with a reading level far below what it should have been, I couldn’t help but think that she was either severely lacking in intelligence or was extremely lazy during the first grade, when telling time is commonly taught and which I know is the worst attitude one can have when working with youngsters.

It was a definite sign that this profession was not for me.

As a child, I can clearly recall feeling similarly about those schoolmates of mine who constantly got into and caused trouble. I know now that many of them had ADD or ADHD or some other disorder that made them behave badly, but for the bulk of my youth and for many years afterward, I saw those kids as nothing but troublemakers, punks and flat-out losers.

The fact that those were the kids that bullied and tortured me during those formative years didn’t help my views on this any.

I freely admit that those views I had on those young folks who caused trouble and disrespected authority on a constant basis carried over into my career in education, which wasn’t good at all.

One particular memory coming to mind was at the school where I worked for three years, where during my third year there were roughly fifteen kids in the fourth grade who did nothing but tear the school apart with their antics, a proverbial case of 15 rotten apples spoiling the bunch.

Nothing I or anyone else did to curtail the chaos that those nine and ten years-olds caused had any positive results, and we tried everything short of suspension, which the principal wouldn’t pull the trigger on and which was desperately needed.

So by the time I got those 15 youngsters all together and told them that they would be watched like hawks and nailed for any and every rule they broke, I had already written those delinquents off as losers and lost causes, which people working with kids can’t ever really do.

Feeling the way I felt as a young kid should have told me that I wasn’t cut out to be successful with children, at least in a consistent manner as one must have an infinite amount of patience with those who struggle with classwork and behavior; my patience would usually run out by around mid-February.

Four words neatly sum these sentiments up:

I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN

For those who are wondering right about now why I entered the “Kid Business”, as I like to call it, in the first place, here are the reasons…

It was the family business, as my mother and several other members of my extended family spent up to 30 years molding young minds and were quite successful at it, plus I enjoyed the weekends, holidays and summers off that folks in other lines of work didn’t get.

Which I know now was an inappropriate reason to commit myself to a profession like education and coaching, as I coached various sports at the youth level for over 20 years.

The two biggest lessons I garnered from all of this?

1.  If you don’t wake up in the morning looking forward to going to work every day, then you really shouldn’t be at that job.

and…

2.  When it comes to a career, find a square hole that your square peg can fit into. 

 

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Having Asperger’s Syndrome in a Neurotypical World

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DESCRIBING A FEW OF MY EXPERIENCES WITH HAVING A CONDITION ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER WHILE LIVING IN THE MAINSTREAM FOR OVER FORTY YEARS

 

There are approximately 20 million people in the world who have a high-functioning form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects one’s ability – often in a negative way – to interact socially with the general public on a consistent basis.

I am one of them.

Over the past few years, I have posted articles online regarding my experiences with being an “Aspie”; how I have been thought of by various individuals as being a little strange at best and an insensitive dork who doesn’t realize I am such at worst, being bullied and shunned during my formative years.

Not that I haven’t deserved those dubious distinctions as there have been many, many instances and incidents of me saying and doing inappropriate things throughout my life, things that to describe them in this post would induce post-traumatic stress because to think of the stuff I have done, even as a little kid, has brought me nothing but shame.

I have also written about how having AS (short for Asperger’s Syndrome) has been a root for the struggles I have gone through for the approaching 50 years that I have had this social disability as although there are plenty of “Aspians” with lucrative and fulfilling careers in the workforce, spouses, and children…

Despite my efforts spanning more than 20 years, those life milestones have proven too difficult for me to attain due to my inability to work effectively with supervisors in the workplace whom my brain tells me are totalitarian oppressors who see me as nothing but an inferior human being.

And being seen by roughly 99.999% of females as “not being boyfriend/husband material”.

Which is ultimately OK as I’d rather remain single for life than to marry someone merely to fit into some accepted American conformity.

I am not intending to wrote a “Poor Me” soliloquy, as there are some positive aspects about my life as an Aspie that I have sometimes overlooked, which I am sure others with this condition can relate to.

First, the fact that I was one of those “Smart Kids” in school, reading at two years old and being academically ahead of my peers at an early age was, a source of positive feeling for me. It felt good to get more than my fair share of A’s in elementary and junior high school and to be put in the gifted classes during those years.

Second, while in my youth and adolescence fellow students and others told me that I have an incredible memory for facts and events as even to this day I would periodically find myself recalling things that happened thirty and forty years ago with such clarity it would be, as the cliche goes, “like it was yesterday”.

When I learned that superior rote memory is a trait shared by many aspians, I understood where this ability to remember long ago things came from.

Another Asperger’s trait that I had as a child and to an extent still have is a sense of creativity, in that it seemed to be easier for me to imagine various stuff and to come up with ideas and stories about things than my peers growing up, and even today to a point. I remember at ages ten, 11 and 12 coming up with funny tales and drawing amusement parks and baseball stadiums, and I particularly recall making a ballpark out of red Lego blocks, using that as a toy for a time.

As a result of all of this, there have been people during my years as a young-un and today that see me as a unique person, which I suppose I can take as a compliment.

And I am glad to say that I am hanging in there, living my life the best I can, which is all anyone can do.

I would describe more of my Asperger’s experiences, but as I am writing a book called “MY ASPIE LIFE”, which describes in detail the good and (largely) bad times of living with this syndrome in the neurotypical, or non-disabled, world, in my view to write about such experiences here and now would spoil things.

can say that I am currently working on the first draft of the last couple of chapters, then after I edit and do some rewriting of the first five chapters I will consider myself finished; I am aiming to self-publish “MY ASPIE LIFE” – I have no desire whatsoever to submit it to some publisher’s rejection pile – in August of 2015.

It would certainly be a significant accomplishment.

And with God’s help, I can achieve this.