Teaching While Autistic

I used to write this blog under a pseudonym to hide all of the personal aspects of my life from my career. About a year ago I decided to use my real name and be proud of who I am. Now that my job applications are out there again, though, the fear has set back in. Will someone Google my name, find this, and judge me based on this part of me?

Instead of just hoping that it is never found, I figured I’d address it.

Dear Principal,

I figured out that I am an Aspie my first year teaching. I got through 25 years of my life thinking of myself what others did: that (in public) I was the quiet, bookish girl in the corner that kept to herself. Over the last five years I have grown so much by simply knowing that I am different, not just an odd sort of normal. I have learned what makes me tick (and yes, being literal, I am envisioning a clock right now) and how to make it all work for me instead of against me.

Here are some questions I figure you’re curious about.

The classroom is very unpredictable. Will that impact your teaching? Will you have a meltdown on my campus?

I am a planner by nature. It is how I have made my way in the “normal” world all this time and how I passed for so long. I subconsciously plan for so many eventualities (expected normal classroom stuff and crazy worst case scenarios) that I’m usually one of the most calm when things actually do go wrong. This helps my classroom run smoothly as well because if a lesson isn’t working, I can shift to other options and alternatives as needed.

In the rare cases when something has upset me enough, I have either taken a few minutes for a breather (while students work or read quietly) or have continued on with my lessons with a little less emotion.

How is your communication?

In the classroom with my students, I’m fine. My students and teaching are my “thing” that I fixate on and I am very passionate and enthusiastic whenever I am in the classroom with them. I am a little more guarded when I am being observed and evaluated, but I’m working on that. With parents, I prefer text or email but I’m fine on the phone or face to face in parent conferences because their children and their learning are the very things I’m excited about. Once I get to know my team, I am fine working and planning with them.

In fact, with regards to all things teaching, interviews are the only aspect that I fail at in regards to communication. When I’m processing your questions and choosing how to answer them, or which examples to give, my figurative “normal” mask slips off and I might not make eye contact or show the right emotions. When I tell you that me in the interview is completely different from me in the classroom, I’m telling the truth.

Will you need accommodations?

No more than you would allow any employee. I prefer admin to be direct and literal with me. I’m pretty good at inferring your meaning, but sometimes I might miss something. Also, if something is bothering you about me, talk to me. I might need a little processing time to respond, but I would rather things get resolved than have resentment build up. I am very open and genuine with people who offer me the same.

Does your Aspergers hinder your teaching in any way?

On the contrary, I think it makes me a better teacher. Teaching is my special interest, I over-plan, and I am a diligent hard worker with very little downtime because I enjoy my job. I am also really good at working with behavior students and kids learning how to be social beings because the skills they are working on are ones that did not come naturally to me.

In the end, I am looking for a school where I will be able to put down roots. As an Aspie, I don’t like change. I want to become a part of a school family and watch my students grow from year to year.

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