We Are All “Filthy Rich!”

The Rev. Creflo Dollar is a televangelist and the leader of World Changers Church International. The Fulton County, Georgia resident has sparked controversy after campaigning for 200,000 people to donate $300.00 for an “airplane project” that is intended to help “understand grace” and “empower change” around the world. This man could not have given this “airplane project” a more literal term. It’s only intent is to replace the televangelist’s private jet.

You read correctly! He is the proud owner of a Gulfstream G650. When it comes to personal private aircraft, it is top of the line! With a cruising speed of over 500 Miles Per Hour and luxurious seating, all covered with a cost of over $65,000,000.00, this piece of machinery is exclusively reserved to the famous, rich and privileged. Why would anyone be gullible enough to contribute to such a selfish and greedy “cause?” It’s because they are believers in “the prosperity gospel.”

Prosperity gospel:

a modern version or, according to some, perversion of the gospel according to which the full blessings of God available to those who approach Him in faith and obedience include wealth, positive speech, health and power.

I know I am rich with many things. However, they do not include private jets, mansions and fancy cars. They are personal gifts and skills that nobody will ever be able to steal. People have said that I am rich with insight and wisdom for those who feel unwelcomed, misunderstood or mistreated. It doesn’t matter if it is due to sexuality, disability or anything else that causes others to turn their nose and make insulting remarks. The most difficult thing about having this gift is knowing how I can use it to achieve success in this crazy world.

What are you filthy rich with? How have you used these gifts to achieve what success means to you?

(More to come soon!)

To Tell Or Not To Tell?

Kennywood park is a favorite summertime venue for Pittsburghers who are looking for a day of fun. This traditional amusement park is found in the suburb of West Mifflin, about 10 miles from the city. During my last visit to this local treasure, something unusual captured my attention. Actually, someone caught my attention for a few brief seconds. This individual was an Autistic teenage boy who appeared to be non verbal. I wasn’t paying attention to his awkward, repetitive hand movements. He seemed to have aimlessly walked away from his parents. His white t-shirt perplexed me. This simple message was clearly printed in dark blue and all capital letters.

I have Autism. Please be patient with me.

Directly underneath those words, I saw the Autism awareness ribbon. I am actually quite surprised that I do remember this. I only saw this boy for about 5 seconds. He didn’t wander off too far and he was quickly reunited with his mother. I am willing to believe that a good number of people who display these ribbons are not the “Jenny McCarthy type,” if you know what I mean. However, I just could not stop asking myself the question. Why would a parent want to reveal their child’s diagnosis in such a “loud and clear” way? This is the first time I have ever seen such a thing. I pushed the memory to the back of my head until I saw this article from Toronto’s “The Star.” Farida Peter’s son also happens to be Autistic. Each weekday, they use Toronto’s subway system as their method of transportation to and from behavioral therapy sessions for five year old Deckard. The facility is on the other side of the city, and the quickest route is to take the bus, then the train. Seventeen stops combined with one train change equals a very hectic commute. I don’t know what specifically causes her son to become upset, but subway trains and stations are very busy places. They are full of hustling and bustling people who have a schedule to meet. If your child dares to interrupt their peace and quiet on that noisy subway train, their day is automatically ruined. They will make it known in the most insensitive and ignorant ways.

On the bus one day, a lady told her to control him when he was swinging his legs as they dangled beneath his seat. Other passengers have scolded him and then complained “wow, he’s not even looking at me.” Children with autism often don’t make eye contact.

He’s had fits after being knocked over in crowds or being pushed out of the way by passengers clamouring for seats.
Peters had to do something to stop the glares, gasps and
comments, which would only ratchet up their anxiety levels and exacerbate his behaviour.
Farida was desperate for a way to stop all the negativity directed towards her and Deckard.
She taped a laminated sign on her backpack.
My son is five years old and has Autism! Please be patient with us!
I must admit that I am not entirely sure what to think about this mother. This is mainly because I do not know her personally. I shared this article with a woman at my church. She works as an Occupational therapist for children on the Autism Spectrum. She felt this mother was trying to call attention to herself and gain sympathy from the passengers. Granted, I would never allow anyone to force me into revealing my diagnosis in such a way. I strongly disagree with the common practice of labeling those on the spectrum as “low functioning” or “high functioning.” These labels put the child in a box and push us into making preconceived notions about their strengths and shortcomings. Let’s face it, there are people in this world who do not deserve to know about my struggle as a gay man with Asperger’s Syndrome. I know that open expression of these things are bound to make people react in positive and negative ways. But, why would they choose the latter? Granted, I don’t care if people think my differences make them uncomfortable.It’s because they are unhappy with their own lives and will try to take advantage of me. They could internalize their unhappiness by using me to their own advantage. I can certainly identify with anyone who feels concern for this child’s future.

However, there are a few possible explanations why this woman would feel the need to carry the sign. Like the teenage boy at Kennywood, Autistic children do have the tendency to become lost in their own world and wander off. What could happen if he chose to wander off into a restricted area? These areas are off-limits for safety and security reasons. Some spectrum children are unable understand that certain people, places and behaviors are dangerous. Again, it is important not to make assumptions because we do not know the entire story. However, I tend to agree with the notion that she is using this sign to ask for sympathy from passengers. So, how should I determine whether or not someone deserves to know about my diagnosis? With regards to who I will tell and what I will tell them, it is up to me. It is usually determined upon my relationship with the person and how well they treat me.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” certainly does have a dark side that is the exact opposite from its usual meaning. I know not to fear people who appear genuine, but to be aware. In-genuine people insist upon reminding you how great and wonderful they are, but then turn around and act in ways that show they are truly not worthy of our trust. They are enough to drive you mad, if you allow them to do so.

Being Openly Gay During The Holidays

The tree is lit up and beautifully decorated! Presents have been intricately wrapped! Christmas has returned for another year of festivities! So, why are people so mean and unhappy during this season that is really supposed to be about comfort and joy? Thanksgiving and Christmas are holidays that can either bring the best or the worst out of many family relationships. Many of our LGBT brothers and sisters who live with deeply religious parents are no stranger to that fact. If the relationship turns to the worst, it can really take a toll on them during the holidays. Whether you have a supportive family or not, we must remember one thing.

 “Attitude is the mind’s paintbrush. It can color any situation!”

I remember my elementary school teachers used to display this quote on their classroom walls. These two sentences are important for us all to remember. I suppose we can say that Murphy’s Law of being openly LGBT is that you are bound to experience people who just don’t get it. Attitude can reveal our true colors. I am glad that I have gotten over the whole “coming out” phase. I can remember feeling outraged when YouTube right-wing “prodigy” Caiden Cowger made a viral video called “Obama is making kids gay.”

“Homosexuality… It is a belief. It’s not mandatory in that person! That person is not born that way, no matter what Lady Gaga says. That person is not born that way! It is a decision! You see, it is getting worse where I’m at. I see younger people that is turning to be out to be homosexuals.  Its equal boy and girl both. All of them are turning into homosexuals. We’ve got about thirty, I’d say thirty teenagers in this county that I am at that are homosexuals and it is sickening! It sickens me!” Caiden Cowger “Obama is Making Kids Gay”

It’s obvious that his parents are raising him to believe such ignorance. I remember the plethora of video responses and blogs following this video. Many of them were from the LGBTQUIA community. Others came from political commentators like Bill Maher. The internet is certainly a place where one can spread their own ignorance and find people who agree with them. Let’s face it! We are all guilty of saying ignorant things. This ignorance can not only come from strangers on the internet. It can come face to face with those who supposedly “know” and “love” us.

This begs the question. Should I discuss my sexuality or not? Well, sexuality is a taboo subject for a lot of people. Some people cannot fathom two consenting men or two consenting women “doing what they do” (if you know what I am talking about.) I am certainly convinced that a lot (but not all) of it is overly based upon religious convictions and general ignorance. When it comes to people I interact with on a daily basis, opinions range from Liberal to Conservative. The holidays are not the time for debates about divisive issues. That means that anyone who wishes to proclaim their homophobia must keep one thing in mind. I refuse to conform to people’s perceptions of what is “icky.”  It’s best to make that crystal clear as soon as they start hurling anti gay (or “pro family”) epithets. They are fully convinced their religious deity believes it is an abomination, among the many negative connotations used by the religious right.

We’ve all been forced to resist the temptation to give that judgmental zealot a bloody punch in the face. However, people like Caiden Cowger should remind us of one thing. A bloody punch in the face (or a terroristic threat in the comment section) is the reaction they want. They want to use us to their own advantage. They want to see us get into trouble so they can gloat about it in the end. They want us to feel like failures. (Caiden makes that abundantly clear in his last video complete with an overly dramatic introduction.) The best thing to do about people like this is to walk away and pretend it did not happen. You have to rise above their arrogance. Tell yourself that you are worth more than any person who ever tries to deny that fact! It took me a very long time to tell myself that.

Homophobia from outside the LGBT community often forces us to do one thing that can be very damaging during the holidays. Internalizing our anger and imposing it on innocent people is an unfortunate and under recognized problem. I am a “high functioning” Autistic male who managed to come to terms with my sexuality. There are a lot of things I still have to learn about living in this world as a double minority. I have already learned that my uniqueness does not warrant disrespect towards anyone. I should remind you that disrespect is not always intentional. We’ve all failed to do things we should have done. We have all done things we should not have done. I was that high school kid who always felt left out no matter where I went. People noticed that and they would occasionally take advantage of it. I don’t feel the necessity to elaborate on those experiences now, mainly because it was in the past. However, I urge all LGBT people to include those who may be going through those feelings now. I am asking you to help in lessening the division that exists within our own community. I cannot do this on my own, but I am willing to do it if you are!

Thank you for reading and happy holidays!

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How Does A Teacher Earn Respect?

It is a fact that one will deal with “good teachers” and “bad teachers” throughout their career in school. The funny thing about this is the majority of my teachers I can vividly remember are the “bad” ones. One of my past blogs described a bad math teacher I had when I was a freshman in high school. Math was never one of my easiest subjects in school, and my final grade for that class was a seventy six (76) percent. It was a very low “C”. One of my favorite websites is one called “Rate My Teachers.com” (Similar to “Rate My Professors.com”). The name describes the purpose of the website pretty well, it is a website where students, parents or even colleagues can anonymously rate and comment on a teacher. They rate the teacher on a score of one (bad) through five (wonderful) based on each of these four categories.

Easiness: This category is pretty self exclamatory. Your algebra teacher should get a rating of five if they give a reasonable amount of homework and they give you time to work on it in class. They should receive a rating of one if they expect thirty multi-step problems finished on the next day, or if they give a large packet for you to remember for a test that is happening on the next day.

Helpfulness: Your chemistry teacher gives you a lab that is due by the end of the class period. If they walk around the classroom and check to make sure each student understands the material, they should receive a rating of five. If they are sitting at their desk and ask them for help and they tell you to “read the book” or “figure it out”, they will most likely receive a one.

Clarity: Your English teacher gives you a novel to read and they want you to write an essay about it. If they give you the prompt and they explain the requirements in detail and in a way every student will understand, they will most likely receive a five. They will most likely receive a one if they only say “write this paper” and “it’s due in two days”.

Popularity: This category is not displayed after the rating is submitted, and it is also pretty self explanatory. Your science teacher knows their stuff. They will most likely receive a rating of “five” if they are approachable, friendly and have a good sense of humor. However, they will receive a “one” if they are grouchy and disrespectful.

There has been an ongoing controversy about “Rate My Teachers.com” since it was first created in 2001. Many teachers have seen the ratings posted by students and they’ve all reacted to them differently. Some teachers really appreciate the feedback they have received, some have made a conscientious effort to improve and others have threatened to sue the creators and get the website shut down. This is really the only website where you can anonymously voice their real feelings about a teacher, whether they are good or bad. With that being said, you can’t always rely on an anonymous rating website to decide whether or not you will like the teacher right away. There is an age-old quote that states “you never know unless you try”. Most people “rate their teacher” because they either really like them or hate their guts.

As I said in the beginning, I have encountered “good teachers” and “bad teachers”. I have come up with five guidelines a teacher can follow to truly earn respect from their students. Most of the “bad teachers” I have dealt with did not follow these guidelines, and as a result students rebelled against them.

1.) Keep rules short and to the point, but strictly enforce them.

I had a Computer Applications teacher during my freshman year of high school who had about twenty rules on her course outline. Most of them were self explanatory, and rules an elementary school student should know they are expected to follow. She spent over four days explaining every single rule in detail (“no cell phones, no internet without permission, raise your hand to speak, no printing without permission, no talking during a test, no talking while the teacher is talking etc”). I have found that most students rebel against teachers who have lots of rules in the classroom. With that being said, rules that are short and to the point should also be strictly enforced. Briefly and clearly state the consequences of not obeying the rules. Have students sign a contract at the beginning of the school year stating they have read and understood them.

2.) Get to know your students. (Personally and Academically)

I have come to realize that teachers who try to get to know their students are the easiest ones to get along with. There are many students out there who come from dysfunctional families, or who have trouble interacting with their peers in school. They need an adult who they can look up to and respect. I have heard stories about students who have stayed in school because just one teacher actually cared about them. You should also try to figure out ways to help a student who may be having trouble in the class. You have to put yourself in their shoes and figure out how that individual student learns best. There are unfortunately teachers out there who only teach material in the way they know how to do it. They are frustrating to deal with, simply because they didn’t “translate” it into my style of learning. My mind is a specific mind, I am good at one thing, and I am bad at another thing.  

3.) Make Learning Fun. “(Engage and Teach, Don’t Preach!)”

I find that teachers who constantly teach from the textbook are the most difficult to deal with. It’s not because I find the textbooks “boring”, I also felt they were difficult to understand. This was especially true for my science and math textbooks. Most of my math classes at Freeport were very generalized and abstract. On the bottom of the page there is a YouTube video made by the students at Oakland Christian School in Aburn Hills, Michigan. It shows the differences between hands on/interactive learning and traditional learning. (I posted the link on the bottom of the page). I posted a blog a few months ago about a lecture on TED by Dr. Temple Grandin. She was fed up with some of the schools in other parts of the country and the world who don’t have the resources to show the kids interesting things. The teachers have absolutely no idea what to do with them. This is something that forcing standardized tests  on them won’t change at all. Last year I was required to take the P.S.S.A’s when I was a junior. You were tested on science, math, reading and writing. They lasted for the entire week, and by the end the students were overwhelmed. The P.S.S.A tests only determined where the entire school stands academically. We need to focus on how the individual stands academically and not the majority of the student body.

4.) Challenge your students, and be willing to help when they need it:

When I was a student at Freeport, most of the really good teachers were in the advanced classes. My math class from my freshman year in high school was just a basic functions class. If you remember some of the horror stories about the teacher, she was not the most helpful, pleasant or interested in teaching. Every time I asked her for help, she would pretty much say “Derek, you do this, this, this and this”. The next day I did a horrible job on the test, and she would not let me retake it. There was tutoring after school, but she was the teacher at tutoring. We were going over multi step fractions, and they are still very difficult for me to learn. As I said, I made a very low “C” in the class for the year. During my sophomore year, I was put in an even lower level learning support math class. It felt like elementary school all over again, because we went over things like how to tell time and two/three digit addition and subtraction. Lenape’s academic classes and technical programs are designed to prepare you for the real world, college and the industry. The classes at Freeport were only designed to meet my IEP goals, which were very generalized and elementary.

5.) Give your students specific instructions:

One thing that has really frustrated me about certain teachers is when they don’t give specific instructions on how to do something. The Autistic mind is a very detail oriented mind, as pointed out by Dr. Temple Grandin in her TED lecture. If somebody were to walk up to me and say “program this electronic device”, I would have absolutely no idea what to do. You would have to tell me what task the device will perform, how many gigs of memory and the software you want me to use. Ignoring detail can cause the electronic device not to work or short out. Your English teacher should tell you the specific requirements that are on an essay or speech you are supposed to write.

To wrap things up, I’ve had more than my fair share of teachers who didn’t know how to work with me. They truly made school an extremely difficult experience. However, I must emphasize one more thing that is extremely important. You have to teach your children that all of your teachers must be treated with respect. Students who mouth off to teachers eventually do end up being sent to the principal. If you mouth off to your boss they could end up being fired. They should report any teacher that demonstrates behavior that is unethical. The child’s parents and administration must be notified as well. Teachers and educators play a crucial role in our lives. That is true on the good side and the bad side.

Oakland Christian School Video

Rate My Teachers


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