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” (Similar to “Rate My”). 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” 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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Is It Joking Or Bullying?

As you have learned about in my past forty-four blog posts, I have been in many situations where people have not understood my behavior. Because of that, I was repeatedly teased and ridiculed in school simply because I was not like everybody else. That was especially the case during my years at the Freeport Area Senior High school. My memoir is going to talk about quite a few situations I experiences where people didn’t treat me like I was a human being and not a number or a face, which is why I am writing about why I think the program at Lenape Tech should not ever be changed. I was officially diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome when I was in the second grade, and I didn’t really gain a good understanding of the “disorder” until my sophomore and junior years of high school.

I have also talked about how I had the difficulty deciphering if a person is just and acquaintance or a friend. I tended to rush friendships and become too trusting and to have too many expectations from those people. As a result, they would either feel uncomfortable around me and avoid me or they would try to manipulate me. Ever since then, it has become extremely difficult to trust people. I have dealt with therapists in the past who have pushed me into being a more “public” person, but it didn’t help me at all. It made me even more nervous and overwhelmed during social situations, especially in school.

As I have mentioned in my earlier posts, there have been situations where people who really did seem to realize I was not comfortable at school. The majority of those people were the bullies. There have been instances where they have convinced me into thinking they were trying to be my friend, when they really were not. Again, I became too trusting of people, and those individuals that bullies will most likely try to manipulate. At both Lenape and Freeport, people have asked me the same ignorant question “why are you so quiet”? When they ask me things like this, I turn around and ignore them. I consider that part of who I am, and that is something I will not change about myself. I think it is completely wrong to change somebody for who they are, regardless of the circumstance.

Because it is so difficult to me to trust people, I also find it difficult to understand whether somebody is playfully joking around with me and trying to be my friend, or purposely trying to manipulate me and cause me to become the laughingstock of the crowd. I am going to give you some examples of these situations. One of them, it was difficult to decipher at first, and the other it was completely obvious they were not trying to be my friend. The first one took place during the beginning of my freshman year at Freeport. It was about the second or third week of school, and everybody in my class was mostly settled in and the pretty much liked the overall high school experience. I was the complete opposite, I dreaded every minute of it. At lunch I would try to find somebody to sit with, but they just didn’t show the interest in including me in their table conversations. This particular person I am going to talk about was in my seventh period biology class, and she seemed to realize that I was having problems fitting in with the crowd. She would talk to me in a very patronizing tone of voice “Derek, how is high school? Do you have lots of friends?” I just responded with a one word answer, “okay”. She then started repeatedly calling my name and asking me “why won’t you talk to me”? “I’m only trying to be your friend”. I then ignored her, because there have been times where she was rude to me in the junior high. It was a lab period day, and I was in the class for sixth and seventh period. When the change bell from sixth to seventh period rang, the teachers let us take a break and visit with our friends in the other biology class next door. Students are given three minutes to change classes, and they were expected to be in the classroom when the tardy bell rang. During those three minutes, the teacher stood outside in the hallway to monitor hall traffic. I decided to stay in my seat and finish the assignment we were working on, and when she walked back into the room she started talking to me again. She then started violating my personal space, which she knew I didn’t like, and touched me inappropriately. She got a few of the other students in the classroom to laugh at me, and after that I couldn’t take it anymore and yelled out “get the fuck out of here”. She then bluntly and sarcastically responded “Derek, that is a bad word. Why would you talk to me like that? I am only trying to be your friend. I’m gonna get somebody to jump you. You are such an asshole”. I then walked out of the room to get a drink of water, then went right back to my seat. When I walked back into the door, she walked over to the table I was sitting at, and she shoved all of my belongings off of my desk. After I picked up all of my things, the tardy bell rang and the teacher came back into the room. My mother reported it the next day, and the office decided to give her two weeks of in school suspension for her actions.

The motives of the girl in my biology class were difficult to understand at first because it seemed like she was trying to be nice. The other person I am going to talk about tried to perform a similar trick on me. He was the person I mentioned in my letter to the school board about Lenape. He would harass me in the locker room by inappropriately touching me and repeatedly saying “Derek, I love you. Give me a kiss”. I tried my best to not pay attention to him, but he would keep on doing it. Just like the girl in my Biology class, he would invade my personal space and touch me to try to get me angry. I decided to ignore it because it only happened once, but the next gym class he would do it again, and this time he would do it more often. I talked to my mother that evening and she emailed the school, this time they only gave him a thirty second “don’t do that again” speech. Into my sophomore year, this behavior kept on happening. My mother emailed the school twice before anything else was done, then they finally sent him to a different school because of another behavior he exhibited.

Even though they did remove that student from the school, they could have dealt with the situation in a more professional manner. This brings me to my final point, people often tell me that I need to “loosen up” and “be more open”. That is something that still is extremely difficult for me, even after I went through counseling with many different therapists. People often think that social anxiety and depression are things you can “snap out of”. That is a very ignorant statement to make. People have told me countless times that I need to “laugh at jokes more often”. I can’t laugh at certain jokes because I don’t understand if it implies the person is trying to be friendly or trying to manipulate me. It is hard for me to come out of my shell and open up to people like that.

To wrap things up, I do fear things like this will happen in college, wherever I decide to go. I am still not sure if I really want to experience the dorm life or not, because I could get stuck with roommates who are rude and judgmental about me, and who leave me out of their activities. However, I do know they are not my real friends if they treat me like that. Programs like Computing Workshop have been extremely beneficial to me because I have met at least one person whom I do consider my friend. Even though I don’t see him often during the school year, I am glad he does keep in touch with me now and then. After reading this post, I hope people will be more understanding of not only me, but anybody else who has been through similar experiences. I hope you enjoyed reading this, and I will be back to write again soon!

Related Blog “Do They Really Consider Me A Friend”?

“Everybody Makes Mistakes, It Doesn’t Have to Ruin Your Day” and “People are Responsible for Their Own Behaviors”

Have you ever been so frustrated that you can’t do something right? Have you wanted to give up? Have you ever held a grudge against somebody because of something they did wrong? Both of these rules are in Temple Grandin’s book titled “Unwritten Rules of Social Relationships. I wanted to incorporate both of these rules into one blog, because they tie in together. First off, the old saying goes “Life Is About Making Mistakes”, I remember the many times that I have gotten frustrated about not being able to do something right, or because of the mistakes that other people have made when they are around me. One of the simple facts of life is that you need to learn from the mistakes you have made, and other peoples behavior is beyond your control. The thing about this is that you need to learn how to forgive both yourself and other for the mistake was made, and sometimes it is not easy. This is true regardless of your relationship with the person.

I can remember when I was in either third or fourth grade, I had severe troubles with Math. Those were the years we were starting to cover all of the aspects of multiplication and division. When I would study my multiplication and division facts, I had absolutely no problem with them, but when it came to the long division and multi-step multiplication, I never seemed to be able to learn the concepts. When I would sit at my desk and do my homework, I got so frustrated about the fact that I couldn’t do the problems, that I would just go into a meltdown. My fourth grade teacher, Mr. Gaillot would give us these practice workbook pages for homework every night, and they contained about 25-30 problems total. That is quite a few math problems for an elementary student to have to do for homework, and especially for a student that is having difficulties learning the concepts. Teachers think that giving their students an abundant amount of problems to do for homework every single night will help a learning support student learn the concepts even better, when it will overwhelm them even more. There were nights that I wouldn’t even do the assignment. Mr. Gaillot had a policy where if you didn’t do your homework, you were given a homework slip that was to be signed by your parents, and you had to stay in for recess for the day. This policy was started after a few students that slacked off and did not do their homework, and I was one of those students. Back then, I dreaded it when he would do that, but now I realize that he did this because he really cared about all of his students and wanted them to try their hardest and succeed. Gaillot has also been the coach of Freeport’s football team for many years, and he mentioned one of his students that played on his team when I was in his fourth grade class. He was talking about how the student decided to drop out of high school because of failing grades. This student obviously was too afraid to ask for help, and thought that he was hopeless. I felt the same way back when I was in elementary school, I excelled in all of my classes, except for math. From fourth grade on, I always struggled in that class. I probably always will be frustrated with math, and I will try my best to take the initiative to ask someone for help when I need it. I made the mistake of not asking for help when I needed it, and refusing to do the assignment all-together. You absolutely have to ask if you need it, because if you don’t, you won’t do the assignment correctly and you will get a failing grade. Down the road, if you refuse to do something that you don’t understand on the job, you could end up being fired, plain and simple. Dr. Grandin mentions that you will have to deal with a bad boss at least once in your life, and that there are two types of “bad bosses”. These types of bosses are jerks who all the employees hate, and bosses who are nice to neurotypicals and don’t like aspies. Back to the point, you have to tell your boss that you need help, because they won’t realize it if you don’t. If they give you a hard time about asking for help, then you can talk to their boss about it. There is no need to deal with a person like that.

Now, I want you to put yourself in this kind of situation. You and a group of friends are out at a local restaurant. Your friend asks you to buy a few alcoholic drinks, and you are hesitant at first. You then give in and order one, and drink it. One of your friends is pushing the limit and going way too far, and they start acting totally out of their character. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, that same person makes a nasty, derogatory comment about you. How do you react to it? Do you ignore them? Do you express your anger and throw a punch at them? Those are the two most common decisions people will make in a situation similar to this, but there are other options. If you throw a punch at the person, somebody could get hurt or killed. If you ignore them, the problem could escalate even more. About a week passes after the incident, and you hold a grudge against the person that made the derogatory comment about you. Now let’s imagine another thing about this situation, this person also happens to be your best friends girlfriend. There are many ways to approach a situation like this, you could hate your friend for dating this girl, and hate the girl for the nasty comment she made about you, or you could talk to your friend about the situation. I would most definitely recommend talking to your friend about the situation. You have a voice, so use it and tell your friend your feelings about the situation. But, do use caution about your tone of voice and the words you use. Always approach them in a confident, but polite way. Talking to them rudely will most likely jeopardize your friendship with the person completely. And don’t ever say anything derogatory about their girlfriend either, that is another thing that can cause you to loose your friendship with them. If the friend is rude to you, then I would most move on and find another person to be friends with. If he wants to date the girl that made a nasty comment about you, then that is his decision. I have said it before, and I will say it again, if someone doesn’t want to be your friend, it is their problem, not yours. I would just forgive the person, move on and find another person to be friends with. There are better people to be friends with than this jerk, so why should you worry about them? You are better of without them anyway.

As I talked about in the first or second paragraph, life is about making mistakes. People will learn from mistakes, and they hopefully won’t make them again. I have learned from my mistakes of not doing my homework, and I will never do it again. Your friends should also learn from the mistakes that they have made. If you want to be my friend, it’s okay if you make a mistake now and then. If you are really my friend than I will forgive you, but it may take time to do it. However, if my friend makes a bad decision, they better be willing to listen to me about my feelings. I am an honest person when I am around my friends, and I will tell you like it is when you are doing something that could get you into trouble in the future. The person probably doesn’t realize that their behavior is going to cause that to happen, so you need to be honest and tell them like it is. But remember to do it in a respectable manner, they will turn away from you if you don’t.

I really hope you liked this blog, and that you will take this advice in the future.

Aspergers Syndrome and Change

Have you ever had to do something that you really didn’t want to do? Have you tried to do everything you could to avoid doing it? In most cases, one thing that is impossible to avoid is change. Everybody has to deal with it in some point of their lives and you also may have tried everything you could to avoid it. This is a very common trait for children and adolescents with Aspergers Syndrome, even a small change in their daily routine can cause depression or even a total meltdown. For example, lets say you and a friend planned to get together for the weekend, when at the last minute your mother says no.  Most neurotypical teens would hurry up and get the job done, while one with Asperger’s Syndrome would have a total meltdown. Of course, it depends on their personality, but something as simple as that could cause a person on the spectrum to have a total meltdown.

I just gave you a general example of what can cause meltdowns, but social skills groups need to teach aspie children to cope with change appropriately, if they deal with the situation inappropriately, they could end up getting in severe trouble in school, or even ruin their chances of getting a job. The most recent change that I had to go through was moving from Freeport Area Senior High school to the Lenape Vo Tech school in Ford City PA. Right off the bat, the first thing that really worried me was the feeling of not knowing what to expect. All sophomores from Freeport have the opportunity to come to Lenape their junior and senior year, but I don’t particularly want to talk to most of those people because I already know them. I wanted Lenape to be a fresh start for me, I wanted to forget about my negative experiences at Freeport and meet new people. The thing that stresses me out about Lenape now is that it is still “cliquish”, just like your typical high school. Most of the people from Lenape seem to only want to associate the people they already know from their home schools, they really don’t seem interested in meeting new people. It’s hard to meet new people when they are not interested in meeting new people. One common trait in kids with Aspergers Syndrome is that they take longer to adapt to major changes than a nuerotypical teen. Social skills are natural for neurotypicals, and they are able to go and make friends right away. One thing I wish secondary schools would do is assign special needs students and aide or a responsible upperclassman to help them find their classes and get their bearings. This would especially help middle school special need students who are just trying to get use to having more than just one teacher, and helping them get their way around the school. Back to the Lenape story, I had no difficulty finding my classrooms, but it was just meeting the new people that I had a problem with, and their being uninterested in getting to know me. Another change that has been really hard to deal with is the long bus ride. My bus has to pick me up at 6:10 in the morning, and the homeroom tardy bell doesn’t ring until 7:48. I usually don’t get back home until around 4:00 in the afternoon, so my bus ride is over an hour long both ways! There really isn’t anything they can do about that, because it is the only bus that picks us up around our area. I know that complaining about the situation will not help, so the better thing to do is to just deal with it. I really hope that things turn around, and I hope that the people will be more open than they have been. There are a few changes about Lenape that are inevitable, such as the long bus ride, so my best advice for you is to just deal with it. Complaining doesn’t make any type of change better, it will only make it worse. Yes I do grumble about getting up at 5:15 in the morning sometimes, but I am at least going to a place better than Freeport.

Another change that probably has upset me more than anything in the past is friendships ending. This is especially sad when you have been friends with this person for a very long time. Like I mentioned in my blog about dating, they may get a boyfriend or a girlfriend and act like they are their number one priority in life, they just simply don’t want to talk to you anymore. When they start rejecting phone calls, ignoring emails and text messages, and avoiding social time with you is when it becomes time to end the friendship. A situation similar to this happened when I started junior high, I had a friend that I hung out with all the time, named Jason. During elementary school, we would always go to each-others houses, go out and do things together, and talk during lunch time at school. We went to places like the zoo, walks down the trail, and when it was still open, we would go to the Freeport Community  Pool together. This all changed when junior high came around, he started hanging out with different people, and completely forgot about me. He would start rejecting phone calls, and avoid social time with me, he would make excuses like “sorry, I’m to busy”, or “I just don’t feel like being social today”. I didn’t know how to deal with it at the time, so I just sat there and would cry about it. This wasn’t the only thing that upset me, but the fact that I didn’t fit in with anyone in the first place contributed to my depression and loneliness. I talked to my parents about the whole situation, and they told me to just move on. As I mentioned in my blog about dating, I would maybe attempt to “break the ice” and talk to the person about your feelings, if they talk to you rudely, then I would move on and find someone else to be friends with, it may be hard to find a new friend, especially if you are on the spectrum, but there are other people out there. My friend Aaron from Computing Workshop just started college this year, and he is attending college not to far from where I live, so I hopefully will be able to see him on occasions that he is free. I understand that he is not able to talk to me every single day of the week, because he will be extremely busy, but I know that he is still my friend. If anything happened to our friendship, I would feel even worse than I did when I ended my friendship with Jason. But, I am pretty sure that won’t happen.

As I said in the beginning, change is one of the inevitable things in life.  If I could go back in time, I wish I could  go back and deal with it differently. Using what I know now, I could have changed the way I dealt with it. I hope you found this informative, and I hope that you will use this to help a child on the spectrum in the future.