I teach differently.

Helen Weinstein resigned her teaching position rather than label a colleague a Communist. Photo circa 1945.

I rarely describe myself as a special education teacher. I do not describe my students as special education students.

I am a teacher who teaches differently. My students have autism. My students are children who think differently. This is what I believe. It is not a nice way of putting something unpleasant.

I find nothing unpleasant about my students. I find joy in all my students.

My students who have autism think differently and owing to that they need to be taught differently.

In looking at the graduation rates of children in the inner city it seems to me many other children should be taught differently.

Having autism will present barriers for some, but it will also present a springboard for others. My job as a teacher is to find out what my students can do and to help my students do those many things well.

Thinking differently has its challenges. In a society where you’re supposed to think, behave, and have the same desires as everyone else, to have a view of life that does not coincide with the general person can make school and life more challenging.

Some of my students do express their displeasure in louder and more physical ways than their typical peers, but their displeasure isn’t inappropriate. How can it be wrong to be unhappy about something that you are unhappy about? A person’s perspective can neither be right nor wrong, it simply is.

How my students respond to being unhappy is often viewed as inappropriate, but to me nothing is 100% inappropriate. Who are we to judge? As teachers we don’t judge, we simply provide guidance to the various ways to get to the final destination, happiness.

There are actions that are inappropriate at a particular time or in a particular place.  Children’s ideas and thoughts must be valued, but we also need to inform them as to what is expected of them to succeed in a typical environment.

My students are capable of learning at the level of their typical peers. My students have critical thinking skills in language arts and in math. My students also are wonderful artists, often reworking illustrations I draw for them to make an idea more clear. My students aren’t just their behaviors. My students need to just be taught differently, so that their different perspective doesn’t take over their whole day and we can get on with things like fun, learning, and effectively communicating.

My goal as a teacher is to assist them in making their uniqueness work for them. This is the goal for most teachers.

Labels for children become stereotypes that close doors for children instead of opening them. It causes people to fear a child instead of embrace them. If you’re a child with high functioning autism the problem is not you, but the system that doesn’t embrace teaching or thinking differently.

School should not be efficient. Fast food is efficient.

School should be artful, creative, eye opening, and relaxing. School should be like a day spa.

In my class I tailor a specific learning experience for each child.

In my class I teach differently, because I teach children who think differently.

-Mrs. F

One Response to “I teach differently.”
  1. Anonymous says:

    Can you write a little bit more about HOW you accomplish this?

I would like to politely say

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