Aspie Career Tip #1: Avoid teaching jobs

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trilli
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07 Jan 2009, 9:43 am

I'm a teacher and I just figured out I have Asperger's.
I graduated from teacher's college with stellar grades two years ago.
After spending all this time managing classrooms, my body and brain are absolutely broken.
I'm good at my job and I know I'm well-respected, but that's not the problem...
I wore away much of my teeth and stomach lining before my doctor and I realized I wasn't handling the stress well.
I thought the job was just like this for everyone.
When I developed a panic disorder this fall, I knew I was different.
I did a lot of research over the holidays though... I know I have Asperger's. It makes my whole life make sense. All my problems at work make sense.
I love being at work - I love the kids, the neat way their brains work, the cool ideas they come up with, the fun things we get to do together... But I'm so disorganized. And I absolutely can't ask for help, which is a disaster when you're a new teacher planning lessons, but especially a disaster when there are real problems.
For the most part, kids don't demand much of a person's social abilities. Their expectations are lower because they still haven't learned the intricacies of NT human interaction. I've always been an instant superstar with kids, and I think that's why I chose the career.
But even with the 6-year olds, I'm finding that there are still little social things going on that I don't pick up on and other teachers definitely do... not a big deal, except that the little things quickly turn into big things when you put 20 kids in a room together and if I don't pick up on problems when they're little, I have to deal with them when they're big.
Also when you're the teacher you have to talk to the parents. They are pretty demanding. You have to have charts and papers and things to show them how their kids are progressing. You have to seem like you know what you're doing so they can trust you with the most precious things they have.
And then there are the kids who don't have parents who worry about that stuff.
Those are the worst, because those are the kids I can't stop thinking about when I get home.
And it's not even really the challenges I face that stress me out - it's the sheer exhaustion I feel at the end of each day after being intensely sociable for 6 straight hours. I'm a complete hermit. I'm alienating friends and family even moreso than usual.
It's just too much for me.
I need a new career.
I made that decision before I figured out I have Asperger's.
But currently this is the most lucrative thing I can do, and I still have student loans to pay.
Also, I've committed to stay until the teacher I'm replacing can come back.
And leaving the kids right now like this would absolutely break my heart.
It's only a matter of time.
The problem is that I'm still working under the pretense that I'm an eager young teacher looking for a permanent contract so I can settle in here. And they think I'm actually handling the stress of the job particularly well under the circumstances, but that's only because I never show things like that on the outside when the rest of them are whining.
I really think I need to have a frank and honest chat with my principal. Not only is she in the best position to help me, but she's also my best reference at this point and if I'm going to get another job outside of teaching, I'm going to need her to say good things about me.
The lucky thing about my position is that everyone I work with has gone through LOTS of training on ASD and disabilities in general, so I know they'll be understanding...
I'm not looking for accommodations, I guess I'm just looking for understanding. And maybe she'll have some ideas to make it a bit easier. She's been in the game a while.
But seriously, can I go around telling people I have Asperger's when I don't have an official diagnosis? I mean, we're working on it, but these things take time. We accommodate students who don't have official diagnoses, but the rules are always different for adults.
I just feel like I need the people at work to understand this about me now that I've finally figured it out.



Nan
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07 Jan 2009, 11:06 am

My sympathies. It's hard being an Aspie as an adult, especially when people tend to think of it only as relating to children. Perhaps a chat with whomever is your mentor might be really helpful for you. I wish I could have done that, but my official "mentor" and I were not on the best of terms (long story).

I made it through most of the teacher training program (such as it was) after I earned my degree and was in the classroom as an intern when I realized I was not going to make it. The kids were fine. I liked them. I had to just make myself not care about them personally, on the level that I actually did, because you can't when you have 35 of them. It'll kill you. And yes, kids act very differently at school than they do at home, and in a group rather than singly. Parents tend to not want to believe that, but it's true. You have to insulate yourself and just keep a really, really tight rein on them or all sorts of things can go wrong and disrupt your room. It just takes one kid to set them off, some days.

I was organized beyond belief. It was what they wanted me to do to the kids - to dumb the lessons down and just make sure that if it was Wednesday they were on workbook page 4, just like every other kid in that grade level anywhere else in town - that made me miserable. No detours, no deviation from the master plan. Teach for the tests. It was everything I'd ever hated about being in school, and not having any way to change it - and knowing that after I'd just about killed myself getting that degree (that I'd then have to pay back the loans for) and having no other job prospects - well, I just came down with double-pneumonia and lost 30 pounds I didn't have at that time to lose. I quit.

And, yes, then there were the parents. Who wanted little Johnny or little Suzy handled "specially" even I had 35 other kids in that room, a set lesson plan I had to keep the kids on, and several kids that had been thrown out of school several times for behavior problems to keep reined in. "Spend more time" with Suzy. Right. On a good day, if all was going well, I had five minutes to spend with each kid if the others were on task and doing their work, if there were no special programs, if it wasn't a PE or Music day.... I always wanted to say "Who do you want me to cut so that your Suzy can have more of my time? Which kid do I tell their parents that they are less important than your kid?".And then there were the parents who were furious when I had disciplined their kid in front of the room - he was a total little butthead, that kid, just a hellion - and I "damaged his self esteem" by making him stand in the corner after he started arguing with me that he didn't want to have to do a lesson. After two warnings he was sent to the corner - and we had to threaten to get the school cop to come in and help him to the corner when he refused, before he did (he was 9). The parents actually threatened to sue.

I got to work at 6:30am and left at 5:30pm every day. I took work home with me. Had I continued in the field, I'd have been having to enroll and pay for classes at the local university every summer to get and keep my permanent credential and do all this for the pay that a secretary makes.

There are times when you just have to walk away. For you it is nerves - hopefully you'll find away around that if you really want to stay in the field. For me it was total physical exhaustion on top of that. For me, it wasn't worth the price.

On the good side for you, if your degree is actually in education, you can put that to work elsewhere. If you're in the States, the Feds will hire you for several positions (if hiring) based on the degree and you don't have to enter a classroom. My degree was in liberal arts, the one some genius in our state senate decided we should all have to be "educated enough" to do what they wanted us to do in paragraph 3, above. So the Feds don't consider it a degree in education. So, no direct line into those jobs.... sigh. You could also go on to graduate school and go into administration. Still a strain, but a little more manageable. I work at a University. Almost none of the administration with whom I've come in contact has a degree even remotely related to what they do for a living. The degree is a foot in the door - after two years of doing any kind of work, it's just a line on your resume - and at the bottom at that, after your career achievements. You can take that degree in education into any management job, starting at the bottom and working up. Or to any organization that works with educational institutions, or to a community college or state/private university.

The very best of luck to you, really.

PS On your student loans - if you work in a public service sector job (even if it's as a secretary, as I am) and you have federal student loans, there is a program being put in place now where you will pay on them for 10 years and they will write the rest off. If you have several loans, go to the Dept of Ed website and see about consolidating them. They have an income-contingent payment plan that will allow you to pay a much smaller payment each month than a normal loan, based on your income instead of the set amount. They are also very good about deferments/forebearance if you are unemployed or underemployed. Whatever you do, do NOT let your loans go into default. It's not worth the hassle and misery you'll have later. There was a time when they let me send $5 a month because that's all I could afford, and it kept me out of default. They'll work with you.



Last edited by Nan on 09 Jan 2009, 12:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sillyputty
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07 Jan 2009, 12:45 pm

I can relate to your story in that I taught Tae Kwon Do for 7 years. I loved working with the kids; they were great for the most part. Although, I too would miss some problems that I probably should have picked up on.
But, the interacting with the parents could be a nightmare. The stress was tremendous.
When my supervisor who I got along well with quit, so did I. I just couldn't handle the politics anymore without her as a buffer.

I hope everything works out well for you. :)


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07 Jan 2009, 3:46 pm

Yes get the testing done. A DX will help you know that is not only you who thinks this. You say the kids like you alot. The kids maybe picking up you are not like the other teachers. That can be good and bad. Maybe school admin is the place for you ? Get more data you will need it.



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07 Jan 2009, 4:05 pm

Aspie Career Tip #2: Avoid sales jobs

I'm not talking about standing at the cash register and ringing up purchases. I'm talking about working one-on-one with a customer or client to get them to make a purchase. Salesmanship is probably my weakest talent, as I have no sense of tact or diplomacy, and tend to stick to the facts and features of a product rather than try to "sell the sizzle" or emotional perks of owning the product. Plus, I don't lie well, so I'm not fit for saleswork.


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07 Jan 2009, 6:58 pm

I taught English at a public high school for nineteen years. There were a few classes that were absolutely a delight. But there were many that were terrible. For me, I got frustrated over the fact that my students could not get interested in the assignments that I thought were so incredible. After being diagnosed with Asperger's, I realized I may have been unfairly pushing my interests onto them. Sometimes I made assignments like, "Pretend you a newpaper reporter and you ride this roller coaster..." (I would then show a video of roller coaster filmed from the front seat) "...Now create a newspaper article describing the ride for potential future park patrons." Or I would have my student select from a list of 20th century comets and have them research them and write a persuasive essay on the comet they believed was the most spectacular. I did a lot of things like this.

Well, I no longer teach English, but I am still at the same high school. I am now the gifted intervention specialist. I deal with the talented and gifted. This has been a wonderful change for me. I deal with fewer students, and I can relate to them...and them to me. Giftedness and Asperger's share many similarities and needs.



Kirska
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07 Jan 2009, 11:32 pm

Fnord wrote:
Aspie Career Tip #2: Avoid sales jobs

I'm not talking about standing at the cash register and ringing up purchases. I'm talking about working one-on-one with a customer or client to get them to make a purchase. Salesmanship is probably my weakest talent, as I have no sense of tact or diplomacy, and tend to stick to the facts and features of a product rather than try to "sell the sizzle" or emotional perks of owning the product. Plus, I don't lie well, so I'm not fit for saleswork.

Ditto. My dad who is OCD or ADD or something, but not AS (though he has some AS traits sometimes), had some problems with sales as well when he was being forced to sell things that he didn't feel were valuable products.

My only experience with sales was in a shop at an ice rink where I did occasionally have to actually help people one on one with things like fitting equipment and picking out clothes. I really was not good at it, even though my boss considered me one of the best. I don't think she ever witnessed my selling skills first hand. She just knew I showed up on time and followed the rules.


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08 Jan 2009, 12:54 am

I have assistant taught at college, taught elementary school, and I am student teaching for high school. I don't see it as a problem.


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08 Jan 2009, 1:16 am

I've recently started considering going into teaching. I'm still technically 'undecided' on a college major, but it's coming to time for me to pick a career path. I've thought and thought and thought about teaching. I think I'd enjoy it, but I'm not sure that I, personally, could handle everything the job would require.

Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to get an idea of what it might be like for me. & good luck with whatever you decide to do!



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08 Jan 2009, 2:45 am

the only problem is we are going to end up with

aspie tip number 7-Avoid jobs

I'm an ESL teacher in Korea. Imagine being in a room with 32, 14 year olds who don't speak English, and you hardly speak Korean. It is really difficult, but you have to decide what things in life you can cope with, and make strategies. You'd be hard pressed to find a job that doesn't upset an Aspie at some point.



trilli
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08 Jan 2009, 10:17 am

Thanks for the words
I appreciate your story, Nan. I can relate to a lot of that.
I'm in Canada, and I actually work at a pretty nice school - lots of freedom to teach in new & diverse ways.. The big frustrations around here are about limited resources, limited support from admin.
I don't actually have a mentor... never did. You don't get to participate in the new teacher initiation program until you have a permanent contract. Long-term temps like me just have to fly by the seat of our pants.
Maybe I'll go talk to the special ed teachers who have been super helpful.

When I first started noticing the physical effects of my stress, I brushed it off. I mean it's kind of a given in our society that work is going to suck and you're going to get stressed out a lot. Also my mom has been a teacher for 30 years and I know how stressed out she's been through much of that. I knew that when I got into this.
I know that what I'm feeling is normal... but the degree to which it's affecting my life and my body is exceptional. I'm not just upset, I'm not willing to live the rest of my life like this, even if my body lets me have the choice. Even if I have to work for half the pay to push a broom around the building instead and just volunteer smaller chunks of my free time in the classrooms, I'm not settling for this.
I've had many jobs in my life and although I hated many of them, I've definitely done better than this.
I've left things I loved much more for hurting me much less than this in the past.
I have a B.Sc. in Biology and we're a dime a dozen, but I'm still confident I'll find something to do with myself that doesn't make me this crazy.



Nan
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09 Jan 2009, 12:38 pm

Manders wrote:
I've recently started considering going into teaching. I'm still technically 'undecided' on a college major, but it's coming to time for me to pick a career path. I've thought and thought and thought about teaching. I think I'd enjoy it, but I'm not sure that I, personally, could handle everything the job would require.

Thank you for sharing your story. It's nice to get an idea of what it might be like for me. & good luck with whatever you decide to do!




Is there any chance you could do an internship in a classroom, to see "first hand" what it's like? I know a lot of people nowdays take part-time teacher's aid positions and work a few hours a day with the teachers. Some universities have programs where they will send college students to do the same, for experience, before you commit to a teacher education program. My advice is, if you're seriously considering teaching for a career, to go experience it first-hand. It's not what a lot of people think it's like, and getting a first-hand view and feedback from the teacher(s) you work with might be very helpful for you.

Good luck!



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09 Jan 2009, 7:02 pm

Nan wrote:
Is there any chance you could do an internship in a classroom, to see "first hand" what it's like? I know a lot of people nowdays take part-time teacher's aid positions and work a few hours a day with the teachers. Some universities have programs where they will send college students to do the same, for experience, before you commit to a teacher education program. My advice is, if you're seriously considering teaching for a career, to go experience it first-hand. It's not what a lot of people think it's like, and getting a first-hand view and feedback from the teacher(s) you work with might be very helpful for you.


I have an aunt who works as a middle school teacher, and I think she's mentioned something like this before. I'll see if my college will do something like this. In high school, I was part of a program where a few days a week a group of us would teach elementary school classes Spanish. I had a lot of fun with it, and I really liked teaching the kids!

Thanks for the tip! I'll definitely look into it.



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09 Jan 2009, 7:24 pm

Fnord wrote:
Aspie Career Tip #2: Avoid sales jobs

I'm not talking about standing at the cash register and ringing up purchases. I'm talking about working one-on-one with a customer or client to get them to make a purchase. Salesmanship is probably my weakest talent, as I have no sense of tact or diplomacy, and tend to stick to the facts and features of a product rather than try to "sell the sizzle" or emotional perks of owning the product. Plus, I don't lie well, so I'm not fit for saleswork.

You might as well avoid most jobs then - they nearly always involve some kind of sale. Even if they rename it somehow.



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03 Feb 2009, 5:14 am

I am half way though my teaching practice year and also just starting seeking a diagnosis for AS. Do you mean to tell me that other people aren't nearly as stressed as I am by this year?
The trouble with telling me to avoid this job is that I don't want to do anything else, and I love the children.


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trilli
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05 Feb 2009, 7:39 am

I love children too. There are children all over the place and there are a million different ways to be involved and make a positive difference in their lives.
Obviously teaching is a stressful profession, and not just for Aspies. It can be completely overwhelming for anyone sometime. I'm just thinking that an overwhelmed Aspie is generally not in a good position to be responsible for the lives of children. Of course, if your social functioning is better than mine you'll probably do alright. Personally, I didn't know how I'd react to these stress levels until it happened. I'd only just been a student myself until then and the world is quite a different place when that changes.

AS or not, it comes down to what you're willing to put up with for a job. I drew the line at ulcers and panic attacks. I'd sooner work for minimum wage than hand over my body & soul for gradual destruction. I won't be any good to any kids when I'm a broken shell of a human being. I haven't been much of an auntie at all since I started devoting so much of my time & thoughts to strangers' children. I wouldn't stand a chance as a working mom.

Just make sure you know where you draw the line. Teachers are under a lot of pressure to do an incredible variety of things in a day. It makes the lines a bit blurry on the job description, and what's within the realm of "normal" experiences difficult to ascertain.
It's easy to loose yourself, is all I'm saying...