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Calentin Calentin is offline
 
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How should a new teacher with Tourette Syndrome break the ice
Old 07-24-2017, 06:59 PM
 
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I have had motor and vocal tics (due to Tourette Syndrome) since I was a child, and began actively suppressing them when I was in middle school, which was the same time they worsened and became more aggressive. I am very self-conscious of my condition; Brad Cohen is a man with Tourette's who started teaching 2nd grade in the 1990s, and is now a motivational speaker and principal in Georgia. His story (and the movie based on his life, "Front of the Class") was very inspirational to me and I have watched it several times and listened to many of his speeches. Nevertheless, now that I have actually been offered a position, and am stressed about starting next month and having to plan out the next year, my anxiety and tics are becoming out-of-control. I was off of medication for a few months, but I saw my physician last week to get back on solely for the purpose of this job because of how much stress it is causing.

In addition to the physical toll that tics have taken on my body, I am very concerned about the mental burden of feeling the need to suppress my tics in front of my students and co-workers. I know that the proper, healthy thing to do would be to be open and honest about my condition as Brad Cohen is, but that is very difficult for me to do. It is easy to say "I am going to be open and honest with my students and co-workers," but when time actually comes, I know I will have a VERY hard time actually disclosing my condition. I don't think I can suppress my tics for an entire year, seeing students day in and day out, I think they will begin to pick up on my condition sooner rather than later. I've been working as a substitute teacher for the past year, but it is easy to suppress my tics when I am always seeing different students for no more than an hour, and therefore never really get to know them well.

My principal and assistant principal do not know about my condition, but they have noticed the tics, because in the interview and my planning meeting with them today, my anxiety led to an outburst of tics and the Principal told me to calm down and take a deep breath (i.e. he thinks I am just fidgety and anxious because I am nervous about my first year).

How does the age and grade level of the students impact how they will view Tourette's? It might be easy to disclose this condition to curious 2nd graders (as Brad Cohen did, for example), but at the middle school level? Stereotypes suggest middle school is a difficult time for both students and even "normal" (without disability) teachers.



Last edited by Calentin; 07-25-2017 at 03:13 AM..
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Old 07-24-2017, 08:04 PM
 
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I think it would be best if you are open and honest with coworkers, staff, students, and parents. I think that is the best way to protect yourself against people who are ignorant and tend to make fun of things rather than understand them. Hopefully you can also have a sense of humor about it because I can see that going a long way to counteract any bad reactions to your tics.

My dd isn't diagnosed (and I am not saying she has Tourettes) and has weird tics. They don't effect who she is or the work that she can do but I can imagine people making fun of them. I think just being open is the best way to deal with it.

Congrats with your new job. I think 2nd graders are so much more accepting that adults. Honest conversation will go a long way with them. I am not sure about middle schoolers, but I think they are much more apt to react to the unknown and uncertain than the truth. Some of them of course are going to find fodder with your condition, but many are going to appreciate your willingness to be open with your differences.
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Old 07-25-2017, 01:24 AM
 
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I work with middle schoolers. They are all trying to find their identities, and a willingness to share will gain you respect.

You already know suppression won't work, so I say be out there with it. First day introductions after a bit, perhaps say "you may notice that at times...."

Cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and respect. Kids may say something, and there's always that ONE kid; however, it will be important how you respond. I had skin cancer removed on my forehead with a large bandage. One kid said something. Half the class was mortified, the other half was waiting to see my reaction. I stared him down for a moment, and said "I know you don't realize how mean that was because you are not a mean kid. I also know you might have questions about what's going on." I opened the class up for questions and I was as candid as I could be. I allowed the kid to save face while showing how I was not going to allow a student to rattle me.

I do suggest speaking with your principal and AP so they are aware of your medical condition. I am sure they'll be supportive.

Last edited by dee; 07-25-2017 at 03:22 AM..
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Old 07-25-2017, 05:05 AM
 
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Let everyone know. It will reduce your anxiety about it and let everyone understand. I think everyone will be very supportive.
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Old 07-25-2017, 02:35 PM
 
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Had you signed a contract yet?

This kind of thing might happen in schools, I know that. Our "contract" actually says something to the effect of "We intend to employ you for the next school year unless budget or numbers cause us not to." Leaves you with a real good feeling.

However, I think you have a good reason to be consider some sort of action. Is there a union? Can you contact your city/state EEO board and put the question to them?

I once was hired for a job when I was 6 months pregnant. I did not offer that info, and they could not ask. I wore fat clothes to the interview. After I started work and they knew for sure I heard a comment that made me know that if they had known I was pregnant they would not have hired me. I know I made the right choice by not sharing that too soon.

I really would consider calling people up the chain and complaining that you feel like it was retaliatory. However, if you do that, know that will make it harder to find employment later on with the district.

I am sorry that this happened and I sure hope it was just coincidence. In the future, I would still stand by sharing the information, but not too quickly.


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Old 07-25-2017, 05:26 PM
 
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This seems fishy to me. Can you call the Tourette's Association for advice?

https://www.tourette.org/resource/am...ities-act-ada/
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Old 07-26-2017, 07:04 AM
 
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I hope you have copies of what you signed. I would also print the page off showing the job relisted. I personally would call HR and tell them what you have seen and what you think happened and see what they said. I would probably write a letter to follow it up with the particulars (dates, etc) and my thoughts on what it looked like.

Of course, you would have to be prepared to follow through with legal action maybe. Or they could see the errors of their ways...
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Old 07-26-2017, 03:25 PM
 
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Like Kahluablast said, document everything and consult with someone who has legal knowledge.
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Old 08-18-2017, 08:41 AM
 
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I know I'm a little late to this thread, but I wanted to encourage you.

I think you should be open and honest about your Tourette's. I think you'll find that students of all ages can be very accepting if you're open. If you try to hold in your tics, you're potentially harming yourself as well as your relationship with your students.

Firstly, you will have students that also have conditions like Tourette's or MS or fibromyalgia. You will be doing them a HUGE service by being open and showing them that success comes from who are are, not by what you get diagnosed with.

Secondly, for students who do not understand chronic conditions, you are creating a wonderful and open discussion about how to understand people who are different. This is a great opportunity for you and for them!

Thirdly, I assume you're protected under the ADA. Your Tourette's should in no way affect the way people see you. I would probably tell your AP and P though, in case students or parents have questions. Their job is to protect you. (I would also join a teacher union if you haven't already---they can offer you even more protection and advice).

Lastly, I would like to give you advice on how to introduce this to the students. I wear compression stockings (you know, like the old diabetic men in Walmart wear?) I am 26 years old, and I've been wearing them for 13 years. When I started teaching, I was nervous that the students would make fun of me for wearing them, or think I was weird or something. Here's what I did:

On the first day of class I always give out a student survey of general info about the kids. Favorite movie, what motivates them, what they like in a teacher, food allergies, etc. I take the same questions (plus some extra, like college info) and answer them for myself on a PowerPoint. I included in this PowerPoint information about my stockings and the accident I had that makes me have to wear them. I answered all their questions about circulation, blood flow, and how they come in different colors. I was open, honest, and let them ask their questions. When that slide was finished, I just kept going with everything else I had planned for that day. It was never an issue. Some questions would come up from time to time, and I would answer them honestly.

Teens and even younger children are generally very open if you're open with them first. You'll do great, just be honest, and pretend like you've done it all before.
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Old 09-02-2017, 06:27 PM
 
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I had a high school teacher with Tourette's he was one of my all time favorite teachers. He was highly skilled, very caring, and very relaxed in his approach. He won our respect through showing respect. Students wouldn't dare think to make fun of him or others would have been all over them. Not to say he didn't face adversity, I'm sure he did, but he over came with grace. He never directly mentioned his Tourette's but it was very evident. He kept instruction short and sweet and provided lots of opportunity for us to explore and learn in groups perhaps to minimize his speaking, as he had severe ticks during speaking. Or perhaps because he realized cooperative learning and struggling actually helped us learn better. Either way, he was a great man, a wonderful teacher and highly respected. There is no reason you should expect anything less than what you put into you career. Prayers and blessings to you on your journey. Share it with your admin, but beyond that I'd say only share when you feel a need to do so.


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