A Teacher Saved My Life

A Teacher Saved My Life

December 10, 2019 100 By Stanley Isaacs


I’ve always felt a kinship with animals. It was always easier to work
out what a cat was feeling, or understand R2D2 in Star Wars, than to try to read the complex
language that is human social interaction. I could calm down a nervous horse, but I couldn’t even realize that
another human being was nervous, or angry. It should be no surprise that
I had no real friends as a kid. The friendly acquaintances I did have, kids of my mom’s friends, refused to admit they even knew me anywhere near any public group. They were aliens to me, with a foreign psychic language that I just didn’t understand. I knew the definition of the words
that came out of their mouths, but never understood the actual
meaning of what they were saying. I knew there were hidden
meanings there, because they always got angry
when I never caught on. Other kids called me stupid. After years of that, I started to agree. At home, life was hard, too. Being simply told to do
something would paralyze me, and it wouldn’t get done. My mother sometimes asked
what was wrong with me, although we knew what was wrong. I have Asperger’s Syndrome. I need linear directions, and things spelled out for me
that to most would be obvious. School is something
I should have excelled at. But I didn’t. I had to work around people
who refused to work with me, teachers who would yell at me
for things I didn’t understand and wouldn’t explain anything, and kids who taunted me mercilessly until I got suspended for
fighting for the rest of the year. I was being threatened with juvenile
delinquent schools, in second grade, just for having meltdowns or not
understanding what was expected of me, and eventually becoming angry and depressed enough to lash out. This all changed when I met
one teacher, in third grade. The first adult who really understood. He pulled me out of
the other classes I was in and taught me everything himself. He related all topics back to my interests, geology, animals, past
and present, machinery. I wrote book reports on fantasy books instead of books based on everyday fiction, and was reading at a
level far beyond expected. I had math problems that
involved bones found on dig sites, and for once was inspired to do them. He told me that there
was nothing wrong with me. It was more like others
were expecting I was a car, but instead I’m a plane. I can’t function like a car will, but I can do some
things a car never could. Because of him, I didn’t give up. Because of him, I saw a reason to learn how
to try to talk to other people. He taught me the
basics of how to interact. In sixth grade, I found
someone else who was like me, who I really understood. For the first time in my life, I found someone who I could understand, on the same kind of
intuitive psychic wavelength that others seemed to be on. The school wasn’t sympathetic. They made a rule we could
not acknowledge each other on Tuesday or Thursday. We spent that time miserable, hounded by kids who would taunt us. He would always snap eventually
and I could do nothing to help. Apparently, it was some misguided
attempt to try to help us branch out, but adults just didn’t understand
that if we could have, we would have. Instead, we’d finally found someone
who spoke our language, so we were punished for it. I was told it was ‘creepy’ how we’d ignore everyone else. I pointed out that we would
accidentally ignore everyone anyway, because I can’t understand
when they’re trying to talk to me. Nothing changed, except I learned the depths to
which normal people would go just to ruin my life. Just to single me out, trip me up, and make me feel ashamed for existing. My friend and I fell out of touch, thanks to them. It shattered my first real
friendship irreparably, and I thought I would never find others. But, I had learned some things, both from my old friend
and from my old teacher. By eighth grade, I had ended up being folded into
a small social group of friends I talked to every day. We pranked teachers together. We spent a lot of our
time horsing around, in and out of class. We became known as the Terrible Trio, or the Fearsome Four, depending on how many of
us were in a class at a time. Not one of them was autistic like me, but it no longer mattered. I had learned enough to be
able to make friends on my own, all thanks to the one person who saw who I could be so long ago and gave me a chance. Despite the fears of
all the adults around me, I turned out just fine and it was no thanks to them. I’m now 30. I have a robust social life and I work in customer service, known for always being
enthusiastic and genuine. I’ve never forgotten the
lessons my teacher taught me. There is nothing wrong with me. Being autistic is not a badge of shame. It doesn’t mean I can’t understand
emotions or the mental state of others. It means that once I
learn how to interpret, I can do a better job at it than most, because I had to study people. And all of that was
thanks to one teacher, who really cared. Being different isn’t broken. Being different is just different. Our world is so vibrant and amazing, full of various stories and styles, because people are different. I wasn’t broken, and to anyone out there
who feels the same way I did, you’re not broken either. You’re just different, and maybe you need a little extra
guidance on how to live with aliens. Don’t let anyone, ever, make you feel otherwise. Do you have a story of someone who
has helped you become a better person? Or, are you a teacher who has an inspiring story on how
to better engage your students? We love to make more videos
to help improve education, so please submit your story via the link on the screen.