Saturday, October 08, 2005

Front of the Class

Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had, by Brad Cohen with Lisa Wysocky

This author is young - only 32. He was in school in the 70's and 80's, for goodness sake! And it seriously sucked for him. Before he was diagnosed with Tourette's Syndrome, people told his mom he was posessed, he got beat up, he was teased and endlessly mocked by other kids, teachers humiliated him, and some of his family members shunned him. Even after his diagnosis with a neurological disorder, and some teacher & peer education at his middle school, the stories he tells about some of his teachers....well, they were just horrible to read.

Instead of being crushed by this, Cohen decided that he was going to be a teacher, and a better one than he'd ever had. He had an awful time getting hired, despite excellent credentials & recommendations, because so many principals were freaked out by his tics (barking, wooping, neck jerking). And of course tics are much worse when you're nervous, so the stories about job interviews were totally nightmarish.

Anyway, Cohen did get hired, and by all accounts was (and continues to be) a wonderful, passionate and skilled teacher. His students flourished (and easily ignored most of his tics, which subside when he is engaged in his classes anyway), his fellow teachers & administrators voted him "Teacher of the Year" for the district, and he went on to get the award for both the county and then the whole state of GA.

Sometimes the writing is a little over the top in the inspirational & motivational mode - I think Cohen could have used a better editor. The basic story is fascinating and often very moving, however. One very sad thing - when Cohen was at his "Teacher of the Year" awards, all of the award winners were supposed to thank a teacher that inspired them. Cohen honestly couldn't. It was bad teachers that motivated him. The only positive help he had outside family & friends was from a middle school & high school principal and a local Jewish youth group.

A couple of other books on Tourette's and/or OCD that I've read in the last few years, that helped me understand different aspects of what my son deals with: Passing for Normal: A Memoir of Compulsion, by Amy Wilensky (funny, more literary than Cohen's book), and Devil in the Details: Scenes from an Obsessive Girlhood, by Jennifer Traig.


portuguesa nova said...

Sounds really interesting. If I were charged with choosing a motivational teacher, I'd have a very hard time as well...I so hope its not the case with my own children.

LEstes65 said...

Hi Sandy - thanks for the comment. I love meeting other TS friends. I have heard of this book but haven't read it yet. And you're right - TS is much more in the public eye now. Schools & docs are aware now. My half-bro had it severely when he was younger. He endured punishments at school for "acting out" (he's the most shy guy you could meet and would never do anything to draw attention). He was sent to relaxation clinics. And all this misdiagnosis was in the SanFran area - which baffles me as they tend to be so on the cutting edge of things.

Thanks for finding me! I will check in with you frequently!