“Dear teachers…”- a letter to my former teachers

I am writing this letter, because I hope, that you can learn from my story. When I was 11, I started at your school. I was happy, a bit shy, but I did have good friends. I enjoyed going to school. The only thing, that was difficult for me, was saying something in class. I don’t know, if you noticed, but when I was around 15, I started to feel a bit depressed. I was sad all the time, didn’t look forward to going to school anymore and had a hard time concentrating. I probably also started to lose some friends at that time. Today I know, that a lot of those things happened, because I’m autistic. But I didn’t know that at that time. I first got my diagnosis, when I was 22.

Did you suspect anything?
Did you ever suspect, that I was different? And did you ever think about, what it could be? I know, I was extremely good at adapting and masking. So, I understand that you couldn’t see my autism. But you did probably notice something. I was more different than the average shy girl, don’t you think?

Social worker
Hi. You were the first, I ever talked with about my problems. My friend convinced me that it would be a good idea. I was really nervous, but also relieved that I had someone to talk to. I know, that you really tried to help me, but it was difficult. We couldn’t really figure out, why I hadn’t been doing well, and I didn’t have the energy to change something either. But you did help me to get in touch with the school psychologist. Thanks for doing that.

School psychologist A & B
Hi. There are probably not that many schools, that have two school psychologists. But we did at our school. I actually don’t remember, how it happened, that I ended up talking to both of you. In general, I don’t remember that much from my time in high school. I think, I first started talking to you, school psychologist A. Weren’t you the one, who convinced me to tell my mom about, how I was doing, so that I could start therapy? That was quite a difficult step for me. School psychologist B, you first started at our school later on. But you did also try to help me.

I know it wasn’t easy for both of you. I didn’t really want to talk to psychologists. It made me feel like there was something wrong with me. At that point, we still didn’t know that some of my problems probably were caused by my autism. Anyway, I just want to say thanks to both of you, because you tried to help me. Maybe my story can also help you. Perhaps, you can learn more about autism through my letter. So, next time you meet a girl, who has the same challenges as me, you might be able to help her understand herself better.

Teacher A
Dear teacher A, you were teaching a subject, I really enjoyed. I was also quite good at it. But I never wanted to say anything in class. So, you kind of “forced” me to. You were always asking me questions directly instead of letting someone else answer, who actually wanted to. I really didn’t like that. I know, you also have rules. Probably you have to make all students say something in class. But I wish, you at least would have asked, why I didn’t want to say something in class.

It would have been nice, if we could have found a solution together. You thought, that I just didn’t want to share my knowledge with the others. But that really wasn’t it. It actually made me quite sad that you said that. Next time, you have a shy kid in your class, would you maybe consider asking him/her, if there’s something you can help with so that they feel more safe saying something in class?

Teacher B
Dear teacher B, I also really liked your subject. And I was also quite good at it. You’re a really unique person. You can just read people in a whole different way than others can. At least I think so. You always looked at me in a way, as if you knew exactly what was going on inside of me. But still, you never asked me about it. I’m pretty sure, you knew, that something wasn’t right. That I wasn’t doing well.

I hope, that all of you understand, that I don’t write this letter because I want to get back at you. I just have a lot of questions. I’m curious. And I hope that I can help you help others. Is it a German thing, that teachers don’t ever ask how the students are doing? I’m currently living in Denmark, so I also experienced a quite different school system. It would be so interesting to see, if there’s a difference between Danish and German teachers.

Teacher C
Hi. You taught me in the same subject as teacher A, just a few years later. I still really enjoyed the subject. I probably wasn’t just as good at it as I was in the beginning, but I was still quite good. At some point we had an oral exam. I told you, that I just didn’t have the energy. I wasn’t doing well at all around that time. But I didn’t tell you that.

The biggest reason, why I didn’t want to go to the exam, was because it was in a different classroom and I had to do the exam alone. My autism was quite challenged by that. But as I said, no one knew that I was autistic at that point. Still, I was quite surprised that you never asked me about it. It would have been nice, if we could have found a solution together. If I had known more about, how the exam would be, maybe I could have done it anyway.

Teacher D
Hi, teacher D. You actually weren’t ever my teacher. You were more of a supervisor for our last two years of high school. One day in eleventh grade I went to your office and told you that I just couldn’t go to class. I really wasn’t doing well. You said, that I could skip that one class once but that it could never happen again. I had a really hard time the last two years of high school, because our classes were put together in a whole different way. I nearly didn’t have any friends in any of my classes. And there were so many changes in general, that my autism just couldn’t handle it. At some point I also asked you, if I could switch one class. I really hated my biology class. I felt misplaced. I had to get a letter from my mom and talk to the principle, but then I was allowed to switch classes.

Would you do me a favor?
You all did your best. I’m sure you did. I wasn’t coping well with the last years of high school but without my autism diagnosis you probably couldn’t have done that much differently. But would you do me a favor? If you ever meet someone who seems to be like me, would you ask them one extra time, if there’s something you can help them with? Maybe there’s just a tiny thing, you could do differently, and it would be a huge help for them.

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