The “I Didn’t Even Know You Had a Diagnosis” Kind of Teacher

 The I Didnt Even Know You Had a Diagnosis Kind of TeacherI was talking with my beautiful friend and EFT instructor extraordinaire Jondi Whitis about education the other day.  We were talking about beloved teachers from back in the day when she said in her soft Southern way, “You know the kind.  The ‘I didn’t even know you had a diagnosis’ kind of teacher.“

My head about exploded with this concept and it reminded me that the last era was about stereotyping.  This era is about diagnosis.  Apples and apples.

When we judge books by their covers, we miss great works of art.  But when we do this with human beings, we don’t just miss them.  We can derail them.

Educators, Heads Up…

True story.  Years ago when I was Dean at MIT, a renown professor, well known for his grumpiness and temper, came roaring into my office demanding to know why I had admitted a particular student.   Pacing back and forth in front of me, Prof. X shouted how the student consistently walked into his class late, “shuffles slowly” to the front row and “slumps down” dramatically in his seat.  “And his pants are half way down his butt.  This is a disgrace.  Why are you admitting these affirmative action cases who can’t do the work?  It’s half-way through the semester and his grades are going down to a D.  I’m sure I’m going to fail him.  He’s insulting me and wasting my precious time.”

I pulled the case and we sat together at my desk, reviewing all the details of this student’s high school record.  This “affirmative action case” had scores above 750 in each section of the SAT, ‘5’s in all six of his AP exams and straight A+ grades in everything.  He had graduated from an unremarkable high school after being homeschooled through 10th grade.  This student held 2 patents and liked to build things.  Here was a natural engineer.

Prof. X stood up, all red-faced, and slammed the file down on the desk, shouting, “What the BLEEP is with this guy?  He’s SMART.  Why didn’t I know that?”

I went into family counselor mode and respectfully suggested that both parties were misunderstanding each other.  “Maybe this kid got intimidated by being at MIT and the-showing-up-late-in-your-face thing is his defense…maybe you scare him”, I told ScaryAss Professor.   “WHAAAT?  I don’t scare anybody.  I’m just a pussy cat at heart.”  Hmm, I said, “Maybe he thinks that you think he doesn’t belong here and feels ashamed.  He was homeschooled, after all, and might not have the classroom confidence you expect.”

We sat together that day and put together a plan to save this student, and Professor X (God love him) followed it to the letter.  The next time the student came in late, Prof. X gruffly asked to see him after class.  The student stayed and must’ve been stunned when Prof. X offered him a place in his lab starting that afternoon.  He told him that he wasn’t going to let him get away with bad behavior anymore, that he had seen his record and knew how good the student really was.   “No more crap.  Deal?”  “Deal.”

And this student delivered.  He blossomed under that faculty member’s critical eye and last I knew, he was excelling in a doctoral program.  All because that professor found the humility to drop his own diagnosis/stereotype of this amazing talent.

Prof. X brought me a great lesson that day too.  That’s the challenge – to see each person for who they actually are instead of as a perceived diagnosis or stereotype. I learned that people generally live up to your expectations of them.  How completely counter-culture in this age of “disabilities”.

Less Stress, More Success

"Her book has added to her reputation as a kind of guru of the movement to tame the college admissions frenzy.”
New York Times
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Our book group just read your book and it sparked more conversation than we’ve had in the seven years we’ve been reading together. Being successful professionals with busy lives and even busier children, we’re all trying to figure out how to find the time to just stop and enjoy our lives amidst so much pressure. Some of us find ourselves quoting you to our husbands and kids now, so you are our hero. ;-)
Sophia N. and Nancy R.

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