Those words were spoken in a television special which aired last night, "Front of the Class," based upon the life of Brad Cohen, a gifted teacher who endured 24 rejections before someone finally hired him. The movie is based upon his book, Front of the Class: How Tourette Syndrome Made Me the Teacher I Never Had.
Brad uttered that simple plea at a school assembly when he was 12 after being called to the stage by the first compassionate educator he encountered, the principal of his school. Prior to that, for years he was ridiculed, humiliated and repeatedly sent to the office for his uncontrollable, involuntary tics and verbal outbursts which his teachers believed were attempts to get attention or be the class clown. Finally, due to the persistence of his mother, he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome but that didn't solve his problems. The event that altered his life was when he was called up to the stage following a school band performance by his principal who wanted to educate his students and faculty, to change ignorance to knowledge. It was as this time, after explaining about TS, that Brad said, "I just want to be treated like everyone else."
Those words so resonate with me. Some students in our classrooms have obvious disabilities; others have hidden disabilities. Some have cognitive disabilities; others have severe physical and language disabilities. What unites all our students is that they just want to be treated like everyone else. The message of Understanding Disabilities, a volunteer program in my community that serves to educate 3rd and 4th graders about differing abilities is, "we are all the same on the inside." Do you think that is true? Does your work in the classroom communicate value to all your students?
This week, as you work with your students, remember these two points: your students are all the same on the inside and they want to be treated like everyone else no matter their abilities, strengths and challenges.