Miles Apart: Hard Times in the Blackboard Jungle

By Miles Bumgardner

School. You either love it or hate it.
I hated it with a passion.

I am an aspie, so trying to wade my way through the proverbial blackboard jungle it was a mandatory, yet harrowing, experience. Bullies, unsympathetic teachers and dreaded homework made school life miserable! Just remembering makes me dizzy. I was singing “we don’t need no education” with a vengeance, misguided though it often was.

Ah yes, good times indeed!

To be fair it wasn’t all that bad. I enjoyed Literature and History classes , occasionally getting an A or B. But Math, Science and Physical Education? Holy moly – I was a complete dunce. I know some off you are thinking ‘how can you not do well in PE’? Well, I found a way. Now I kind of look at it as a small badge of honor. But back then my folks were a little less than pleased.

But I had no interest in it. Math? Why need that? I’m never going to be an accountant, so why bother? Science? I’m no Nikola Tesla, so I don’t see the point. Physical Education? Unless I’m going to wrestle in the WWE I have no desire to get all sweaty and dirty.

And that, my friends, is how my adolescent aspie mind was ranting all through my scholastic years.

An aspie has his or her own interests. The result of these interests can range from the positive to the socially awkward. For example, I am a horror-movie junkie, as many of my friends know. This passion began when I was in fourth grade. Godzilla and Dracula where always around me in some shape or form. But when I brought my new-found love to school, everybody – teachers and students – freaked out big time!

Years later, I came to learn that my parents were equally concerned about “sweet little Miles'” new obsession.

I didn’t understand it then. I wasn’t interested in what school taught, but these movies and books made sense to me. If I loved it, It couldn’t be bad, right? How can something that makes you so happy be seen at school as something bad?

The answer was Aspergers.

Right away, my father and step-mother knew something was up. I didn’t fit in at all in school; I can still remember the feeling of “them and me” that ran through my mind during recess and lunch periods. Teachers didn’t understand me, and I felt that just made classes harder. I know the teachers meant well – they didn’t know anything about Aspergers – but a little compassion would have been nice.

Here are some examples of what the teachers would say to my parents:
“Miles is very bright, but he’s not working to his full potential.”
“If Miles could buckle down, he would be an exceptional student.”
“Miles will not amount to much if he does not start focusing in class.”
Blah, blah, blah and blah.

How exactly am I supposed to work to my full potential if you are unwilling to help me out in some scenarios? Things only got worse by the time I got to high school. I still have a bit of a grudge against some of those teachers. From my perspective, they were mean, way too strict, and unapologetically brash – not the most pleasant things to remember.

On the flip side, I’ve had five amazing teachers in my life. These were teachers who saw my potential and who went the extra mile to help me overcome obstacles. They encouraged my love for writing and literature. They allowed me to do projects that I felt passionate about, and they never spoke down to me. They helped me enjoy classes that I would have otherwise hated. These teachers truly seemed to enjoy what they did. And if you are around someone who loves to teach and to help others learn, that will rub off on you and then you’ll feel the need to enjoy learning.

School will always be hard from time to time for kids with Aspergers, but it has to be done, and it doesn’t have to be all that bad.

Having the right understanding mentors makes all the difference in the world.