What if everyone in the world was exactly alike? What if everyone talked the same, acted the same, listened to the same music, and watched the same T.V. programs?
The world would be extremely dull! I believe it’s important to accept people for who they are.
Differences are important and they should be respected. For example, many important people throughout history were considered different, such as Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Harriet Tubman, Peter Tchaikovsky, and Abraham Lincoln. They did great things, but some people thought they were weird, because they had strong feelings about something. I can relate to these people, because I’ve been in that situation before, many times.
It all started in elementary school when I realized that I wasn’t like everyone else. My mom says that I have a tendency of obsessing on certain subjects. Unfortunately, these subjects don’t interest other kids my age and they really don’t interest my teachers. In fact, my kindergarten teacher said she would scream if I mentioned snakes or lizards one more time, while she was teaching the days of the week. I would get in trouble for not paying attention, and the teasing began.
In third grade, my teacher informed me that I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and I said, “So what? Do you know that Godzilla’s suit weighs 188 lbs.?:
Later, I asked my mom, “What is Asperger’s Syndrome? Am I gonna die?” She said that it’s like having blinders on, and that I can only see one thing at a time, and that it’s hard to focus on other things. Like, I would tell anyone and everyone that would listen about Godzilla, because my big obsession was, and still is, Godzilla — not a real popular subject with the middle school crowd, and so the teasing continues.
I might be different, because I have different interests than other teenagers, but that doesn’t give them the right to be so mean and cruel to me. Kids at Oak Valley make fun of me for liking what I like the most.
People also make fun of me for knowing facts about volcanoes, whales, tornadoes, and many other scientific things. My mom says that she has been able to answer many questions on Jeopardy just by listening to what I have to say, but I’ve even been ridiculed for being smart.
Maybe someday, I’ll become a gene engineer and create the real Godzilla. I can dream, can’t I?
Sometimes I wish I were like everyone else…but not really. Because I believe people should be respected for being different. Because we’re all different in our own ways.
Josh Yuchasz was fourteen years old and a high school freshman when he wrote this essay. He played in his school’s concert band and on its football team. In addition to Godzilla, Yuchasz likes other reptiles including Bubba, his pet red-tailed boa constrictor.
Independently produced for NPR by Jay Allison and Dan Gediman with John Gregory and Viki Merrick.
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At my all-girl school we had a hunky physical education teacher we called Mr Hercules. Like a poor girl's Sean Connery, he was tall, big and balding and the object of our crushes.
Mr Hercules delighted in our obvious admiration: whenever we did gymnastics he would hold on to us a little longer than necessary; whenever he sat on the sidelines of our lacrosse games, he'd grab one of us to sit on his knee. His 'horsing around' with us pupils gave a whole new meaning to the term touchy-feely.
We all sensed that Mr Hercules was a little too fond of little girls. But he was a great teacher and we figured that if his vocation was fuelled in part by his attraction to youngsters, it was a vocation from which we benefited nonetheless.
Today, parents would beat up a teacher for humming Maurice Chevalier's 'Thank Heaven for Little Girls'; and any phys-ed instructor who sat a 10-year-old girl on his knee would be spat on as a perv.
In part this is because of the present climate of hysteria about paedophiles; but it is also because we expect our teachers and headteachers to be cleaner than clean, pedagogical Caesar's wives permanently above suspicion. A teacher who sheds clothes on Big Brother , a head who moves in with a teacher, an instructor who yells at a violent pupil: these flawed representatives earn public opprobrium and the sack for failing to live up to the impossible virtue we now expect of the teaching profession.
We place under ever greater scrutiny their behaviour ('he stares a bit too long at those girls' T-shirts') and lifestyle ('is his partner male?'); and we do this because of the ever-greater role we expect them to fill. Where before we limited their area of expertise to teaching sums and letters, today's teacher must serve as moral guardian for the nation.
If Jack says 'fuck' a lot, or Jill's caught smoking dope, parents blame the teachers, not themselves. No one seems to think that we should learn about sex, drugs and alcohol abuse, or even ethics, at home: parents seem perfectly content - if not downright eager - to have the classroom, not the family, serve as our template of society.
The rules of engagement and the consequences of our actions are learned at the chalkboard or not at all. In loco parentis has let parents off the hook - not only from 8:30 to 3:30 Monday to Friday, but round the clock, every day.
Increasingly, in public life, too, we've inflated the teacher's role. In a society with ever-fewer figures of authority, where we suspect the politician and mock the do-gooding celebrity, we look to teachers - especially headteachers - to issue the kinds of pronouncements we once only expected of bishops or judges.
From nudity in advertising to swearing in rock lyrics, it's not the Bishop of Oxford but the head of Cotswold Comprehensive who'll deliver the outraged media soundbite and do the rounds of the broadcasting studios, from Today to Newsnight .
Given that we invest our teachers with the authority to mould children and judge the rest of us, they should sit at the top of our social pyramid, enjoying generous salaries, basking in high status. This is, after all, the rule in the rest of Europe, where Germans reward teachers with wages of £34,000 and a 'herr professor' before their name and the Swiss pay £49,000 for a 'prof'.
In Britain, a teacher earns £26,000 for his pains - and a lot of aggro. For while we've abrogated all responsibility for disciplining children at home, we resent anyone so much as raising their voice at our Junior. Last week, parents of an 11-year-old sent home for wearing a nose ring were jailed for causing whiplash injuries to the headteacher in her study.
Physical attacks on heads or deputies are running at more than two a week during term time. Assaults have doubled in 12 months. The same parents who force Junior's teacher into the position of sole authority in his life, seem to feel a childish need to lash out at this authority.
These are the headlines; but the less eye-catching acts of parental indiscipline and rebellion are denting teachers' morale as much, if not more. One headteacher finds that whenever she keeps her class over by even a few minutes, impatient parents burst through the door, screaming, 'hey I've gotta go, I can't wait all day...' in full view of the pupils.
This undermining of the profession has been going on for years, aided and abetted by government policies that burden them with countless forms to fill and red tape to cut through; and government spokesmen who rubbish teachers as useless and schools as bog standard.
No wonder that Britain's secondary schools may be up to 20,000 teachers short in five years' time; or that the TES a few weeks ago was a doorstopper of an issue, chock-a-block with adverts for 9,000 teacher vacancies.
Those rare graduates who despite all this still harbour dreams of teaching the next generation know that they will be signing up to a life whose probity will go unrewarded, but will be carefully monitored by the most unforgiving inquisitors - us. We've set up a bizarre society where a politician can get away with sucking his mistress's toes and a priest can run off with a parishioner - but woe to the teacher who strays.
We don't need a teacher to tell us that we are guilty of rank hypocrisy. We were far more honest in the days of Mr Hercules, when a teacher was recognised as a flawed human being capable of infecting us with his passion for a subject; and was not expected to be a priest or a judge. Or a saint.