As of noon today I had hit the wall in my all-day seminars for student teaching at school (and thank goodness this was the last seminar for a while). It has been so long since I have been in a traditional class setting that I had almost forgotten how hard it is to sit still and attend to a lecture, especially one that is redundant and doesn't carry much new information. The last hour today we had the lecturer reading off of powerpoint slides and handouts to us. All the information they presented was already available to us visually; classes like this are bad for someone like me. If I don't have to pay 100% attention to what is being said because I feel like I might miss something, my brain is much more likely to take the easy way out and stop paying attention on the lecture, leading to more tics.
All week I have had some tic outbursts in seminars, but it had been mainly workshop based with time to talk with peers and hash out ideas. Today, due to weather and the need to cram a lot of learning into a short amount of time, we have switched to lecture-based seminars to get as much knowledge about what we are about to do in as short a period of time as possible. Lectures have never been my strong suit; they place an expectation on participants to sit still, be quiet, and pay attention.
There is a great clip in the Hallmark movie, Front of the Class, in which Brad Cohen (a teacher with Tourette Syndrome who was named Teacher of the Year his first year as a teacher) explains to one of his students why he struggled with learning to read. He pokes the student on the shoulders, makes loud noises, and waves his hands in front of his eyes while he is trying to read a portion of text.
This is what it is like to try and sit still in a lecture. I can stay in my chair and relatively quiet, but that doesn't mean that I am actually absorbing any of what is said. Today I have had to resort to the "sneak out and go to the bathroom" coping mechanism just to get a break and be able to move around a bit and tic without disrupting those around me. It is much harder to try and sit still after having this expectation placed on me for the last 3 days from 5 or more hours a day. It is much harder in a situation where the people who I am in class with and the people leading the classes do not know why I can't sit still or why I keep shaking my head; it isn't because I disagree with what's being said, but that's often the impression. Teachers who know me don't mind the constant movement because they know I can't help it; teachers and guest lecturers who do not know me do not always appreciate the movement. The girls I have been in classes with for the last 4 years are used to the constant movement and head shaking and are okay with it (I hope); but the people in the education program who I have not had classes with because we have been in different programs still stare.
I don't receive disability services from the university for a multitude of reasons. Essentially, by the time I realized it was something I might want to pursue I hadn't seen a doctor regarding my tics in a number of years and then with a change in funding the services that they said they could offer me (like quiet testing rooms) changed, and there was no real point in me applying. I get by in my classes all by myself, the most I have ever asked for has been guided notes to help follow along in a lecture. And I know that because I am not on the caseload of the disabilities resources office, I cannot demand I get any accommodations in classes. Because of this, I work twice as hard to get by in class; a lot of times I re-teach myself material at nights and on the weekends and I have had to teach myself how to be an auditory learner over the last few years because it can be so difficult to take notes during a class.
For me, it's not as simple most days as leaving class, letting the tics out, and going back to class and being able to concentrate. Oftentimes, the act of leaving a classroom relieves the pressure to not tic, so I don't. As soon as I'm back in a classroom environment, all my brain can think about is don'tticdon'tticdon'ttic... and it becomes a mantra once again. I could spend all day in the hallway not ticcing, or I can spend class in a chair trying to pay attention and absorb some information, so I do. This combined with extra study time at home has allowed me to be successful in school. I never use Tourette's as an excuse to not do something to the same standard as everyone else; I just have to work that much harder to keep up sometimes.
...I squawked the entire car drive home.