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Inspiring teacher with TS

Posted Thu 21st Feb 2019 at 10:11
by Natalie Pearson

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My name is Natalie Pearson, I have Tourette Syndrome. I shout, I swear, I make rude gestures, I sing, I repeat, I move my body, I sometimes hit myself….the list goes on, BUT, I’m a teacher. YES! A TEACHER!. I’m the only teacher in the world with Coprolalia. I would like to tell you all that it’s been an easy ride to get to the position I am in, but I would be lying. Let me tell you a little about my journey.

Socially as a child I had my difficulties but I did not have Tourette Syndrome (TS). I knew I always wanted to be a teacher and after achieving at school I went on to study at university. This is when my life got flipped upside down and my future would be changed forever.

I was in my last year of university when I was raped. It changed everything for me. The world was different, I felt different and how I felt people viewed me felt different. But there was one big change in me. I remember been in a safe house immediately after the rape had occurred and during interviews we had to take breaks due to me making funny noises, strange sounds, hiccups? Was this a coping mechanism? Was I going crazy? For the time being I did my best to ignore it, easy to do with a court case up ahead and a dissertation to write, but it was the hardest year of my life to date. I had to finish university, I needed my degree but I was no longer me, I was different. Would I ever be me again? I did not complete my dissertation that year but I did finish my university degree achieving a bachelors.

I went on to study for my PGCE and worked part time in a pub where my ‘tics’ (I didn’t know that’s what they were then) had really started to show. I got fired for calling customers rude names….I could not understand why I had done that, it was not like me, was I now a horrible uncontrollable person?

Soon after, a TV programme aired, it was the first time I had seen or heard of TS and it explained everything! Could I have TS? I later got diagnosed with a late onset, the rape being the trigger. What did this mean for me? I was 22 now and qualified as a teacher. It was going to be a tough ride ahead, would I be allowed to teach, what would students do or say to my tics, would I be sacked for my tics? What lay ahead was never going to be easy, but I would find out it would be worth it.

I have been teaching now for 15 years, I have encountered difficulties along the way, staff coming into the school I work at and not fully understanding the complexity of TS and how a member of staff can teach with this syndrome. In my eyes these have only ever been opportunities to educate and to show that my TS is what makes me who I am, what makes me individual and that the students I teach day in day out are who we can learn from because, they accept me for who I am, they do not label me or judge me based on my TS. They just adapt, in the same way I adapt for them. We learn from each other, we respect each other.

My classroom is as individual as me, sometimes I may swear, sometimes I may be really ‘ticcy’, sometimes I may not tic and all of that is ok, sometimes they come in tired, they come in frustrated, angry and that’s ok too because we work with each other to find a way around this and still learn. In my classroom we learn more than just the subject I teach, we learn that life can be testing, it can pull you down and we may wonder if there is a way out, but with each other’s understanding, time, acceptance and empathy we can still achieve what we set out to achieve and actually, we can aspire to me more.

Society will often tell you that ‘you can’t’ because of a label that you have. I have been given a platform to help students see that that if I can do it so can you. Fight against the stereotypes, be as individual as your label is, let it define you, but let that definition be positive. Lead the way for those that follow. Yes, your road may have more twists and turns to reach your destination but that makes for a more interesting journey and definitely more rewarding when you reach your destination.

I have never stopped striving for more within my job, I have been head of house, head of KS3 science and recently employed as trainee SENDco for my secondary school. Never stop wanting more, never stop believing you can be the first, someone has to be, why not you?


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Inspiring teacher with TS

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