I’ve had similar interactions in the workplace where a round neurodivergent peg didn’t fit into a square government job hole. I am thankful that my maturity caught up with my skill set. I am equally thankful that I had several early career supervisors who recognized my abilities and, “Let Brian be Brian”.
Now, when I do employer/employee trainings I use this example. Had I been “managed” in my role I would have been just an adequate employee and on a personal level not felt very happy with my work life. Given flexibility to work to my strengths, I forged partnerships, received grants, completed research, won awards and thrived. The only difference was the approach of a supervisor.
“The way that you treat people matters whether that is a teacher interacting with students, a therapist with a client or a supervisor with an employee, relationships matter.”
This was a huge contrast from an experience my younger self had when I was in a high school English course. I lacked the maturity to see a larger picture and I wanted to be right with a fierce sense of black or white reasoning with very little shading in between. I hadn’t learned yet to build on my strengths and choose people to be around me who empowered me to be the best version of myself.
At that point, dropping the rope and taking the long view were not in my functional skill set.
Looking back, this experience informed much of my current research on education and subsequent work with students in classrooms around the world. I learned (albeit by negative examples) the kind of teacher, supervisor and administrator that I didn’t want to be, because that approach didn’t work for the way that I was wired.
I’ll never forget part of the English course assignment was to do a weekly journal (this was back when journals were black and white marbled composition books). The assignment was couched as a means to foster creative introspection, not unlike the musings of Thoreau or Whitman. The reality was a set of concrete mandatory topics that had the effect of predictable formulaic writing. My high school self wasn’t having any of that, and my tenacity (or stubbornness) submitted writings on topics that caused me both academic and social problems. For example, my writing on the required topic of “Characteristics of a Nobel Ruler” included a very detailed description of a wooden measuring tool. Looking back it isn’t a surprise that my outcomes in that course were less than stellar and ended up involving building administration, parents, and the school counselor.