Design a site like this with
Get started

Selling Yourself (No, Not Like That)

Part of the process of applying for a new job as a teacher is completing Personal Statements. These are meant to provide a potential new school with an overview of you as a person, as a teacher and what you have achieved in your career so far. They are, without doubt, the most important part of the application. A good Personal Statement will get you an interview and then it is just a case of doing a good lesson and, with any luck, getting to the interview stage and answering the questions in front of a panel. Some schools ask students to interview the teachers as well but that just sounds awful. The whole process is a nightmare and can take days to complete.

The Statement is something that I find impossible to write. Not because I cannot string two words together, I can. Me do words, me do words good. It is not that I do not know how to structure a letter in a formal manner and to include my work to date. The biggest hurdle is getting myself across. Whether this is the idea of me as a teacher or me as an individual I just cannot make myself sound good. I look at my work in the past and do not see any achievements at all. I see what I did and think so what?

I remember writing my Personal Statement as part of my UCAS application – for anyone not sure these are the forms you must complete in order to get into University. You talk about all the things you do in life that make you such an exciting prospect as a student. The extra-curricular activities you attend that show how valuable you are as a person. All of that bullshit. Since I did nothing and do nothing it became hard to write. How could I phrase “I like to spend my evenings in on my own reading or drinking lager while watching a film” so as it sounds like a personal interest? While most of my peer group were out discovering sex, drugs and rock and roll I was at home reading about people doing that. It is hard to make an insular person sound fun. While at University this trend continued, and I joined zero sports teams and attended less societies. I joined no bands and had bollock all poems published through submitting nothing.

In work outside of education I did nothing other than the job – to varying degrees of being shouted at. I am not the type of person to take the initiative or to suggest ideas. I am the type of person who sits in the office bored out of my tiny little mind and then accidently upsetting someone by saying something. How can you then turn that, even with a large dollop of poetic license, into a compelling and engaging Personal Statement? The answer is: you cannot.

I do not view myself as particularly good at anything and I hate the idea of putting myself in the spotlight – though my actions after a pint or two seemingly contradict that. I find it impossible to think of the things I have done and say yes, that was good. A student of mine achieved a Grade 9 (that’s an A** in old money) and I utterly believe that was down to her. It was nothing, really, to do with me. Though logically, I know that this cannot be true. She worked her socks of, yes, but I helped direct her in the right direction and showed her how to develop her arguments and analysis. If she hadn’t been under my tuition, would she have had the self-belief to go that extra mile? Probably. Probably not. Yet, logic does not apply when I am trying to talk about my influence. In my eyes it is her achievement and hers alone. So, this does not go on to the Statement.

It maybe a trait or it may be down to a low self-worth, which in and of itself is a trait of Asperger’s that means I find this hard to write. By viewing myself through a hyper-critical lens I might be missing something that another would see. Asperger’s makes you see yourself as different, other and to a large extent you are. Your mind does not work like that of other people. This makes you feel that you are a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. This feeling of otherness then leads to the feeling that you are not like the rest so are therefore, less. Then when you come to talk about yourself you cannot find anything good to say. You, instead, waffle on about the bare minimum that you have done because the bare minimum is what you do. Obviously, they are people with Asperger’s that are professionally flying. They are the very best and what they do, this could be down to the fact their “special interest” ties in with a profession or job. For a lot of people with Asperger’s they find keeping a job and subsequently getting a job hard to do.  I have always felt as though I have professional wanderlust (the title of a decent album by Sophie Ellis Bextor by the way, another obscure special interest of mine) and that means I cannot settle in a job. The position I held for nearly ten years I always wanted to get out of. To do something else. To do whatever it was I was meant to be doing. Not that I believe anyone has anything as simple as a “calling” or what have you.

Writing all of this in two pages of succinct, beautiful prose that makes me stand out of a field of over eighty applicants per role feels nigh on impossible. So, I submit applications and I hear nothing back. I visit schools and then hear nothing back. It becomes soul crushing and repetitive. Lord knows how sick my wife is of hearing me complain about it. Afterall, they are only so many times you can say sorry about something before it becomes rote.

The inability to think about myself in abstract terms, as in I am good at this, or I have done this well could be down to an inability to identify my emotions and therefore my emotional response to something I have done. I have achieved things but because I am not sure if this made me feel good or if this made me feel like whatever it was is worthwhile, so I have not remembered, nor have I internally classified it as an achievement.

I think any inability to conceptualise myself and see myself as part of a success story is definitely a trait of Asperger’s or wider ASD. Maybe success is registered through social cues that I either missed or feel uncomfortable with. As I said above the idea of being centre of attention fills me with a cold dread.

It is not just in job applications where you need to sell yourself. In conversations it is considered good if you can talk about the things you have done well. Not to excess, obviously. But walk that fine line between arrogance and self-regard. I don’t do that because I don’t see anything I have done as having value. Yes, I write creatively but I am not published, am I? Yes, I am a teacher, but I am not at the “dream school” if that even exists.  Yes, I have a polite and well-mannered child but that is more down to his mum and the creche than any transitory impact I have. It is not self-pity it is just a worldview.

Another part of life where you need to see the best in yourself and make others believe in it is dating. I am extremely fortunate to have met my wife. For a plethora of reasons that I do not have the space to go into. She is the perfect woman for me because she gets me. Somethings I say and do might drive her mad or cause her anxiety when we go out, but she understands me. I do not mask when I with her because I do not need to. It must be hard work for her but hopefully she will contribute something on here to talk about that. During the early part of our relationship, I remember saying that relationships “don’t last” which is something every woman wants to hear from a boyfriend. I didn’t mean it in a “I’m depressive” way but in a purely logical “someone has to die first” way.

Before my wife my relationship history could be described as sparse at best. People with Asperger’s find it hard to meet people and to build relationships because they do not understand or abide by the rules of a relationship. They require a lot of patience and a lot of understanding. Not everyone wants that in a partner. There is a reason that one of the major characteristics of a person with Asperger’s is an overwhelming loneliness. I felt it through most of my teenage years. Everyone you knew would shack up with someone. They had numerous partners and lovers, yet the one constant was my table for one. The beers at home of a weekend. I know that I missed a hatful of chances at romances but I am where I am and I am with the perfect woman for me so it worked out in the end.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: