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Professor Made A Joke About N


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#1 Megssosleepy

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:24 AM

So I started my final semester this week!! Thank goodness cannot do this much longer! Any how I was in one of my classes and the teacher was basically saying that it was our responsibility to come to class, but he would not be keeping track, and that if for some reason if we miss an exam We can make it up at the end of the semester... with that being said he told a story about a student of his who had Narcolepsy and had a habit of missing class because he was sleeping. He went on to say how he slept through a test, and how funny it was. Of course the class laughs and I was sitting there shocked that the teacher was making fun.

Anyhow I am going to email him, so that he doesn't offend anyone else with his joke. Just not really sure what to say?

#2 Hank

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 09:03 AM

So I started my final semester this week!! Thank goodness cannot do this much longer! Any how I was in one of my classes and the teacher was basically saying that it was our responsibility to come to class, but he would not be keeping track, and that if for some reason if we miss an exam We can make it up at the end of the semester... with that being said he told a story about a student of his who had Narcolepsy and had a habit of missing class because he was sleeping. He went on to say how he slept through a test, and how funny it was. Of course the class laughs and I was sitting there shocked that the teacher was making fun.

Anyhow I am going to email him, so that he doesn't offend anyone else with his joke. Just not really sure what to say?


I would suggest waiting before sending something in writing with your signature. He felt comfortable enough to make a joke about a "disability" and likely feels he did nothing wrong. If you write a personal note, he may react defensively or he may apologize- but he will certainly know it was wrong to say. He will know that you could file a formal complaint and I have found people very unpredictable when they are defensive. Few people have the strength of character to apologize. It is likely his comment is a demonstration of his character. If you decide to persue it, you might need to consider a formal complaint to protect yourself. I cannot remember if you have already notified your school of your diagnosis, but that would be important to protect yourself before persuing it however you decide.

#3 Megssosleepy

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 11:05 AM

The Professor seems like a nice guy, I think he really just didn't think it could offend anyone. I cant really decide what to do.
And No, I prefer to keep my medical stuff to myself. I don't think the school needs to know, unless it begins to effect my grades.

#4 purpley

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 02:43 PM

The Professor seems like a nice guy, I think he really just didn't think it could offend anyone. I cant really decide what to do.
And No, I prefer to keep my medical stuff to myself. I don't think the school needs to know, unless it begins to effect my grades.


I have to agree with Hank, as much as I understand your wish, better to let it go for now. You don't really know the professor yet, and he doesn't know you, so it's not a good time to take that kind of risk. You just never know how someone will react to even the slightest perceived criticism, no matter how kindly you word it -- I've definitely been burned. I feel like I'm a pretty good judge of character, but it always amazes me how impossible it is to predict this, probably because people react with gut instinct based on their personal histories of being supported or criticized.

It sounds like he made the joke out of nervousness about N, and not to be mean...? If you think that's the case, then just wait until you know him better and you think he likes you as a person/student -- hopefully that will happen once he finds out how brilliant and sensitive you are ;) -- and just casually come out to him sometime about the N, without even mentioning his joke. People become less anxious and more accepting about anything "different" once they know someone who's "like that."

#5 Hank

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Posted 29 August 2012 - 08:54 PM

How about this Megs. Pass his class with a good grade. Stay awake. And when you're done, let him know your diagnosis. If he thinks he knows Narcolepsy from that one student who fell asleep, teach him something more. You probably will not even need to remind him of his joke- he'll know. And he will be less likely to make jokes when he reaches the conclusion on his own. My grandfather taught me: To argue with a fool proves there are two.

#6 Megssosleepy

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 08:56 AM

How about this Megs. Pass his class with a good grade. Stay awake. And when you're done, let him know your diagnosis. If he thinks he knows Narcolepsy from that one student who fell asleep, teach him something more. You probably will not even need to remind him of his joke- he'll know. And he will be less likely to make jokes when he reaches the conclusion on his own. My grandfather taught me: To argue with a fool proves there are two.


I can agree with that. I have told an old professor of mine. It was an Asian Medical Systems class. SOOO interesting! He said "I never saw you nodding off" and I said you remember all those 5 hour energys... lol I do wish people understood that Narc is not just about randomly falling asleep!

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 02:03 PM

I personally wouldn't say anything, but I wouldn't have been offended by the joke either :) I have multiple "disabilities" and joke about every single one of them. But if you don't want people to know you have narcolepsy, you can't really tell him the joke was offensive either. I guess you could say your "friend" has it though. . .but yeah I doubt he meant anything by it. Teachers are getting so limited by having to be politically correct all the time he might get defensive on you. I think it's easy to get all upset because people make jokes and don't understand, but you can make it your life's mission and people STILL won't understand. So I just joke along with them. But I use humor as a coping mechanism :/

Although I'm wondering: when the kid fell asleep during the exam, did anyone wake him up? Because that is what would offend me. . .the teacher just standing there letting the kid fail. What are you supposed to do if you fall asleep during an exam anyway? That's never happened to me.

#8 thecatnapper

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 03:06 PM

This may be a bit off topic but your story reminded me of this manditory seminar that I was forced to go to at my last job. I worked for a very large medical practice and I'm not sure why but they had this speaker come in to address the entire company about customer service. He was supposedly some sort of costomer service guru and many of us were offended that they felt we needed this being that our offices had a great overall reputation in the community. I cannot put into words what a total loud mouth jerk this guy was. He made reference to a time when he went to Subway to order a sub and the guy making his sandwich was very quiet and not speaking to him. Mind you, it probably was rude of the employee but the guy said he had his son with him and looked at his son and loudly said "Oh, I see this company is handicap friendly because this man is obviously a mute!" some people laughed but most of us just looked around like what the...? He went on to make several other rude comments like this and by the time I left I wanted to punch him in the nose. They had each one of us fill out a survey about the seminar and I let it rip, no holds barred, about what a rude person he was and how I didn't see how being a smartass had anything to do with GOOD customer service. Everyone else was complaining about it too but I think I was probably one of only a very select few out of the 300 or so attendees to be honest about it. It of course fell on deaf ears because the next week in our newsletter they talked about how rave the reviews were and what a success it had been. I just couldn't believe they paid that guy big bucks to basically come and insult everyone.

But anyway, I agree that you should wait to settle down before making a decision about speaking to him. I've burned a few bridges in the past by acting in anger in the heat of the moment. Old habits die hard because lately I have been toying with the idea of sending my latest labs, MRI, and doctors notes from the Neuro to my previous primary care doc. Part of me wants to educate her in case some other patient should come in with complaints such as mine but part of me wants to be like "HA!!! In your face ladybug! I told you something was wrong with me!". But the more I think about it, it seems like a silly waste of my time and precious energy. If she was rude and biased enough to form the assumption that I was just a whiney, stressed out, former "hot chick" turned "fat chick" having a vanity attack...then I'm not going to change her by going out of my way to prove to her that she was wrong. It would more than likely make her defensive and who knows what she could do as far as having me banned from the hospital system that she is employed by. I did go online to a website for patient reviews and wrote a civilized review about it for other possible patients to see. So they've been warned and I'll just leave it at that.

I think the advice about making an A in the class and then informing him later about your Narcolepsy and what a serious issue it is, is a good plan :)

#9 tdmom

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Posted 30 August 2012 - 04:50 PM

I've been thinking about this for the last 2 days. I have to say I disagree with people here who suggest you do nothing. Or do well in the class then tell him.

First of all that means everyone is making assumptions. People are assuming he is not able to change and that he is not able to learn new things. What he said was tacky and shows he needs to be educated about it so that he won't do something like this again. By not saying anything its just perpetuating his ignorance. People make fun of that which they know nothing about.


My suggestion would be to print off what you can about Narcolepsy from the website here and give it to him. You do not have to tell him you have it. You can say your brother, mother, father, cousin has it. And that when they were diagnosed you were shocked at how little is known of N and that people really struggle and work hard to succeed. Let him know that the right treatment is different for everyone and it takes a long time to find what works for each person. Tell him that his joke made you realize that he hadn't been made fully aware of the intricacies of the disorder and here is some info for him.

If it would make it easier wait til the end of the semester. But to do nothing to educate him or to just do well and then tell him without educating him isn't going to change him. Knowledge might.

If we don't advocate for narcolepsy how can we expect anyone else to?





So I started my final semester this week!! Thank goodness cannot do this much longer! Any how I was in one of my classes and the teacher was basically saying that it was our responsibility to come to class, but he would not be keeping track, and that if for some reason if we miss an exam We can make it up at the end of the semester... with that being said he told a story about a student of his who had Narcolepsy and had a habit of missing class because he was sleeping. He went on to say how he slept through a test, and how funny it was. Of course the class laughs and I was sitting there shocked that the teacher was making fun.

Anyhow I am going to email him, so that he doesn't offend anyone else with his joke. Just not really sure what to say?



#10 LauraL

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Posted 31 August 2012 - 01:34 PM

I certainly can't say how you *should* handle this, but I think here's how I would handle this. I think I'd wait a few days to cool down, so that anything I wrote didn't sound angry. Then I'd write an e-mail explaining that I have narcolepsy, include links to the stanford sleep center that describe narcolepsy and the latest research, and then simply state that while I'm sure it was not the professor's intention, I found his joke about narcolepsy to be not as sensitive as I might hope. I think I'd tell him that, if I were ever to fall asleep during a test, I'd really appreciate it if he'd wake me up!

My experience has been that giving people the benefit of the doubt when calling them on something that didn't feel okay to me can often go far. Instead of coming across as, "You jerk!," it comes across as, "I feel sure you're a kind person, and I believe this was unintentional, but I'd appreciate it if... " If I, in ignorance, said something that offended other people, I would definitely want to know, so I wouldn't do it again! Sending the message via e-mail is nice because it gives the person time to react without anyone witnessing the reaction (also, so they can think about their response).

I'd also ask a friend to read through my e-mail before I sent it, to make I really had cooled down, and was very neutral in the message. It's hard to be objective when you're upset, so a trusted second pair of eyes can be helpful!

Good luck, whatever you decide to do!

#11 purpley

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 10:54 AM

I totally agree that it's fine to tell him after the semester is over, if he no longer has a position of power over you, and to do it regardless of how well you do in the class. However, since he's going to associate narcolepsy with you, it will obviously be more effective if you've done well. If you've done very badly, he'll associate narcolepsy with a student who fell asleep during an exam and with someone else who's done badly in his class. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, it just means you should think about it carefully, and you might want to do it anonymously.

I'm really not assuming he can't change or that he can't learn new things. I just think that criticizing someone, no matter how mildly, in a position of power over you is a very risky proposition. Unfortunately, even if he's a really nice guy and doesn't take offense -- and it's absolutely impossible to say whether he's a nice guy or not until you say something that he reacts badly to, at which point it's too late -- it's actually human nature to avoid things or people that make us feel guilty, even if we're not consciously aware of it. (It makes sense from a developmental standpoint, when you think about it -- guilt is "designed" to keep us from doing things that are potentially harmful to us.) So whatever excuse gets used to give him info on narcolepsy (and there's an excellent chance he will assume it's you, even if you say it is a relative), if he feels guilty about making the comment, he'll associate you with that feeling, and it will come across in various ways. In many cases, we get resentful of the person who made us feel guilty, again, even if we're not aware of it. And that's with a person who's nice!


I've been thinking about this for the last 2 days. I have to say I disagree with people here who suggest you do nothing. Or do well in the class then tell him.

First of all that means everyone is making assumptions. People are assuming he is not able to change and that he is not able to learn new things. What he said was tacky and shows he needs to be educated about it so that he won't do something like this again. By not saying anything its just perpetuating his ignorance. People make fun of that which they know nothing about.


My suggestion would be to print off what you can about Narcolepsy from the website here and give it to him. You do not have to tell him you have it. You can say your brother, mother, father, cousin has it. And that when they were diagnosed you were shocked at how little is known of N and that people really struggle and work hard to succeed. Let him know that the right treatment is different for everyone and it takes a long time to find what works for each person. Tell him that his joke made you realize that he hadn't been made fully aware of the intricacies of the disorder and here is some info for him.

If it would make it easier wait til the end of the semester. But to do nothing to educate him or to just do well and then tell him without educating him isn't going to change him. Knowledge might.

If we don't advocate for narcolepsy how can we expect anyone else to?



#12 Megssosleepy

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Posted 04 September 2012 - 11:21 AM

I think I am going to have a friend who goes to the same school but is not in my program or the class write the email. Keeping it short and simple. Something like a friend came to me upset about a comment... and then maybe a link to some info?

I have the class again tonight, so I will have a better idea of his character. I don't want to upset him by saying something, but I want people to be educated and prevent someone else from feeling the sting I did after the comment was made.

I am actually a very good student so I don't foresee myself doing terribly in the class, but also don't want to be branded "the girl with N".

Thank you all for your advise!

#13 drago

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 11:09 AM

So I started my final semester this week!! Thank goodness cannot do this much longer! Any how I was in one of my classes and the teacher was basically saying that it was our responsibility to come to class, but he would not be keeping track, and that if for some reason if we miss an exam We can make it up at the end of the semester... with that being said he told a story about a student of his who had Narcolepsy and had a habit of missing class because he was sleeping. He went on to say how he slept through a test, and how funny it was. Of course the class laughs and I was sitting there shocked that the teacher was making fun.

Anyhow I am going to email him, so that he doesn't offend anyone else with his joke. Just not really sure what to say?


First of all, you should take some time. Consult with people -- which you're doing, so that's good.

Second of all, you can approach from a more neutral standpoint than "I have narcolepsy and it's not funny." I often stop people form using words like retarded, mental, etc. I would approach it with something more like, "Did you know that narcolepsy is the result of brain damage caused by an autoimmune response? That the reason it was named 'narcolepsy' was that the original describer of the disease thought the patients were literally having sleep-seizures? Do you know what cataplexy is? What about sleep paralysis or hypnogagia? What about automatic behavior?"

Or at least ask, "What is it about bouts of unpredictable unconsciousness is funny? If your student had epilepsy instead of narcolepsy, and his/her disorder produced absent seizures instead of falling asleep, would the joke be funny then?"

The reason I would write about it is that popular culture has marginalized the illness to being a silly thing -- the movie Rat Race, for example -- and it's NOT OKAY to continue that pattern, even for the sake of a joke, because even medical doctors fail to understand it.

In my own life, I don't tell people I have narcolepsy -- because they see it as a joke. Literally. They think it's FUNNY. Instead I tell people that I have "a neurological disorder that causes bouts of unconsciousness, extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep-related disturbances, and in some cases, bouts of transient paralysis." That's what I have to do in order to get people to take my disorder seriously. That's not okay. Epilepsy isn't funny, and neither is narcolepsy.

drago

#14 DeathRabbit

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 01:06 PM

First of all, you should take some time. Consult with people -- which you're doing, so that's good.

Second of all, you can approach from a more neutral standpoint than "I have narcolepsy and it's not funny." I often stop people form using words like retarded, mental, etc. I would approach it with something more like, "Did you know that narcolepsy is the result of brain damage caused by an autoimmune response? That the reason it was named 'narcolepsy' was that the original describer of the disease thought the patients were literally having sleep-seizures? Do you know what cataplexy is? What about sleep paralysis or hypnogagia? What about automatic behavior?"

Or at least ask, "What is it about bouts of unpredictable unconsciousness is funny? If your student had epilepsy instead of narcolepsy, and his/her disorder produced absent seizures instead of falling asleep, would the joke be funny then?"

The reason I would write about it is that popular culture has marginalized the illness to being a silly thing -- the movie Rat Race, for example -- and it's NOT OKAY to continue that pattern, even for the sake of a joke, because even medical doctors fail to understand it.

In my own life, I don't tell people I have narcolepsy -- because they see it as a joke. Literally. They think it's FUNNY. Instead I tell people that I have "a neurological disorder that causes bouts of unconsciousness, extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep-related disturbances, and in some cases, bouts of transient paralysis." That's what I have to do in order to get people to take my disorder seriously. That's not okay. Epilepsy isn't funny, and neither is narcolepsy.

drago


Yea, I often refer to it as dysautonomia now, because it's a big word that sounds scary. I wish all 'N' entailed was randomly napping. Then it would be kinda funny. But the majority of the annoying N symptoms are experienced while awake.

#15 Megssosleepy

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 03:12 PM

First of all, you should take some time. Consult with people -- which you're doing, so that's good.

Second of all, you can approach from a more neutral standpoint than "I have narcolepsy and it's not funny." I often stop people form using words like retarded, mental, etc. I would approach it with something more like, "Did you know that narcolepsy is the result of brain damage caused by an autoimmune response? That the reason it was named 'narcolepsy' was that the original describer of the disease thought the patients were literally having sleep-seizures? Do you know what cataplexy is? What about sleep paralysis or hypnogagia? What about automatic behavior?"

Or at least ask, "What is it about bouts of unpredictable unconsciousness is funny? If your student had epilepsy instead of narcolepsy, and his/her disorder produced absent seizures instead of falling asleep, would the joke be funny then?"

The reason I would write about it is that popular culture has marginalized the illness to being a silly thing -- the movie Rat Race, for example -- and it's NOT OKAY to continue that pattern, even for the sake of a joke, because even medical doctors fail to understand it.

In my own life, I don't tell people I have narcolepsy -- because they see it as a joke. Literally. They think it's FUNNY. Instead I tell people that I have "a neurological disorder that causes bouts of unconsciousness, extreme fatigue, insomnia, sleep-related disturbances, and in some cases, bouts of transient paralysis." That's what I have to do in order to get people to take my disorder seriously. That's not okay. Epilepsy isn't funny, and neither is narcolepsy.

drago


Thank you Drago... It's not funny... nothing about this is funny! When I wrote another professor I described my N without saying I had N and he received my email very well was understanding and very kind... I may have to use your wording tho... that is very well written and just about covers everything! I have learned so much from this site. I wish I had started out telling people I had brain damage and never used the N word... I feel like my situation would be a bit different... people ask questions when you I put it in different words... if I say N... They "think" they know what I'm talking about already due to the media!