Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Ironic (Or, How My Entire College Career Just Blew Up In My Face)

In hindsight, I know I should've seen this coming.

From day one, it was clear that the only way I would be welcome in your department was if I shoved all my limitations to the back.  Sat up straight and used my hands and tried to look as normal as possible for your convenience.  My disability would be tolerated so long as you could wax poetic about how much I "overcame".  My strong self-advocate skills would be praised - so long as they weren't directed toward you.  All the little things over the years....they should have been a warning beacon, a signal for me to get out now.

"Can you sit up, please?"

"I know you have motor skill issues, but you're going to have to be more careful."

"If you can't draw, how are you going to teach your students?"

All those words, all those implications, piled up like kindling, weighing on my back until you lit the match.  This whole semester was a teetering tower of Jenga blocks and you removed the block to make it all come tumbling down.

How dare you.  How dare you. How dare you accuse me of lying about my abilities and then try to sweet-talk your way into smoothing it over.  How dare you try to tell me about how words hurt when you're ripping me open with yours.  How dare you have a meeting about my "limitations" without even notifying me, let alone allowing me to attend.  How dare you tell me I'm making excuses.

If self-advocating is now called "belligerent", then hell yeah, I'm belligerent.  I have been burned time and time again, and expecting me to react kindly when you're telling me that my way of accommodating for myself is not valid is like poking a bear repeatedly with a stick and expecting it to not attack.  With a slash of your dagger-tipped words, you ripped open all the wounds that have been etched into my soul like poison tattoos and set them bleeding afresh. 

It's ironic, don't ya think.....on, oh, so many levels.  Because the reason I chose this major was because I didn't want any child to have to go through what I went through.  I thought that a department that taught about us would embrace my unique potential, and accept me for who I am.  But it turns out they teach about us, without us.  You can teach all the theory, all the rhetoric you want, but until you truly accept disabled people for who they are, all their little scars and beauty marks, you will never properly teach teachers how to teach those of us who learn differently.

What are you teaching the future teachers of America?  That disability is all or nothing?  That a disabled person can never be a teacher?  You are not teaching them acceptance - instead, you are teaching them hatred and ignorance.  I fear for their future students - bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to learn.  But, oops, sorry, only kids who can do things in the typical way are allowed here, are allowed to learn.  My mistake.

You won.  You fucking won.  Because I am walking, limping, gimping away and I do not - do not - have spoons for your shit.  Is this what you want?  To drive people away from your department, one of the most respected education departments in the nation?  Because if you want that, congratulations, you succeeded.  Do you take pride in knowing that you broke me?

You may have won the battle, but you have not won the war.  Because I'm putting this out there, telling my story.  They deserve to know what happened.  They deserve to know what you did to me.  And maybe someday, some brave soul with far more spoons and far more fucks to give than I will take this higher.  Don't you see?  I let you off far easier than I should have.  I could have rang the alarm bells and got every disability advocate within the state of PA armed and ready to fire.  Don't think I didn't think about it.  But I'll get the last laugh, because someday when I'm kicking ass and empowering disabled kids in my own way, all around the world, maybe, just maybe, you'll think twice.  Maybe, just maybe, you'll regret what you did to me.  I hope, for the sake of all of us, that you will.

Blogging Against Disablism Day, May 1st 2013
Note:  This is my post for Blogging Against Disablism Day 2013.  It also serves as an explanation of sorts for why I haven't been blogging as of late.  Hop on over to Diary of A Goldfish and read all the excellent BADD posts which I am sure are much more coherent than mine is.

15 comments :

kwillblog said...

Wow - this stinks. It just goes to show the difference between rhetoric and reality.

I'm so sorry that you've had to withdraw from your course, but I hope that you find another way to achieve your ambition.

The Goldfish said...

I'm really sorry that this has happened. I can't begin to imagine your anger, not only at this set back to your own hopes and dreams, but the sheer loss of potential.

I hope you're able to take a break and recover from this, and that there's another path to where you want to get to.

Thanks for sharing this story for Blogging Against Disablism Day.

Phouka said...

Hon--I am so sorry this happened to you. Please don't let one bigoted department's BS keep you from becoming a teacher. From this one post, I can tell you're smart, well-spoken and spunky--take those somewhere where people will give you the respect you deserve and the help that you need so you can go out and help others. We need teachers--especially special ed teachers--like you.

Never That Easy said...

I want to tell you, first of all, that I am sorry. And, second of all, that I went through something very similar 11 years ago when I was nearing the end of my college career - student teaching and all of the sudden, wham! stabbed in the back by an advisor who held secret meetings and put my chances of graduation in peril. There are ways to fight, when you have the spoons, when you're ready: this does not have to be the end. And, there are people who will help you, as surprising and unbelievable as that seems at this moment. So, it's possible.

Take your time, do it your way, and you WILL get the last laugh. (And honestly? Be a more compassionate, prepared, and passionate teacher than this person ever could hope to be.)

Wishing you the very best, and if you'd like to chat (or compare notes about evil supervisors), tag me anytime.

Margot said...

Ah the horrors of the education system. This is why I am so glad I home school for high school. The schools think they know everything but they know nothing and I am sure I will get crap about my CP in collage. I always wonder if they will take me seriously.

As to your slouching brought on by spasms and lack of muscle control, may I suggest "Dr.Ho's back stretcher." That thing is a miracle for my unaligned tension ridden spine. Try it! It helps me sit up straight which is better for your health regardless of how a teacher tells you something. :)

Your friend,
Margot

wacky-shenanigans said...

So sorry this happened to you. This is really unfair.

Kevin Angelini said...

I'm so sorry to hear about what happened Cara. Those people in the education department are ignorant. They don't know what a kind sweet person you are. You would have been an excellent teacher. It's their loss however. You will go far in this world with all of your talents and they will still be stuck in their gray, colorless environment.

KA.

Kevin Angelini said...

I'm so sorry to hear about this Cara. Those people in the education department are ignorant. They don't know what a kind sweet person you are. You would have been an excellent teacher. It's their loss however. You will go far in this world with all of your talents and the suits will still be stuck in this gray, colorless realm that they created.

Kevin Angelini said...

I'm so sorry to hear about what happened Cara. Those people in the education department are ignorant. They don't know what a kind sweet person you are. You would have been an excellent teacher. It's their loss however. You will go far in this world with all of your talents and they will still be stuck in their gray, colorless environment.

KA.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry that this happened Cara. Those people in the education department are ignorant. They don't know what a kind sweet person you are. You would have been an excellent teacher. It's their loss however. You will go far in this world with all of your talents and they will be still be stuck in the Dark Ages when our time comes.
Kevin.

lifeindeepwater said...

"You can teach all the theory, all the rhetoric you want, but until you truly accept disabled people for who they are, all their little scars and beauty marks, you will never properly teach teachers how to teach those of us who learn differently."

So succinctly put. I'm really sorry that they just didn't see past your CP and see the potential in you.

Best wishes.

Sharon Wachsler said...

Wow. This sounds awful. It sounds like this person treats his students like naughty children. Seems confused about what a *teacher* is.

I feel really sad reading this and hope you will get enough support to recover from this and perhaps still become a teacher. Maybe he'll leave the dept and you'll get to deal with someone reasonable....

Thanks for writing about what happened.

Cheryl said...

I do hope you file a federal Dept Of Ed OCR complaint against this woman. For yourself. Because regardless of if you want to teach or not, that should be your choice & they took that choice away from you.

nightshade1972 said...

I'm disabled, and I cannot drive. I needed special permission to graduate both HS and college without the "right" math requirements. At one point in my college career, the so-called advisors at Handicapped Student Services decided I should take an education course as a substitute for one of my math requirements. I showed up for the first class, only to discover that the course would be "75 percent based on student teaching"--and the students had no input on what district or school they'd be assigned to. I told the lead instructor I'm handicapped and can't drive, how would I get around that? She shrugged and said "Not our (the department's) problem!" I went back to HSS that afternoon to see about getting into another class. It took the university nearly 2.5 years to find appropriate substitutions for me. Because I have a genius-level IQ and I "don't look disabled", the view was widely held on campus that I was "faking/lying/exaggerating". If only that were true!

JessieB* said...

Teacher candidate with Asperger's and ADHD here. I can sort of relate. One of my ed professors showed an autism speaks video. I was stunned. No warning, nothing. I ended with a C on difficult case study that I busted my butt on. All semester, "Just follow the bouncing ball, I'll take care of you". Yeah right. When some people shared experiences I had a tough time joining the pity party. Like a little boy with CP fell. Okay, was he hurt? No, just got back up and went right back to life. Everyone cooed over the poor baby. I admire the attitude of stuff happens, dust off, move on.
Oh and the amount of papers she flooded us with. Couldn't figure out why I'd have trouble keeping it all organized.

Last week my el/sp class talked about autism. I've been a disability advocate since jr high. You bet I had a lot to say. One of the points I said was WE (autistics) do have empathy, but the myth is we don't-because we may not express it. One woman scolded me for making a blanket statement. Later on, emailed me in case I was, ya know, offended. Goes on say I'm just trying to make it all about me.
No. I'm in a room of future educators. I may encounter some at trainings later, but I share insights so they don't do some of the crap I dealt with to their students.
The biggest trouble for me is my fear of fire alarms/drills. Handwriting issues are not so big with technology in the classroom. I can't help but feel nervous about how this will affect student teaching. Working on that fear, but it's not easy.
I wish I could say come back. One of my supervising teachers (not disabled) spoke about having to advocate for her young students, because the bad attitudes are there. Allies are appearing, and with time and some outspokenness it will get better. I'm so bummed that you were forced out like that. Where are you going from here? I can only say I Love your blog and admire your spot on candor. I hope and pray that you find an opportunity to help teach the world, one way or another.
They will regret it, there's no doubt. Can't wait for the "how do you like me now?" post.