As I finished our readings leading up to this week’s class, I stood amazed at how the information gleaned from this class and the assignments continued to support how much our experiences can truly shape not only how we handle situations and/or adapt to things, but how we learn as well. The most significant instance for me was in fact the last article that I read, Being Learning Disabled and a Beginning Teacher and Teaching a Class of Students with Learning Disabilities. I was first intrigued by the idea that a teacher with a learning disability would perhaps lend more opportunity and understanding to his or her students. And as I read about TJ’s experiences and struggles as a teacher with a learning disability, I could not help but assume parallels between his own experiences and the experiences that he hoped to provide to his student’s.
Consider first TJ’s somewhat early diagnoses. Elementary school can truly be considered a foundation in terms of one’s school-aged career. To fall behind at such an early stage could present opportunities for continuous struggles as the student continued to climb their way through the various grades. Yet due to the identification of his LD early on in life, TJ and his parent’s were able to identify and secure an education that would meet his needs. Perhaps also establishing his obvious love of learning, and perhaps greater sense of self-confidence as a student, even later on in life.
But I would be remiss when considering his experiences to not also ponder how a simple (and uneducated) statement could impact his drive and passion in life as well. As he stood in front of his co-workers for the first time, how hard it must have been to stand so exposed in front of so many and to then be met by such harsh words. “I am not going to work with that dumb s___. He belongs out in the lot; he’s retarded.” (Gerber, pg. 215) And yet, I also wonder if his manager’s reaction could have also shaped how he handled such a situation as he progressed in later experiences of conflict or resistance. Did the manager stand up for him or take the opportunity to educate his staff about LD and the differences? If he did/had could it have impacted how TJ handled resistance and possible educational opportunities later on?
Reflecting on this thought, I wonder if he only disclosed his learning disability to his student’s at first because of his experiences in the shipyard. I also wonder if it affected his self-confidence enough as an individual that he questioned himself and how much he was able to do when he discovered struggles that so many teacher’s typically face (assumed) regarding heavy work loads and limited resources. Further still, as he attempted to be the change agent that he so desperately wanted to be for his student’s, he seemed to step back as he noted other teacher’s varied forms of resistance. Change can be difficult no matter the reason for it; did he consider that they too must be educated and taught about what it is to be learning disabled? For how can he ask them to embrace something when they do not truly see what he sees or understand the world from such a perspective?
In life I believe that we all have opportunities along the way to see and view things from perspectives that we have never before considered. Our desire and ability to do so is what helps us to learn and grow as adults in the world that we live. Yet for someone that so embraced education, I wonder if TJ forgot that sometimes we must also educate each other….I applaud him for his efforts and tenacity, but I hope that he has found his way in the world as an advocate for LD education; whether he found his ideal classroom in a schoolroom or in some other forum.