Stories from the Field
Edited By David J. Connor and Beth A. Ferri
1. How I Got Here from There: The Road to Disability Studies in Education
JAN W. VALLE
I wonder if my middle school colleagues have as much trouble seeing me as a teacher as I do. I dress up by day as a teacher and return at night to my college friends who, like me, got jobs in the city where we graduated. My bumpy transition from college to adulthood mirrors the transition of my middle school students from childhood to adolescence. At least they have peers for company along the way. Among a mostly veteran faculty, I stand out as young and inexperienced. I desperately want to fast forward to an older me with a confidence that matches my desire to do right by these kids. And to do right by them includes engaging classroom teachers in a partnership with me, a special education resource teacher.
It is the fall of 1978. Special education is brand new just like me. There are no models or established practices for collaboration. The classroom is each teacher’s personal kingdom. I work up the nerve to approach my first colleague. I choose the hip and popular Mr. Phillips who teaches eighth-grade science. He graduated four years earlier from the same college as me, making us contemporaries of a sort. It does not seem like such a far leap to engage him in conversation about our mutual student with a learning disability. After opening with a bit of chit-chat, I casually offer suggestions about how we might work best together. He listens intently without...
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