Stories from the Field
Edited By David J. Connor and Beth A. Ferri
5. “Why Is Lisa’s classroom in the basement?” Reflections on Noticing and Disrupting Exclusion
KATHLEEN M. COLLINS
“We notice what we notice in accordance with who we are.”
Robert Coles, Doing Documentary Work (1997, p. 2)
When we teach a student—any student, of any age—we must first notice, really make note of, who they are. We make judgements and decisions about their interests, talents, strengths, and needs informed by what we know about them, or rather what we think we know inferred from what we notice. Our understanding of who students are is always already colored, shaped and filtered through the prism of our own experiences and subjectivities, the stereotypes and metaphors of the culture we live in, and the social positionings we’ve experienced.
Research, too, involves noticing people, situations and institutions. How do we identify the issues that warrant our attention, the questions that shape our programs of research? The questions we ask, those that awake us in the night and move us to design and conduct research, are borne in our hearts and motivated by our own interests and experiences.
Both teaching and conducting research can thus be understood as ways of noticing, and both are necessarily influenced by one’s values and experiences. How did I come to identify as a disability studies scholar? It was the cumulative effect of noticing exclusion and the desire to do something about it. For me, the movement towards a disability studies mindset began in childhood and was furthered by my experiences teaching high...
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