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How Teaching Shapes Our Thinking About Disabilities

Stories from the Field


Edited By David J. Connor and Beth A. Ferri

This book purposefully connects practice to research, and vice versa, through the use of deeply personal stories in the form of autoethnographic memoirs. In this collection, twenty contributors share selected tales of teaching students with dis/abilities in K-12 settings across the USA, including tentative triumphs, frustrating failures, and a deep desire to understand the dynamics of teaching and learning. The authors also share an early awareness of significant dissonance between academic knowledge taught to them in teacher education programs and their own experiential knowledge in schools. Coming to question established practices within the field of special education in relation to the children they taught, each author grew increasingly critical of deficit-models of disability that emphasized commonplace practices of physical and social exclusion, dysfunction and disorders, repetitive remediation and punitive punishments. The authors describe how their interactions with children and youth, parents, and administrators, in the context of their classrooms and schools, influenced a shift away from the limiting discourse of special education and toward become critical special educators and/or engage with disability studies as a way to reclaim, reframe, and reimagine disability as a natural part of human diversity. Furthermore, the authors document how these early experiences in the everydayness of schooling helped ground them as teachers and later, teacher educators, who galvanized their research trajectories around studying issues of access and equality throughout educational structures and systems, while developing new theoretical models within Disability Studies in Education, aimed to impact practices and policies.
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10. “Off to Another Glorious Day of Educational Opportunity”: But for Whom?



I recently watched season one of the Netflix original show, “The Great,” which bills itself as an “occasionally true story.” I found that description charming and a bit apropos to this current project. The events described here all happened and they certainly left their mark on me, although the specifics undoubtedly differ in small and perhaps even large ways. I am sure the dates are wrong; I have changed the names of my colleagues and students; I have certainly glossed over details or portrayed my own actions and the actions of others as both better and worse in places. But these formative moments have stuck with me. For good or ill, in truth or fiction, these vignettes have shaped who I am and how I view my craft. I hope you can forgive my unintentionally creative liberties and appreciate the journey.

The lights come up on three children, ages 14, 11, and 8, entering the side door of a brick school building, following their father. They walk through a dark and silent classroom and pause at the doorway into the empty hallway while their father pulls a set of keys out of his pocket. As he prepares to throw the keys down the long hallway toward his guidance office door at the other end, he turns to the three of them and says with a sarcastic grin, “Off to another glorious day of educational opportunity.” All three children audibly moan, but smile as they...

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