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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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14. Teaching as Oppression; Teaching as Liberation



“This course was easily the best course that I have had in my college career thus far because of how much it pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me grow as a future educator and person. Dr. Cioè-Peña gave us a safe and comfortable space to work on shifting our perspectives specifically about disabilities and inclusive practice. With each new lesson, she provided us with multiple different activities, collaboration with classmates, and time to think and reflect. This gave us so many opportunities to challenge our brains to think in a new way. […] Dr. Cioè-Peña also inspired me to take an extra step outside of what is comfortable for me […] I have learned to confidently talk about topics that can often be difficult to talk about in today’s society and know that because of this course, I will continue to listen to other’s perspectives and understand more of why people think the way that they do. This course and Dr. Cioè-Peña impacted me in such a positive way that I will carry with me throughout the rest of my education and my career.”

–Course Evaluation Comment for “Foundation and Philosophy of Inclusive Education”

It is probably unusual for someone to start a book chapter in which they reflect on their evolution as a scholar and disability rights advocate with a quote from a student course evaluation. Course evaluations are notorious for...

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