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Both Sides of the Table

Autoethnographies of Educators Learning and Teaching With/In [Dis]ability


Edited By Philip Smith

Both Sides of the Table is a set of evocative, heartfelt, personal, and revealing stories, told by educators about how their experiences with disability, personally and in the lives of family members, has affected their understanding of disability. It uses disability studies and critical theory lenses to understand the autoethnographies of teachers and their personal relationships with disability. The book takes a beginning look at the meaning of autoethnography as a method of inquiry, as well as how it has been (and will be) applied to exploring disability and the role of education in creating and sustaining it. The title refers to the context in which educators find themselves in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings for students with disabilities in schools. There, educators often sit on the other side of the table from people with disabilities, their families, and their allies. In these chapters, the authors assume roles that place them, literally, on both sides of IEP tables. They inscribe new meanings – of relationships, of disability, of schools, of what it means to be an educator and a learner. It is a proposal (or perhaps a gentle manifesto) for what research, education, disability, and a utopian revolutionary politics of social transformation could and should look like.
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Chapter 14: What Do These Stories Tell Us about Education and Autoethnography? by Phil Smith


This chapter is a scripted performance text for an imagined symposium of the authors of the chapters in this book, following a format deployed by Denzin (2006; 2008). In order to inform, expand, and transcend this text, I asked the authors to respond briefly and conversationally to a series of questions. Their responses here are at times verbatim, sometimes, edited—but always, their answers, like the writers themselves, are provocative.

Scene: a small auditorium in a public university in the Midwest. In the front of the room is a line of 15 chairs behind some long tables. The walls are painted a bland gray, with a green chair rail encircling the walls. The lighting is poor, the acoustics worse. The air-conditioning is on, so its hard to tell that it’s a bright, warm day in early summer. Somewhere out there, birds are chirping, daisies are blooming, mosquitoes are buzzing. None of that enters into the non-descript, air-conditioned stillness of the room.

(Phil opens the auditorium door, enters, and clicks on the fluorescent lights. He looks dismally at the room, and puts down a bag filled with books, paper, pen, water bottles, and laptop on the tables at the front. He sits, opens his laptop, and then gets up and puts water bottles in front of each chair. Liz pokes her head in the doorway.)

Liz: This place hasn’t changed much, has it? ← 247 | 248 →

Phil: Liz! It’s SO cool to see you...

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