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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 15: Looking to the Future, by Phil Smith


The lake was quiet for once—just a light breeze ruffled the water; a single loon called up the bay. My daughter Marilla and I sat in Adirondack chairs on the cabin porch, looking out over Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior. It was early evening in late June, but this far north and west in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the sun was still high in the sky, and wouldn’t set for hours. A warm evening, with a clear sky, we looked west toward what would probably be a terrific sunset. The end of another day in paradise.

Marilla picked up her beer from the little table between us. How was she old enough for her to be drinking beer? And she’s planning to get married. When did all that happen, I thought to myself? Dear god, I’m getting old.

She looked over at me. “So Dad, what’s this book you’re working on?”

“Weeeeeell…” Good grief, and I sound just like my father. “Hem. Uh, well, I told you about autoethnographies, didn’t I?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Real stories, about people’s lives, told by themselves, and about what they can tell us about our culture. Sort of—sort of researching your own life, instead of researching somebody else’s. Is that close?”

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