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Both Sides of the Table

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


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 7: Listening: A Star Is Born!, by Bernadette Macartney


Our first child Maggie Rose was born at home in a southerly storm. The wind howling outside the night she was born matched the intensity of what was going on inside our house—I had a sore throat for three days! Maggie’s dad, Tony, and I had been living together for eight years before Maggie was born. We had lived this time in our small community by the sea. Our village had one of everything. One harbour, one mountain, one shop, church, early childhood education centre, school, library, community hall, rugby club, even a local bar… What we had in abundance were hills, beaches, friends, sheep, and horses!

Tony and I wrote a song for Maggie after she was born. We wanted to welcome her to our family and to promise a place where she could grow strong within our community. She had no disability labels when she was born—they came later. Tony and I invited our family, friends, and community to help welcome and celebrate our newborn Maggie. They gathered with us at home. We planted Maggie’s placenta back into the earth under a Kowhai tree that blossoms yellow in the spring. We all sang the song Tony and I had written for her:

Maggie’s Song

Underneath this little Kowhai tree

Growing strong by the sea

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