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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 8: Help Wanted, by Casey Harhold


“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” As much as I hated this phrase growing up, embracing it has helped just as much. Strength. The women in my family have always proven their strength. When something in this world knocked us down, that was our motto. Get up and get going.

There always seems to be someone in every family who unites the rest. A rock. My grandmother was the rock in our family. The person we loved, cared for, looked to for advice, and sought comfort from. As time ticks away, nothing stays the same. Strength is chipped away, with the passage of time and the inevitability of life changes. The world has a funny way of testing our strength as we move along.


The afternoon was cloudy, a light mist in the air. The sun was trying to peek out of the clouds, finding its way through the kitchen window where my mother, sister and I sat. It was Sunday, an afternoon spent thinking about and remembering the past. Talking. Sometimes laughing; sometimes crying. Talking about the one woman in our lives that we missed the most: Grandma. The woman who had impacted our lives in so many different ways. The woman who sat with us, so many times, at this very same table. Her chair is piled high with mail and paper, as if holding a place for her.

I remember how she used to sit in...

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