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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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Introduction: What Dis Is, Why Itz Here, by Phil Smith


This Book Is Liz’s Fault

One fall afternoon, a couple of years ago, I was working on my computer at the university, responding to an email from a student with an advising question. I heard a knock at my office door, turned around, and found a tall woman with short red hair standing at the door. “Liz!” I said. “Come in!” I turned my desk chair around to face her, and pulled out a chair for her to sit down at the table.

Liz was one of my graduate students, taking a second class with me, this one about families with members with a disability. With a quick smile, ready laugh, and a keen, ironic sensibility, she had made an impression on me the previous fall when she had taken an introductory course in education and disability studies. She had great questions, good answers, and written a terrific paper a year ago. I was glad to have her back in class.

Liz and I exchanged pleasantries, and then she got down to business. “I have an idea for a final project in your class,” she said, and then smiled, almost sheepishly. “But it’s a paper, not one of those other kinds of projects.” I encouraged students to represent their learning and knowledge in creative ways, outside the boundaries of typical graduate course student papers. They could make a video, or sew a quilt, or make a painting. One student made a wooden bowl. Others...

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