I love lecturing to Masters students. They don’t just let me talk, and don’t reluctantly participate in interactive activities – they truly engage, so that lectures over-run, and the debate is stimulating, challenging, and exhausting. To me, that is what teaching “should” be like.
When I teach (at any level) I tend to stand behind the lectern, to hide the muscle tightness in my right side that builds to the point where I am so stiff I cannot move it. If I don’t do this, I find students staring at my arm, rather than at my face, or perhaps better, my slides (see here). My disability isn’t relevant to their education, which is where I want the focus to be. There is a paradox in that, I know. And disability become the elephant in the room.
Apart from a couple of weeks ago, I was lecturing on models of development, one of which is neuroconstructivism. In a nutshell, the essence of this view is that thinking ability is accompanied by neural changes. I took a deep breath. I told the students about the plasticity of the brain, and how this shows itself in my hemiplegia, in the new pathways that allow me to see “normally”, and to move some fingers individually. I felt the class (and myself) breathe. That was was it was. No more wondering.
Up to that point, I’d been talking with my office mate about how strange it was that everyone who came to see me about research projects wanted to do theirs on bullying / friendship, and not on children’s perceptions of physical disability (in other children).
Since then – as many students who saw me about the bullying project have been to see me about the physical disability perceptions project – and we’ve talked freely about stereotypes and persona dolls and what they could do – and I’m only sorry I can only take two Masters students in total, because they all have such exciting ideas.
My disability is a part of who I am, and I am beginning to accept that. Sharing that part of me – trusting that information to others – is still hard – but it can have liberating results. I thank God for that – and pray that He will help me to share more of me.