It's nearing back-to-school time, and while I love teachers, I don't love ALL teachers. I love the good ones, which are few and far between. This time of year always has me reflecting on my academic learning experience, and so much of it was bad.
As a person who was once in Special Ed, and has two diagnosed learning disabilities, school was never easy for me. I had to work twice as hard as other students. Always. I had to study twice as hard, and I still rarely received an 'A.' I had teachers tell me I was "stupid" (seriously), and that I was "different" (always like that's a bad thing), among other various things an adult (or really anyone) should never say to a living, breathing, heart-containing person.
You have an enormous responsibility. You are literally shaping a child's mind and heart. If you encounter students who have learning disabilities (or any type of disability), please do whatever is in your power to make that student feel supported and intelligent. I am nearly 30, and to this day, if someone calls me "stupid", it takes me right back to that little, 3rd grade curly-haired girl who felt like she was worthless, because she couldn't think like the other kids. Don't treat your Special Ed students like they are a burden on you. Think about how WE feel. Use your authority for good. Be creative. Look for resources online or in person for help. But whatever you do, DO NOT push us aside. DO NOT ignore us. DO NOT treat us like we are stupid. I was lucky in that I had an amazing support system outside of school. Think about the kids who don't. The kids whose parents ALSO tell them they are "stupid" and "worthless." Be a shelter for us. Do good. I know that many schools treat their teachers horribly, and by extension, also do not give teachers enough support and resources. This shit needs to change, obviously. Even if you can't do anything, please don't add to a student's hard time. If you can't do anything, but simply be kind--then please, just fucking be kind! I can tell you first hand: the shitty things you say to a student stays with them forever (and so do the nice things).
For students with disabilities:
You are fabulous. Just because you think differently than someone else doesn't mean you're "stupid." You are actually highly intelligent. You have to come up with so many different ways to teach yourself when the actual teacher is not accommodating you! That shit takes WORK and INTELLIGENCE! If you need help with something, start learning to advocate for yourself. If you don't feel comfortable doing this yet, ask if your parents or guardian or friend or whomever will! Ask questions. I used to ask a lot of questions to clarify how to do something, and some teachers would yell at me because they took this to mean I didn't listen to their rules initially, when in reality, I had difficulty comprehending their words. Because of this bad experience, silence became my savior. But I wish that wasn't the case. YOU ARE ALLOWED TO ASK ALL OF THE QUESTIONS EVER. This is YOUR education. It is the teacher and the school's job to educate you and make sure you are being accommodated to YOUR learning style. Never apologize for your beautiful brains.
And finally, I'd like to end this post with a brief list of: Things NOT to Say to Someone With a Learning Disability:
1. "You don't look like you have a disability."
Fuck you, dude.
2. "Learning disabilities are just a crutch."
Nah, they aren't. Google something.
3. "Why aren't you understanding this?"
BECAUSE I DON'T THINK THE WAY YOU WANT ME TO, ASSHOLE. Teach me in a different way!
4. "Does the word 'test' scare you or something?"
I had a teacher ask me this at one point. I was never a poor test taker because I was afraid of the word 'test.' I was a poor test taker because I HAVE A FUCKING LANGUAGE PROCESSING DISABILITY WHICH MAKES IT DIFFICULT FOR ME TO EXTRACT WHAT I KNOW IN MY HEAD DOWN ON PAPER.
5. "I would never have imagined that YOU have a learning disability!"
Ya'll, disabilities of any kind don't discriminate. All types of people can have them.
6. "So you probably have a low IQ, huh?"
Actually, my IQ is probably higher than yours... and anyways, WHO ASKS THIS?!
7. "You just don't try hard enough."
I've had teachers say this to me before, and I have wanted to fucking SCREAM. You have no idea how hard we try. You. have. no. idea.
8. "You're stupid."
You'd think I shouldn't even have to put this on here, but teachers say this to students. This is very REAL thing. It's happening and it shouldn't be. If you say this to your student--not only are you a shitty teacher, you're a shitty person.
9. "Maybe I can fix you!"
First of all, people with learning disabilities don't need to be "fixed." We're born this way, baby. Also, this just always comes across as very savior-y.
10. "My mother's brother's sister's friend's niece's daughter has a learning disability. I totally know what you're dealing with."
FIrst of all, no, you don't, and secondly, you've bored me to tears.