Wednesday, August 8, 2012
I'm sure those of you who have been following the Olympics have seen or heard some of Oscar Pistorious, the South African double amputee 400 meter runner. I don't care much at all about the controversy surrounding whether or not his prosthetic legs give him an unfair advantage over other runners - I just love his story and love watching him run!
Today the above photo, with the quote, came across my Facebook news feed, and it immediately resonated with me.
This morning I went to visit my upcoming new student who has a total vision impairment in his current school. After I got back to my classroom, my current students and I had a discussion about things we needed to know about our new friend, including things we are going to have to do a little differently to make sure he is safe and feels comfortable in our class.
A discussion, paraphrased (all student comments) - and no, my students are not all this articulate - hence the paraphrasing, since I could never duplicate the always strange, sometimes poetic, mostly uneven syntax and language my students use! I wish I had a video camera All. The. Time. The meaning is the same, here:
"Why can't he see?"
"It's like C---- [former classmate] who can't hear. So he had to use sign language."
"But K---- [new student] won't have to sign! He can hear us."
"Remember C---- didn't like to fingerspell? How he would yell if you made him spell his name?" [yes, we tangent a lot in our room]
"It's like me, I can't walk so I have my chair." [we tangented for about 5 whole minutes here about how this particular student is SO EXCITED he got measured last week for a new wheelchair...which will come to him in like six months...but he is already SO EXCITED]
"So it's [blindness - back on conversational track] not a big deal."
"Does he like Iron Man?" [tangent again - and shame on me, I did not think to find out the answer to this question in my visit today!]
"Maybe K---- can push my chair - as long as I tell him where to go!" [much laughter ensues as we think about a blind student pushing wheelchairs with no direction or orientation!]
(Of course, later in the day I found out he may not be coming into my classroom after all, but it was still a valuable discussion to have.)
As I've said before, we own disability in our room. It's "not a big deal," to quote my student today. We all have things we can't do the same, so it's no surprise to us when we meet someone new who can't do something else, or has to do things differently.
Back to Oscar Pistorious:
Wearing different shoes - what a wonderful way to think about disability! My students would approve.