Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Teachers: you’re doing it wrong

In my time as a pupil I’ve met several interesting kinds of teachers. Some treated me differently from my fellow students because of my disability, while others did not.
Here are three cases I have run into: these teachers have no idea how to deal with a disabled student. There’s no doubt that teaching is one of the hardest and most responsible jobs there is, and it really seems to have driven some of them crazy.

Let's take a look:

  • The stuffed shirt.

He’s oh-so-clever, and oh-so-pleased with himself. He excels at it all (or so he believes): teaching, dealing with students, organizing activities. And everything he says is the essence of wisdom (or so he believes): in reality, it’s irrelevant and inappropriate. He loves showing off, and jaws endlessly about his long-gone youth. He never fails to come and speak with me about something or other at the end of class, creating all kinds of non-existent problems. He claims he wants to help me but is terribly forgetful and muddle-headed.
Here’s a typical episode. Once he had to organize a school trip. For months beforehand, at the end of almost every class, he would discuss various details with me, and more than once he told me:
“Ah, Elena, you can leave yourself in my hands, I once took a blind girl on a school trip! So you can be sure that we’ll organize everything perfectly!” *he dances from foot to foot, bursting with pride*
Somehow, I doubt that that blind girl had the same needs as me.... and needless to say, the trip had more obstacles than a hurdles race: it was full of architectural barriers.

Another example: at a language course preparatory to an exam.

Teacher, to the class: “The exam couldn’t be simpler, of course you’ll all pass. You aren’t handicapped, are you?”

Me: the usual blank reaction I get when people use the term “handicapped” in a denigrating way. In fact, it’s no longer in general use and for me, it’s really just an old-fashioned term which has almost nothing to do with disabled people. It actually makes me much angrier when people use “Down’s” as an insult.

Teacher, making a leap towards me: “I APOLOGIZE, ELENA, I’M SO SORRY!!!”

I’m dumbfounded. I nod and think: is he really trying to tell me he thinks of me as “handicapped”?

Teacher: “SORRY, SORRY!!! It's not like me, it's not like me.”

He starts explaining something about the exam, and after a few seconds, off he goes again: “SORRY, SORRY! It's not like me!”

A few days later:
Teacher: “... And Hitler threw the abstract artists, whom he defined "handicapped" - sorry Elena - out of the Reich.”
Who’s he apologizing for? Hitler?

  • The insecure one.

He’s usually young and inexperienced, and is terrorized by anything outside his comfort zone - and that definitely includes you. He tries not to address you directly, and if he can’t avoid it he looks like a mouse caught in a trap. He much prefers talking to your assistant. He’ll do nothing to be helpful while you’re speaking with him. If he’s behind you, he’ll stand there like a stone, even though it’s obvious that you can’t turn your head to see him. He’ll never bend down to your level, even if he can’t hear you: instead, he’ll cast a terrified glance at your assistant, silently begging her to translate. If there’s an oral presentation at the front of the class, he’ll suggest that you stay at the back (who knows if he wants to save you the effort of moving and maybe getting into difficulty, or simply wants to avoid having to talk to you), while your classmates are obviously heading for the front. When you decide to ignore him and go to the front anyway, you’ll have to find someone else to help move the desks out of the way, because he won’t. If you’re entering the classroom and you make eye contact with him, he might decide to (slowly) come and hold the door open for you, only to change his mind halfway when he notices that, all things considered, your assistant is doing fine by herself.
Basically, he has a million and one worries and is frightened to death by anything new, especially if that something is a disabled student.

  • The bitch.

She’s the one who, on the first day of school, asks your assistant: “Has Elena got any brains?”. Just like that, blunt and brutal. She’s close to retirement and wears bright pink lipstick. She proudly defines herself as a “classics teacher” and is as false as they come. She loves creating competition among her students, and so she carefully returns assignments one by one from the worst to the best grade, so she can humiliate the same people every time. She finds a scapegoat for her middle-aged frustrations in a little Russian boy with some behavioral issues, constantly ridiculing, insulting and marginalizing him. And of course, a class of eleven-year-olds is the perfect environment for this, as they are uncritical enough to go along with her. She exudes bitchiness from every pore: you can almost smell it, like rancid butter that should be thrown in the trash.

Post script: None of the above teachers is actually any good at their job: they’re too disorganized, too boring, too fearful or too jaded. What a surprise!

Translation: Marie-Hélène Hayles

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...