|Thanks for joining me for Day 7 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge. Thank you Stacey |
and the team at Two Writing Teachers for all you do for all of us in this community.
Monday, March 7, 2016
Teaching Little People in a Big People School #SOL16 Day 7/31
"Of course; let me see what you're working with." T------ showed me the screen on his Chromebook, and I understood immediately the problem as I read the headline:
T------ had chosen to address his classmates on the challenges faced by little people. We had discussed the topic as an option when he asked for help choosing one, and after conferring with his parents, who are normal size, T------ had opted to speak about his life as a little person surrounded by big people.
T------ is the first student with dwarfism I've taught, and I was surprised that he did not have a 504 plan that addresses the physical challenges, so I wanted to hear from T------ about his life in high school, especially since he's a ninth grader.
From the moment he entered my room, I decided to treat T------ the way I do all other students; I expected him to participate in activities, so sometimes I had to make sure he didn't get "dwarfed" by students much larger; I had to make sure he could see when we learned physicalizing words as a way to memorize a poem.
When T------ presented his speeches, his head barely peeked above the whiteboard tray, and at his desk his feet dangled.
During his speech about the challenges facing little people, T------ spoke about the challenge of learning to drive, about not being able to reach sinks, about having to sit in oversized desks and at oversized tables. He talked about the fears he faces navigating the halls at our school. The halls are very crowded, and the footprint of the school is quite large, and many of the halls are narrow. All these issues make school a challenge for students but doubly so for T------.
When T------ asked me to help with The Atlantic article, which he still wasn't sure he'd use in his speech, I offered to read it first. I quickly read the article and learned about how a little person's short legs and hip problems can challenge them sexually, but I also learned about the work of Dr. Marylou Naccarato, a sexologist who has written a document that advises little people about ways to have a fulfilling sex life.
I made suggestions about how T------ could incorporate some of the ideas from the article into his speech and paid special attention to the sensitive subject-matter and to T------'s age. Ultimately, he opted not to include the information, but that doesn't matter because he's the one who will one day need the information most, and if he's typical of most little people, he won't feel comfortable addressing this topic. Maybe now he'll know that the unspoken is speakable.
I and the students who heard T------'s passionate speech about life as a little person gained important knowledge that will enable us to empathize with those students who are small in stature and big in heart. We all grew a little in that moment.