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If You Thought I Couldn't Become a Teacher Because of My Disability

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In honor of recently graduating with a bachelor of science degree in secondary education, and of completing my student teaching, I have compiled a list of reasons why I have been told I could never be a teacher:

“The day will come when you sit down in that wheelchair for the last time, never to get back up and walk again. You will not live a normal life.”

“You are pretty, isn’t that enough? You are too sick to go out and pursue a career as well.”

“Being ill is your full-time job. You won’t make it through college.”

“Your hands are deformed. They will scare the children.”

“Nobody on immunosuppressants can teach in a germ-filled classroom.”

“You will have too many medical absences to be taken seriously as a professional.”

“You do not have enough range of motion or strength to safely receive CPR certification.”

“Being unable to lift and move 50 pounds is not a reasonable accommodation in the field.”

“If there are days when you are in too much pain to hand write, there is no way you can be an effective English teacher.”

“There will be too many mornings where you can’t power through.”

“At least you’re trying to make something of yourself. If nothing else, it is probably good for your self-esteem.”

The writer sitting in her wheel chair on graduation day.

You should know that I completed my student teaching without missing any days aside from university required events. You should know that during that time, I ruptured two tendons in my dominant hand, not to be discovered until surgery weeks later. I “rubbed some dirt in it,” and I kept teaching. My illness is a huge part of my life, but I have fought through it, and I will keep fighting – that is the only choice that I have besides giving up.

I. Will. Never. Give. Up.

To everyone who said these things to me: This degree is for YOU. Thank you for giving me someone to prove wrong, an incredible battle to undertake. I did it.

To those who tried to shut me out of the honors section at my ceremony because I was never able to physically pick up a tassel, for those who did not believe I was graduating Summa Cum Laude, for those who wouldn’t look at or talk to me because perhaps being in a wheelchair must also imply an inability to advocate for oneself – this is for you, too.

Our classrooms need more teachers with disabilities. I’m working to be the change I wish to see.

Originally published: April 24, 2018
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