Today, I will return to teaching master’s students in a student affairs preparation program full-time. And, I’m afraid. I’m also excited. As I prepare for my return to teaching, it occurred to me that many students (both graduate and undergraduate) might be feeling the same way. So, since research tells me that it is helpful for building relationships if students can see others like them be successful in higher education, I thought I would put out there some thoughts going through my mind about my return to school.
The point of me showing this to you has to do with me wanting to be upfront about the transition I am going to be experiencing. You can also learn more about it here.
First, I’ve been working on my recovery related to my January health experiences since the end of February. However, for some reason, I had in my mind that I would be fully recovered physically by the time that classes started, and I am not. This means that I am going to need to navigate my campus using a cane, and with a backpack. I have already had to speak up multiple times about having a physical disability, and I imagine that I will have to continue to do so.
Second, I’m afraid to show my newly acquired disability to people. There is a stigma in society if you have a disability, and just to be up front and clear about it:
I am not dumb
I can hear perfectly well
For some reason these are the most common reactions other people have when they interact with me. And although I understand them, they are tiring.
Third, I’m afraid I will forget something. Now, please understand that I do not claim to have had the perfect memory prior to everything happening. But, now that I’m adjusting to a disability, I cannot simply adjust as quickly in the moment. My strategy to combat this is to always have a pad of paper that I can use to take notes on, and I write everything down. But what if I forget to write something down? My second strategy is to remember that it is okay for me to not remember everything.
First, my classroom will be more accessible than it was in the past. Don’t take this to mean that it wasn’t accessible before, because in many ways it was and I was always striving to be more so. For example, I ask my students to complete learning contracts at the beginning of the semester in which they consider how much they want some of their assignments to be weighed toward their final grade. This highlights their role in the learning process, and allows them to consider their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their own work habits. Other examples, are that the students will now need to sit in a formation that allows me to see each of them clearly, and there will always need to be an easily accessible way to leave the room.
Second, I am hopeful that returning to teaching will help me recover in other ways. On one of my first physical therapy days in acute rehab, I was asked to lift up my right leg as if I was marching, and then try to do it next with my left leg. It was amazing to watch. You could see how much my left leg wanted to mimic what my right leg was doing. I then came home, and my body remembered the layout of my house. I am hoping that returning to the classroom will work in much the same way, and although I anticipate it will be exhausting, my hope is that returning to the classroom will resurface the connections I’ve made in my brain prior to everything happening. And, there is good reason for me to think that it will, after all, my neuro-psychology tests came back positive, as my neurologist would say, “I have a good brain”. 🙂
Third, I did things that I haven’t done in years to prepare for the beginning of the school year. I did back to school activities!