I like it when I get a chance to talk about the positive things my students do, so I thought I’d share this little story.
Sometimes, folks who don’t have disabilities have a tough time interacting with those who do. Having spent a great deal of time with disabled folks throughout my life, in different arenas, it’s second nature to me. For others, however, it’s not as easy to do. Some folks incorrectly assume that disabled equates to lowered intellect, inability to do work, and the like. Sometimes, they feel uneasy about the nature of the disability, because they don’t understand how it manifests itself in physical terms.
I’ve got a disabled student in one of my classes this semester. Typically, this student takes online classes, but this particular class isn’t offered online yet, and it’s required for all majors. For this class, I require students to self-select into groups for research projects. Going into the first meeting, I was concerned about how the other students would react to this student when it came to forming groups. Would they ignore this student? Would they make excuses about the group being filled up already? Would they force this student to become a group of one?
As I turned the students loose to form groups, I sat back and monitored the situation. Internally, I was worried – how would this exercise turn out? Would I have to force a group to take this student? Would that cause a problem for a newly-formed group that would impact their ability to do effective research? What was going to happen?
To my very happy surprise, a group immediately reached out, and happily included this student in their group, no questions asked.
Students frequently give faculty valid reasons to question their maturity, judgement, and desire to learn. I was so happy to see this group of students reach out and treat this kid like an equal, a peer. Now, the hard work begins for these students, as they now face an intense few weeks of research. However, I’m confident that this group will be highly functioning and productive.
It was a great way to begin the semester!