Saturday, September 30, 2006

Name on the blackboard

This entry is my reflection on my first interview.

In this blog, I will NEVER reveal the identities of my interviewees. The names I use will always be fictitious. However, the issues discussed here will be real issues from real lives.

"Ashley” is an articulate, thoughtful, hardworking college student who has a learning disability. She shared her thoughts on some of her elementary school experiences.

Ashley remembers the school environment as overwhelming and chaotic. Ashley recalls being terrified to go to school and feeling tremendous relief when it was time to go home.

One of Ashley’s biggest fears in first grade was getting her name on the board. Getting your name on the board meant that you were a “bad girl”. To Ashley, her name would appear on the board at random times. Her name was on the board because she had her math book out; her name was on the board because she had her spelling book out; her name was on the board when she moved too slowly; her name was on the board when she moved too quickly. The consequences at school seemed arbitrary and scary. Ashley now realizes that she didn’t catch all the rules and their subtleties, making her feel inferior, incapable, and sad through much of elementary school.

Ashley said that high school was a better experience for her. Slowly, she started to realize that her weaknesses and challenges didn’t define her; that she was more than her disability. She started to discover her many strengths. When Ashley separated her challenges from her identity, she was able to find strategies to make school work for her. She met with teachers regularly to clarify expectations and rules; she developed the courage to ask for the accommodations that she needed, and she sought to follow her strengths, not dwelling on her weaknesses.

A few thoughts –
A child who seems to be misbehaving may just not understand the rules.

Everyone should be treated with dignity. A person’s identity is extraordinarily complex and cannot be simplified into a collection of strengths and weaknesses.

Something that teachers and parents could do for children with disabilities is to help them see that their needs do not define who they are.

The unique gifts that all children have to offer should be embraced.


Laurie Gayes said...

Wonderful yet again, Dave! Keep up the good work and the motivation. You are doing an amazing job.

Love you!

Bob Heineman said...

David --

Great start. I'm looking forward to hearing more of your insights.

I especially appreciate your willingness to step out and give conclusions

I'm delighted to know the next Studs Terkel.

-- Bob Heineman

Anonymous said...

Fantastic start on this project. I look forward to reading the interviews. Studs Terkel is a master at capturing the essence of people and I am delighted that he took time to write and call with encouragement. I look forward to hearing your insights and observations as well. Carol Gaetjens

Jeffrey Shepard said...

David - thanks for including me on your blog list. I look forward to keeping up with your progress. Looks great so far. Jeff

Anonymous said...

Another fine job, David.

I am going to send this site to my colleagues at school. Probably the ones who need to read it, won't (if ya know what I mean). But we can keep trying!

Excellent idea giving specifics. I especially like how you seem to be speaking to teachers! :) Your confidence and voice really come through.

Lee P.

Patty said...

Hi David! Thanks for including me in log? I can see that I am going to learn a lot.

I especially liked your comment, "Everyone should be treated with dignity. A person’s identity is extraordinarily complex and cannot be simplified into a collection of strengths and weaknesses."

For me, it brought to mind an image of a gray-haired, old wizard of Oz behind the curtain, tallying up each person's strengths and weaknesses and proclaiming the sum to equal that person's identity.

Thank God our essence is far beyond the mathematical equation!

Love you,


Anonymous said...


I had read through your early postings on the idea, and thought it was not only an excellent idea but also very well presented. Just a great talent to write your thoughts and ideas so well, I couldn't wait for your interviews to begin.

I particularly like that you are exploring disabilities instead of just a singular branch or type of disability. To me, the experiences and insights they all have are crucial for others in their quest to learn who they are and what they have to offer the world, with or without a disability. "Ashley" is a great start.

While an interview is fluid and spontaneous, it would also be interesting to hear more in-depth thoughts and experiences from "Ashley" and others - perhaps additional time could be spent at a later date after she has reflected on your initial discussion.

Your insights at the end are exceptional and reflect the strength of your own character as a unique and special individual in your own right.

Great job - keep 'em coming!!

Mark Prior (your biggest fan)

Anonymous said...


Your insights are fabulous. I especially liked your comment, "A child who seems to be misbehaving may not understand the rules."

You have made me a fan. Keep up the good work.