April 13, 2016


Seeing “Cerebral Palsy” on my college admission forms, the registrar was hesitant. In those days before the Americans with Disabilities Act, this college official wondered if I would be able to manage the requirements of a professional program. Could I handle the physical demands of off-campus fieldwork and student teaching? Would it be a cruel disservice to admit me to college only to have me fail because of physical limitations? Ironically, while the registrar was ruminating about whether I could deal with the physical demands of professional training, I was working a summer job as an orderly in the local hospital! When that news reached the college, I was admitted – and I made it to graduation!

Finishing college as a newly-minted teacher, I was eager to spend my days with children. At that time, teaching jobs were few and far between, but after a frustrating year of job hunting, I was finally hired –“to be an example,” I was told, “of overcoming handicaps with determination.” (I didn’t see my college journey as anything extraordinary, but I did feel a special passion about teaching children – and I was overjoyed to have a job!)

I loved spending five days a week with 8 year-olds (and nights and weekends, I learned, correcting papers and planning new learning adventures.) I never felt that I was doing anything related to my handicap, but I felt privileged to be called “teacher”. I am grateful for helpful colleagues – some of whom became lifelong friends — and for a tough and supportive principal who guided me through the rough rookie years.

Transitioning, as the years passed, from “classroom teacher” to “mid-management administrator”, I spent 18 of my “school” years as a principal. It was an exciting challenge to work toward school-wide excellence and a fulfilling privilege to help both staff and students reach all of their capabilities.

A fulfilling career, but not at all what I anticipated. More challenging and varied. Better than expected.

Guest Blogger: Alan Flynn


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