April 13, 2016

“CAN YOU MANAGE IT, YOUNG MAN?”

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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