Education is perhaps the most vulnerable and intimate experience people can have with each other that is not familial or romantic. It’s so easy for the classroom to be either harmful—consider the destruction of a person’s curiosity and confidence in learning is muddled by shame or helplessness— or transformative when done well—empowering a student to take charge of their experience of the world.
I went from being told I was a smart and gifted student to realizing I’d been deprived of accessing the academic tools I needed to thrive and getting an adult ADHD diagnosis. I went from experiencing educational neglect as a homeschooled student who vowed to never forget my solidarity with children’s lack of personal autonomy, to being an educator who is passionate about defending my students from shame, whether imposed on themselves or imposed by others, about how they learn and feel and think. I understand now how deeply difficult my own experience of learning had been—and how unnecessary that was.
We are not very good, as a society, at teaching our children and each other. I dream of queering education, of disrupting classroom hierarchies and disarming the homogeneity of neurotypical, ableist, adult-centric educational processes. I dream of learning as play and education as a collaboration, lifelong and without shame.
In September, we’ll publish essays themed around disability in the sphere of education. While my own story is fairly limited—neurodiversity and trauma define how I approach learning and teaching—I want to read essays about the many, many possible intersections of learning and education with disability. Education as a framework is fairly broad, intentionally. I want to hear about institutional experiences of education and disability, but I also know well that education is hardly something that can be confined to the walls of a classroom.
In this series, I hope to run stories that share our hopes and horrors, our dreams and delusions. I want pieces about what it means to exist, learn, and thrive in our specific, unique brains and bodies, and I would love to see form and craft choices that reflect the way that disability shapes how we move through the processes and institutions of education.