So I taught my first COLLEGE CLASS today and it was awesome-tastic! I feel REALLY good about how the first day went and excited for the rest of the semester. I’m sure I’ll post more about that soon. But I wanted to share my “screw up of the day” since it was relevant to the issues in this blog and involved a situation I’d never encountered before.
One of the activities we did in class today was have a class brainstorm session of all the different jobs in theatre we could think of — director, usher, grantwriter, actor, etc. The students shouted out their ideas and I wrote them on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker. I grabbed the one closest to me, which happened to be red. Later in the class I had the students do a writing assignment, where they also had the opportunity to jot down anything they wanted me to know that would help me as a teacher. So going through the journals tonight I come to one where the student wrote that one thing I should know is that if I write on the white board in red marker they can’t read it. It never occurred to me to verify whether any of my students might be colorblind or have any trouble at all reading what I wrote on the board before tonight.
Certainly I feel badly when I make a mistake like this, but there is something a little exciting about getting knocked over the head with my own privilege– in this case, able-bodied privilege— in that these are the moments that change my teaching FOREVER. Never again will I write an assignment in red marker and just assume that since I can see the writing perfectly well that everyone else in the room must too. Driving home tonight I was thinking that so many of the ways I know I’m good as a teacher are the result of royally messing up somewhere along the line and learning to change. This is comforting, since I make mistakes sometimes like it’s going out of style. I’ll never forget, for instance, that first day a child with cerebral palsy came into my drama classroom and quickly realized that my whole repertoire of first day activities was entirely dependent on the students being able to sit on the floor and actively change body positions throughout the hour. Or the day her second grade friends insisted they knew how to help her out of her chair and I… let them! What was I thinking?
I’m never as good of a teacher as I would like to be, but I hope I get better as time goes on. It can be painful to reflect on my mistakes but I try to be a model for my students in that I want them to be honestly critical of their own work at times and really, it’s only fair.