Wednesday, May 09, 2007

My Story, Part I.,

When my best friend from high school died a couple of months ago, I promised myself that I would start thinking and writing about my experiences at TSB (Texas School for the Blind). Well, even though I wish I could just pretend like I didn’t make that commitment, I’m going to push past the pain and annoyance and write about my experiences. Well, here goes. I’ll start with what happened to prompt my parents to even send me away to school in the first place.

When I started losing my sight in 1985, there weren’t many laws in place to force school districts to properly serve their students. Plus, technology wasn’t all that great. So, I caught hell when I started losing my sight.

I needed my first pair of glasses somewhere around the middle of my 5th grade year. A couple of months later is when we found out that I had Glaucoma, and my sight was quickly sneaking away. I had my first eye surgery a month before my 5th grade graduation. I also found out that I was going to need more surgeries in the next few months.

The following school year, I headed to middle school with new determination and limited vision. Unfortunately, 4 out of 7 of my teachers at Burbank Middle School believed that I was pretending to have a sight problem. For some reason, these women thought I was pretending to not be able to see, simply because I was trying to get out of doing my work. Some teachers went as far to publicly confront me and insist that I was lying about not being able to read certain worksheets just because I just couldn’t do the work.

I’m still baffled by their response to me and my inability to see. If these teachers looked at my track record up until that point, they would have discovered that I, by no means, had trouble performing. A may have had some issues, but being a good student was not one of them. I’m not trying to jock myself… But school has never really been hard to me. Not then, and not now… Maybe sometimes it is challenging. But never hard…

(Do I think that race had something to do with the teachers response to me? I certainly do. But that's another post.)

These insensitive teachers refused to darken the print on worksheets, let me go to the nurse's office when my eyes were hurting, and be patient with me when it was time to read out loud. Many of the teachers didn’t understand how I could see some things and couldn’t see others. Well, the truth is, I didn’t understand it either. But in my defense, I was only 11. Plus, I was still trying to understand and make sense of my failing vision. However, these silly women were college educated, middle school teachers, who had access to the school counselor, educational diagnosticians, and a school nurse. What was there excuse? Whatever they didn’t understand about my illness, they could have found it out. Or better yet, they could have just taken my parents word that their child was having problems seeing.

What I found out later on about my Glaucoma is that some days my eye pressure would be up, and those were the times that I couldn’t see that well. Well, when the pressure would drop to a comfortable level, my vision would be better. Plus, I also have Uveitis. This eye disease causes the cells in an eye to become inflamed. Well, days I was dealing with inflammation, my vision was challenged then also. To sum it up, I had issues.

The teachers started failing me. Here I was, a student in a talented and gifted program, making D’s and F’s. And the only reason my grades were suffering was because the teachers didn’t want to take additional time to make sure that I had my work in a format that was good for me. (I hate I can’t go back and sue them for discrimination, pain and suffering.) Maybe I shouldn’t come down so hard on the teachers. The counselors and educational diagnosticians also had a responsibility to make sure that these teachers had the information and tools to make sure that I succeeded in school.

I’ll never forget this witch I had for math. I’m just going to go ahead and put her name out there. She called me out. So, I’m going to do the same. Mrs. Eaves publicly humiliated me one day in class. The class was taking a math quiz. Once we were finished with the quiz, we were instructed to bring the quiz up to her desk. Well, when I brought the quiz to the teacher’s desk, she was handing me another worksheet to complete. Well, all of my peripheral vision was already gone. I didn’t see her handing me the paper, because she was to the right of me.

After I sat down, she announced to the class that I must didn’t want to do my work. When I looked up with amazement, she was waving a piece of paper at me and asking me if I didn’t want it, what she should do with it. The students started laughing. Before I could get up to come and get the paper, she mocked me by asking me if I wanted her to fold it into a paper airplane and fly it to me. The silly 11-year-olds in the class started laughing even more. She asked me what was really my problem. She went on to say that she didn’t think it was sight related.

Well, because the teachers treated me like crap, the students followed up and finished the job. People I went to school with my entire elementary stint started joining in with others in making fun of me. Boys I thought were cute started laughing at me when I would be walking down the halls.

The 6th grade turned into a nightmare. That’s when I first started thinking about suicide. (It was a year later that I tried to carry it out.)

I had to do something to get out of school. I couldn’t take the pain and embarrassment anymore. I was dealing with losing my sight and dealing with the insensitive teachers and students at Burbank M.S. And no matter how many times my mother came up their and tried to advocate for me, nothing changed.

I made a bad decision. I stopped taking my medicine, so that I could get sick and need another surgery. I knew that surgery was going to be the only thing to get me out of that environment.

Well, it worked. But I paid dearly for that decision. I lost a great deal of sight in the process My heart continues to break when I think about what I did to myself. I hate that pain pushed me over the edge. (Lord help me to heal.).

Well, I’m going to stop right here. I’ll continue tomorrow. For some reason, thinking about all of this is a little tough for me. Plus, I don’t want these posts to bee too long. I’m going to have to break these stories down in chunks. Tomorrow, I'll tackle the 7th grade.

No comments: