Panic was not the first feeling this time. After one of our company leaders said, “Open up the handbook and you have five minutes to hunt through the first five questions. Do not talk to you table mates. This needs to be on your own. We want you to get used to the handbook and what is inside.”
This time I was able to take a deep breath and look around. I saw everyone get to work. I saw them all open their handbooks, look through the questions, and understand what they were reading. I saw them all just start. I saw the leader pace around the room like the teachers did when I was a kid in school.
I tried to comply with her instructions. I looked at the colored photo paper questionnaire and knew they had tried to make it accessible for me. Colored paper makes it easier for me to read the questions. But the handbook is all on white paper and it’s beyond my reach, like everything else that everyone else reads so easily.
I felt myself growing resentful of the woman who is deaf and has an interpreter. I feel sometimes like I’ve book a trip on a cruise ship, but I’m in a row boat being dragged behind by a long rope.
Next I thought, you can do this….. Then I felt the time ticking down. I looked up at the digital clock on the wall. Only three more hours and I can go home. Then the narrative started in my mind, the panic narrative that freezes my thoughts, makes me unable to read, makes my pulse skyrocket. I couldn’t breath, so I left the room, tears welling up in my eyes.
I made it to the bathroom. Crying in the stall, I repeated the prayer of what I can control. But thoughts about running away, thoughts about barging into the HR office, thoughts about heading down to the superintendent’s office, thoughts about calling a lawyer……..thoughts racing out of control.
I take control of my rampant thoughts. If don’t do the job I’m doing as a special education teacher, children with “special needs” like me will not be heard. Who better to fight for them than me?
As my best friend would say, “pull up your big girl pants and deal!” My husband would say the same thing. So how do I deal? How do I plan to change this for next year?
Here are some ideas I’ve come up with. Here’s what you could do in the moment that you realize you have been discriminated against, again, for the fifth year in a row:
- Raise Hell and flip a table. (Hey, Jesus did it. Why can’t I?)
- Not do anything. (I’ve tried that and it’s not working.)
- Call a meeting to solve the problem. (I work for a special education company, and I have to ask, “Why can’t we do this? What is the problem?”)
- Educate your fellow employees.
- Problem solve and suggest solutions.
- Advocate for yourself and others.
- Pave a road that needs paved.
- Believe the truth that you have some awesome killer skills.
- Re-teach. Do it all again. My dyslexia is not going anywhere. Disabilities aren’t going away. We need to do this every time we see discrimination, whether it’s of ourselves or others.
Peace out. I’ll let you know what I decide to do.