Now that I’ve told you about Dr. Bowtie & his magic office I should probably give you a better experience to remember, because experiences like that are in the minority (or at least they should be).
When all was said & done I decided the best way to turn around my situation was to change it altogether. I had done much better in the spring semester, but starting fresh made the most sense. I think part of the reason why I did so well in the spring was I had a clear goal, get out as successfully as possible.
While preparing to turn my educational ship around I read something about the Disability Support Services (DSS) office. It was good they actually had information included in the welcome material. You didn’t have to request the basics, because it was already there for you. I also liked that they called themselves Disability Support. Here I would not be “special”. I would be normal. The “support” I hoped meant I would have some sort of say there.
I was still recovering from my face off with Dr. Bowtie but I picked up the phone and called DSS. If I was really starting fresh, I had to at least look into this. Over the summer I communicated occasionally with the head of DSS. She seemed understand & more than willing to work with me.
At some point she suggested that I have letters of accommodation to give to each of my professors; the idea being that even though CP only affects the majority of my lower body something as simple as note taking fatigue shouldn’t be the thing that tanks my GPA. Having narrowly missed academic probation by failing a few classes & now that I would be receiving a scholarship contingent on my GPA the idea appealed to me.
My first week on campus I had a meeting with the assistant director of DSS, who I got along with from the go in spite of my previous experiences, about how my accommodations would work; I still wasn’t too sure about the whole thing but the fact that they were clear on the fact that I would come to them for help if I needed it helped.
Naturally I was most hesitant about the letters of accommodation. I was given 6 sets of letters, one for each professor & one for my records. I read over my copy & I couldn’t hold in my one question any longer. Did I have to give my professors these letters? The answer was no. It was up to my own judgment. But I was still skeptical.
“Look, just take them. That way you don’t have to come back if you change your mind.”
I should also tell you that it was though my good relationship with the DSS office that I agreed to psycho-educational testing. As a result, I was officially diagnosed with a learning disability, mild ADD & test anxiety, something I’d suspected for years & was relieved to make it official.
I could be as open about them as I wanted to be. I discovered that the best way things worked for me was to give the professor the letter (or not) at the beginning of the semester, usually at the end of the first class, and told them that if there were any questions from there end we could set up some kind of communication. For some I was the first student in their teaching career to request accommodations, no matter how long they’d been teaching, so it wasn’t fair to ask for an answer 5 seconds after handing them a letter.
But everyone handled the same situation differently. I had a class with another student that had similar accommodations; the only reason why I knew was from seeing him in the DSS office. He gave the professor his letter right off the bat & seeing me in the class took it upon himself to tell the professor I was “the same as him” & point in my direction.
“You are so lucky to have people take notes for you.”
I wasn’t lucky, in that moment, I was dying of embarrassment.
Obviously some professors take things like this better than others.
My math professor took it in stride & arranged for me to take tests in the math department, where the secretary gave everybody snacks. There was really no better stop gap for my test anxiety than a snack.
My New Testament professor was confused, and I’m not sure he could be bothered, so my arrangements were turned over to the section TA, who was more than accommodating.
My directing professor requested a one on one meeting in his office later in the week, which was actually a first for me. I agreed to the meeting out of curiosity, since one of my best friends always talked so highly of him. He wasn’t my adviser, and after this meeting I wish I could’ve changed that, but he took an interest in me as an individual. Yes he had a class, but it was made up of singular & different people. He asked me what my plans were. Did I want to be a director? And so on. I think I even said I was in the class just because it was required.
“I could create different assignments for you. What would you like to do?”
These letters could be my easy way out.
Did I want the easy way out?!?!
It was tempting. Really. Directing was the class I really didn’t want to take. I was equally fearful of movement class, but I felt more “game” for that than directing. However, I have to laugh because I loved directing class & dropped movement after 1 session.
I thanked him & told him I’d think about it. Of course the first thing I did was talk to my friend. She’d taken the same class the year before & gone abroad on a performance trip under his direction, she’s also one of my best friends. If anyone knew if I was really cut out for this it was her.
“It’s not nearly as difficult as you’re thinking. You can do what you want, but you have it in you to take this class, and get an A. You’ll enjoy each other.”
I saw it as a challenge. I could take the easy way out. For two years all I wanted to do was find a way to get out of this requirement. Now that I had it I had to think if I really wanted it.
I took the class with no accommodations. I learned a lot, enjoyed myself, and was in fact sad when the semester was over. I’m still glad I didn’t take my easy way out. The only one that would’ve suffered from it would have been myself.
Lesson: Just because help is available doesn’t mean you have to take it. More importantly when people are willing to bend over backwards for you really consider your motives.
*A similar version of this post first appeared on an old blog on March 14, 2012