The Other Teacher...
In all the time I have written this column, I have failed to explain why the name of it is
"AccessScience: Notes From the 'Other' Teacher." It is time that I (finally) get around to
explaining the significance of the title.
"AccessScience" depicts the dream that the average, everyday science classroom would be accessible
to every student that enters it. It is a dream that each student would not only be able to get in
the doorway and find a place to sit, but that each student would find a community of learners to
belong to, learn with and learn from. "AccessScience" represents a dream that ALL students would
be able to "act like scientists", wondering about the world around them and looking for answers to
the questions they find.
"Notes From the 'Other' Teacher" is an acknowledgement of my somewhat radical, flower child side,
that knows that sometimes the best teachers are not those that have a teaching certificate, but
those that take the time to get to know others and can share the wisdom that will build character,
as well as knowledge. I hope that each of us has had a "teacher" who has been able to not only
teach us skills, but also wisdom that we need for life. My grandmother was such a woman for me.
Grandma was a stubborn, tough as nails farm woman, who weathered the depression and World War II,
as well as family crises like alcoholism, an accident that left a child disabled and losing a son
in Vietnam. She taught me to cook, sew my own clothes, pluck a chicken and work the garden, but
also how to cope with the unexpected events of life and solve my own problems. After her passing,
I have realized that the most important things she taught me were the "other" things: things that
have me asking "what would grandma do now" when life gets tough.
My goal, my dream, is to be that "other teacher" for my children. I want to be the one who has the
insight to push for independence that may drive me crazy right now, but will result in a better
life for them in the future, when I cannot be there to take care of them.
But I am also the "other" teacher for you. As the "other" teacher, I also give you, the "real"
teacher, a glimpse of the future that I see for my children and others who, like them, have
disabilities. We talk together of inclusion, teaching methods and adaptations but as we talk, I pass
on some of the wisdom that will be needed for life.
I have not only been teaching you the "cooking and sewing" of the teaching world: accessibility,
adaptations, inclusion; but along the way have been filling your mind with a vision of what the future
can hold for all the students in your classroom: successful and even passionate interaction with the
world of math and science that surrounds them. I have been challenging your assumptions about the
abilities of people with disabilities to be the helpers, the leaders, the information givers,
instead of always the ones who receive the helping and giving.
But I have not been the only "other" teacher you have had. In your interactions with SERCH, you have
met many "other" teachers: scientists who are passionate about probing the mysteries of the universe,
teachers who are incredibly gifted at seeing the potential in everyone they meet, others who are able
to take technology and make it work wonders for their students, and informal educators for whom access
for all is a consuming passion.
Though you may not have noticed it, the "other" teachers were at work, building in you the wisdom
that you will need for a future of success with the students you teach. Now, the cat is out of the bag,
take time to ponder what the "other" teachers were really teaching you! It was more than tips and
techniques, more than knowledge of facts: it was a passion to adapt, to improve, to see every child
learn and succeed. It is time now, for you to become not just the "real" teacher, but also the "other"
teacher, passing on the wisdom for life that your students need to succeed.
ABOUT THIS COLUMN
SERCH is excited to bring you a new monthly column that focuses on children with disabilities and the
math/science curriculum. Children are all different; children with disabilities may have learning
differences that require a re-thinking of the usual methods of teaching science and math. But children
with disabilities can grow up to get higher education and hold jobs in science in science and math fields.
This column is dedicated to the proposition that success in science and math is possible, and is dedicated to
making that success possible by helping parents and school staff learn about the many ways to achieve learning
for students with disabilities.
This column is written by Robin Hurd, who is a mother of 4 boys, ages 13, 11 and 8 year old twins. The
combination of disabilities at her house includes non-verbal physical impairments, sensory issues, Autistic
spectrum disorder, Tourettes syndrome, auditory processing disorder, anxiety disorder as well as talented and
gifted. In spite of this list, Robin, David and the boys enjoy life and learning to the fullest! Robin serves
as parent support liaison for the AAC Institute, a non-profit organization supporting people who communicate
using alternatives to speech. She writes a monthly column for parents at the AAC Institute, moderates a
parents' on-line group, and is available for support to individual parents. If you would like to contact
Robin about this column, you may e-mail her at