Gold Stars Don’t Stick
Updated: Jan 18, 2021
I don’t know what grade I was in, all I remember was a chore chart filled with gold stars and an assistant teacher named Mr. Tommy. He looked like a Mr. Tommy. He used to wear a vest, a bow tie, thick acrylic-framed glasses and his hair combed over. I remember we were too young to have a bow-tie-wearing teacher who firmly believed in conditioning children. Pavlov had nothing on him. He LIVED by this gold-star chart (probably because it was his only contribution to the classroom). The chart was law and we were rewarded when we followed the law with a tiny, shimmering, loosely-adhesive gold star sticker. Obviously, none of the other kids gave two shits so they never added up to the weekly star-quota that they needed to get a prize at the end of the week. Meanwhile, I was determined to get the rubber flower eraser that was too heavy for me to use in the first place as a prize for getting all my gold stars by the end of the week. The only thing in my way was one of the criteria for
receiving a star - cleaning up after everyone. In other words, when story time was over at the library, the person who picked up the pillows that smelled like toddler ass off the carpet would get a gold star. “Well, Mr. Tommy, how the fuck do you want ME to pick up the pillows off the floor when I’m strapped to my chair?!” is what pipsqueak me used to think. I did get the flower eraser, and realized how cheap it was, but that’s not the point. The moral of this story is the following: I always got four stars by the end of the week instead of five because I could never pick up the smelly pillows and it was obvious that the assistant teacher knew that. That being said, he never adapted that requirement to fit my needs. Instead, he just dismissed it. It’s been that way my whole life...society doesn’t adapt to my needs as a disabled woman, it just dismisses them as a whole.
Lately I’ve been thinking about Mr. Tommy. Not like that...ew. But because I’m back home in Puerto Rico, and I’m back in school. I’m taking some prerequisite courses before applying for my master’s program, and for some reason I decided to do this during a pandemic (oh wait, no. I remember why I did this - BECAUSE I’M STUCK IN MY FUCKING HOUSE) And it’s been hell! Not because of the level of difficulty within the courses, but because once again, the system doesn’t give a fuuuuck about the disabled community. Oh, I forgot to mention, it’s all online. So I can talk about how I’ve never seen my professor’s faces, or the fact that they don’t give lectures, or the fact that they don’t answer their emails, I’m only convinced that they’re real people because I took the initiative to stalk them on social media. (Every old person has Facebook here.) Actually, one of my professors told us that the best way to reach him was through Facebook messenger -- talk about professionalism. Instead I’m going to talk about the following: When I was at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD, for those of you who haven’t read my blog) I had little hiccups with the people in counseling services who also dealt with disability and reasonable accommodations and shit. For more on that saga - feel free to read my book: https://www.amazon.com/Diva-Disability-Unforeseen-Drinking-Game/dp/1641118172/ref=sr_1_2?crid=1HC79S925QCWO&dchild=1&keywords=glow+rivera+casanova&qid=1606700892&sprefix=glow+river%2Caps%2C957&sr=8-2
Hope you enjoyed my casual plug - I digress, something that I cannot criticize about this
department at that particular institution was that based on the premise that 50% of the student body identified as having a disability (which made my parents twitch in disapproval when told) they managed to measure every disability differently, based on the needs of each student. And every disability was treated with respect, regardless of what it was, AS IT SHOULD BE IN MY OPINION. (I know I’m using a lot of caps - it’s been a rough semester). On the other hand, I don’t what I expected - I totally forgot that I was moving back to the same island who denied me federal funds for school because my goals in life were unreachable - AKA I was too disabled to graduate in their opinion. This was back when I was applying for college in the first place. Look at me now bitch I have a diploma!
Storytime:k in the present, all of my current professors are giving everyone in my class an extended two hours to finish a test because I, the disabled student, have reasonable accommodations of extended time. I dictate everything to an individual who doesn’t know a shit of what’s going on in my head (because, you know, she’s not telepathic)...let’s just say it takes a little longer for me to take a test than it does the average student. And yet, ALL of these fuckers have an extended two hours...how is that an accommodation for the disabled student??? Icing on the fucking cake, it’s still not enough time for me. Have you ever dictated a math problem? It’s traumatizing. The fucking timer keeps going and next thing you know there’s only two minutes left and you’re trying to find the word “bracket” in your head which just comes out as “you know, the square parentheses” and your assistant looks at you like “what the fuck?” but even if she knows what you’re talking about she can’t say it because it’s a TEST! By the time the word “bracket” comes to mind, the test timer has reached 0:00 and you finished the test just in fucking time.
Did I proofread or re-check my answers? No. No time.
The worst part was that the professor had the audacity to reply the following: it went something along the lines of, “I usually give an hour and a half for this test, but since you and another disabled student are in my class, I have given everyone in the class two hours. How much time do you need?” I wanted to reply, “there is no fucking way an able-bodied student can do this statistic test in an hour and a half. I’m smart. I know. It cannot be done. So stop trying to make me feel dumb.” But once again, that is not the point. The point is this ignorant motherfucker decided that this was an appropriate accommodation for me (because all the sudden, he’s a doctor who knows my needs). More importantly, this ignorant motherfucker, yes I said it twice, decided that this stranger/disabled student that is also in the class, should be measured equally to me, because if he is disabled and not complaining, then why am I? You can imagine how I replied to that email. I described my disability thoroughly to see if maybe he could scavenge for a clue and understand where I was coming from. But in the meantime, trying to figure out how to write the email, I came across various definitions for reasonable accommodation, and the underlying tone of all of the definitions were from the perspective of the able-bodied person. It’s like able-bodied people believe that we’re out to get them. Like Chucky, or Jason. What I’m trying to say is everyone seems to be worried about disabled people having the upper hand...no. We’re disabled…… It’s like society keeps saying, “Bless you, defenseless child” while simultaneously muttering under their breath, “Cheating whore” and not in the fun way. So yes, as a member of the disabled community, the wide-ranged disabled community, if I might add, we are confused. Pick one! And since we’re talking about this, when you pick one, can you measure us all based on, get this...what we all need? Because that disabled student he was talking about, odds are he had ADHD, which, is totally fine and valid, but COMPLETELY different from my situation -- he probably doesn’t need a scribe or time to use the chupa, meanwhile, I probably don’t need a timer reminding me to focus every 15 minutes.
The point of this blog post, to be honest, isn’t for you, I’m not really telling you a story or teaching you a lesson - if you learned something, kudos, gold star for you. I’m trying to remind myself why I’m going back to school. Because lately I’ve been getting flashbacks about the stress hives I used to get while justifying my rights to a bitch with a clipboard. But I guess the reason is the following, I need to educate myself so I can educate you. So I can educate future Mr. Tommy’s and show them that the best way to give purpose to a child with a disability is to measure them as an individual. If I didn’t pick up the crusty, foul pillows off the floor, then alter it for me and tell me to supervise my peers when they’re cleaning up or maybe I can take them home and wash them for the class - lord knows, they needed it. Let’s face it - it’s not rocket science! You just have to ask the individual, “what do you need?” and if you’re willing to put your pride aside, ignorant motherfucker, you should have no problem accommodating any future disabled student. I know most of you are probably going to tell me to report him...I’ll keep you posted. All I know is I definitely won’t be getting a gold star from him this semester.