Teaching from a wheelchair

Discussion in 'Secondary Education' started by Icestein, Nov 15, 2013.

  1. Icestein

    Icestein Rookie

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    Nov 15, 2013

    Hi everyone,

    This is my first post to the site.

    Recently, I was fired from my job as a medical physicist because of the inability to walk due to Multiple Sclerosis. As such, I need a more desk-based position.

    I am considering going back into teaching (~2002, student teaching). My question for the group is: Is it feasible / possible to teach High School in a wheelchair? Does anyone have teachers in their facility teaching out of a wheelchair? I'm trying to get a feeling as to whether this is feasible or a pipe dream that I want to do.

    FYI: I have a master's in physics and bachelor degrees in Math and Physics and have been teaching at the Community College level for 4 years+.
     
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  3. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Hi and welcome!!!

    I certainly don't see why it would be an issue.

    And that Math/Physics combo makes you a hot commodity.

    We have no one on our faculty who is wheelchair bound, but that's not to say we won't have someone next month or next year. We do have a deaf teacher.

    I think certain accomodations would have to be made. (For example, since you can't use elevators in a fire drill, your classrooms/labs would need to be on the ground floor. In many, many schools, that's a non issue.)

    I certainly think the idea is worth exploring!
     
  4. RadiantBerg

    RadiantBerg Cohort

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    I certainly think it's possible!

    You have, as Alice said, great credentials with math and physics. This gives you a lot of options.

    I will just suggest that you work in a more suburban/nicer district---some may disagree with me, but I think it would be hard to control a very rowdy inner city class in a wheelchair so I think you should limit your obstacles by working somewhere where the kids really want to learn. That said, finding the right fit is certainly a great possibility!
     
  5. DizneeTeachR

    DizneeTeachR Virtuoso

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    I would think so we had a teacher when I was in high school who had hip issues (I think) he walked with a cane, but I remember him having surgery and coming back in a wheel chair for awhile!! With today's technology you don't have to stand to write on a chalkboard for everyone to see.
    I say it shouldn't be that big of an issue!!! Good Luck!!!!
     
  6. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    It's possible...you are going to have to over come resistance by standing out in a big way however.
     
  7. 2ndTimeAround

    2ndTimeAround Phenom

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    I think it would depend upon the school and district. It wouldn't work well in my area because all of those classes are in classrooms that are on the second floor. You *could use a first floor classroom but that would change the dynamics of the department.

    Also, in all of the schools except for one you would not be able to move through the classroom unless they drastically reduced the number of students in your classes. I have a medium build and often find it quite difficult to walk through some of the classrooms in my school. There just isn't enough room in between and around the desks.

    Have you considered being an online teacher? Good luck in your decision. I hope you find something that would work out wonderfully for you.
     
  8. GemStone

    GemStone Habitué

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    I think his credentials make him stand out already.
     
  9. teacherintexas

    teacherintexas Maven

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    There was an elementary teacher who used a wheelchair at my old school. Her room had less furniture to accommodate her need for more floor space but that's the only difference I know of. Our school had ramps instead of stairs so it was a wheelchair-friendly facility. An older facility may not be feasible.
     
  10. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Just thinking about this-- math might be a lot easier than Physics, though Physics tends to have a higher demand.

    Lots of lab tables are pretty high, so that the kids can stand while doing a lab. That height factor might be an issue for you in terms of monitering safety during labs.

    It's certainly something you'll want to give some thought to, either in terms of finding a solution or emphasizing the search for a math position.

    Question: Do you have state certification to teach high school in either subject? I don't doubt that you could do the job, but most schools also require the paperwork. You might want to hit your state's education department website, look under "alternate certification" and get that ball rolling.

    Also, the idea of a nice district, or even a private school, has a lot of merit. The height differential is going to be an issue in terms of classroom management-- seeing what your kids are doing is a big part of managing them. Working in a place where the behavior is less of an issue would make this light years easier.(Oh, and the lab tables are an issue here too-- they'll prevent you from seeing what's going on. You could have a room full of kids texting and never realize it.)
     
  11. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    We had a teacher who used a wheelchair during summer school. She had had foot surgery & she couldn't walk with a walker.

    Her challenges were getting in & out of doors. Our doors automatically closed, so someone had to hold open a door for her. Getting into the bathroom was also a challenge, in part because of the turns she had to make to get into the bathroom.
     
  12. cutNglue

    cutNglue Magnifico

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    That's a potential for any workplace though.
     
  13. Go Blue!

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    I think it could work if the school was dedicated to making it work for you and honestly, if they were not, I doubt they would hire you.

    I know teaching in a wheelchair (long-term) would not work in my school. The students are not as cooperative or well-behaved as in other schools. I often have to calm down/break up potential fights, take things from students who refuse to give them up, chase kids down or stop them from walking out, etc. But, I know that not all schools are as chaotic as mine so hopefully you can find one that is a perfect fit.
     
  14. orangetea

    orangetea Connoisseur

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    I would look into Math! Physics may be difficult considering the labs that you need to perform, but I'm not sure. I think it's VERY useful as a math teacher to be knowledgeable about Physics as well.

    In addition, you are probably going to need your students to help you out with certain tasks, such as getting up to pick up exams/homework, pulling down the overhead screen, etc. However, most students are very willing!

    I don't see why a school would have too much trouble giving you a classroom on the ground floor.

    I disagree that you need more credentials to make up for using a wheelchair. Having a background in math and physics makes you extremely marketable.
     
  15. Icestein

    Icestein Rookie

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    I really appreciate all the feedback.

    These comments are all very helpful. I think it gives me a positive feeling about going through in the teaching thing.
     
  16. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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  17. JustMe

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    Math and science classes and labs are upstairs here. We have an elevator which students in wheelchairs use. I don't see why you'd HAVE to be downstairs if students in wheelchairs take classes upstairs. Is there a law mandating you be downstairs?

    I know our science classrooms are TINY because they're attached to larger labs. That could be an issue.

    But overall, I don't see it as major obstacle in high school.
     
  18. 2ndTimeAround

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    In my school it is the responsibility of teachers to remove wheelchair bound students during a fire drill or actual fire. That requires having adults strong enough to physically carry a student and his/her chair down stairs as other students are trying to get down themselves. It is a major issue and not a responsibility I would accept. As such, students that are in wheelchairs long term are assigned teachers on the lower floors and we have teachers float into lower classrooms when needed.

    It would be a huge obstacle in my school. You would have to find two strong and willing teachers to carry you down the stairs at least once a month. Your class and their classes would be unattended during that time. I also imagine it would be uncomfortable for the teacher in the wheelchair to be seen as incapable during that time.
     
  19. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    I think it would be important to get into a private school. I have found those more understanding. For example, I have a lung disease and never go outside for fire drills. Someone takes my class. I go out maybe the first time but then don't, especially in winter. Things like that tend to be more likely to be swept under the rug in some private schools.
     
  20. RadiantBerg

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    My school has one floor only (as do many others) so here it would be a non-issue.
     
  21. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    Do you always know when your fire drills are? What would happen if it wasn't a drill? Just asking.
     
  22. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    The concern is less with fire drills than actual fires.
     
  23. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    A few people have mentioned that it might be best to avoid a "rough" school. I think that's sort of silly, honestly. I teach in a rough school. I never use physicality to address behaviors or handle situations. I don't chase students or physically block them from entering or leaving my room. I don't see why being in a wheelchair would be any sort of problem whatsoever, provided that you could still maneuver around the room and get close to students for help or for addressing behaviors with proximity.
     
  24. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    I think that in a less structured enviornment, the kids might be more likely to take advantage of the height differential.
     
  25. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    In my school we get a heads up before all fire drills but we only have 1 to 3 a year.
     
  26. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    Is this in response to my post?

    I think that there is probably some truth to this. I also think, though, that "rough" doesn't have to mean "unstructured". My classes are structured. Students can take advantage of all sorts of things, wheelchair or otherwise. With strong classroom management and a good rapport with students, I think that it becomes a non-issue.
     
  27. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    We never get a heads up. Besides that, the alarm gets pulled or set off probably 1-2 times per year as a prank, malfunction, or actual issue (like smoking in the bathroom).
     
  28. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    Ours malfunctions so much, truth be told, we just ignore it. Once it starts ringing, someone in the office will make an announcement that the alarm is either malfunctioning or a real problem.
     
  29. kpa1b2

    kpa1b2 Aficionado

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    It is a state law that we have to have so many. I thought it was 10 a year, but I'm not sure. I know that we had to have 4 fire drills before Thanksgiving, I think it was an actual date. The rest are in the spring.
     
  30. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    In my district, our Union and Admin advises teachers not to break up fights; we should call for help or a "pick up." Yet, teachers have gotten into trouble when the kids report that the teacher did not try to stop a fight and most of time, a student gets it on video - which makes the teacher look even worse. At my school last year, a second year teacher got in a lot of trouble because students shot video of him not trying to break up a fight - he kind of stood at the door calling for help - and they brought it to the Principal hoping to get the teacher fired.

    Not to mention, there have been times when I was afraid if I didn't try to stop the fight one of the kids would have been seriously injured and I don't want to deal with the consequences of that. I know I'm taking a chance, but I've seen kids just straight loose it. I have also been in meetings with parents who were upset because they heard/saw that the teacher did nothing to break up a fight and their child was beat up/hurt. Lose-lose all around.
     
  31. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I'm sure its a law everywhere ....
     
  32. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I understand your position. Mine is that I will never physically intervene in a fight. Period.
     
  33. Go Blue!

    Go Blue! Connoisseur

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    I also understand and respect yours.

    Its also nice to have other people on here that teach in the same type of environment that I do. It helps to hear (read) that there are other people dealing with the same stuff I am dealing with especially since most of my teacher friends do not work in Baltimore and when I tell them stuff, they think I'm crazy.:lol:
     
  34. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    I understand what you're saying. 100%. As much as they might try and want to understand, people who have never worked in this sort of environment just don't get it. It's a creature all its own. I certainly don't fault anyone for not understanding it (even when they think they do), but I do try to take everything they say with a huge grain of salt.
     
  35. HistTchr

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    We used to have a PE/Health teacher who was in a motorized wheelchair. He never had a problem getting around, since our building is completely handicapped accessible.
     
  36. sue35

    sue35 Habitué

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    We always have fire drills the second Thursday of each month. Also, the principal comes over the PA system to say we are going to have a drill. If we ever have one other than that I go out. It's only the planned ones where I don't.
     
  37. futureteach24

    futureteach24 Companion

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    I'm sorry to hear about your job=( You have some excellent credentials! We don't have any teachers in a wheel chair but we have a sub that only has 1 leg and moves around on crutches. As far as I know, people haven't given him any trouble. The only thing I would say is look for teaching jobs where you have your own classroom. I am currently a traveling teacher, meaning I move from class to class (and at times floor to floor). Other than that, I see no issue. Good luck!
     
  38. Bridgebuilder

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    I'm not sure where you are located, but in the USA (and Canada) there are laws that mandate employers to try to accommodate various disabilities (The American Disabilities Act - ADA)

    It also applies to educators. There's a good piece on this within the context of education called Accommodating Educators with Disabilities at: OOPS, sorry, I'm new and not allowed to post links, so if you do a search for the title, that should work.

    I'm not sure if it will help, but it seems relevant.
     
  39. TeacherNY

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    To be hired as teachers at my school we had to pass a physical given by a local medical center. Anyone in a wheelchair wouldn't have passed. If the district you apply to doesn't require this then it shouldn't be a problem for you.
     
  40. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    That seems illegal. Is it a special type of school or something?
     
  41. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

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    We have a required physical as well, but I don't think a person in a wheelchair would "fail" that. I think notes might be made as to what he or she couldn't do...
     

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