Education Chat

Willing and Disabled

Norma Jean Taylor, a veteran educator suffering from a degenerative disease, took questions on the challenges of teaching with a disability.

Willing and Disabled

March 23, 2006


Norma Jean Taylor, a veteran English and drama teacher in Kansas City who in 2004 was diagnosed with spinocerebellar degenerative syndrome.

Scott J. Cech (Moderator):
Good afternoon, and welcome to Teacher Magazine’s Live Chat.

Joining us online from Kansas City, Missouri, is Norma Jean Taylor, who’s taught English and drama at Blue Ridge Christian School there for more than two decades. The 54-year-old’s use of her limbs is slowly but irreversibly eroding—the result of spinocerebellar degenerative syndrome, with which she was diagnosed in 2004. She can still move her arms and legs, but they’ve long since gone numb, and she’s lost the strength to stand and the dexterity to write legibly.

The disease hasn’t sapped her love of teaching, though it has forced her to radically alter her approach. The increasing debilitation has also forced her administrators, her colleagues, and her students into unfamiliar roles. Worse, it’s smuggled a load of unwelcome, unspoken questions into the tightly knit school—ones most teachers never have to face: What would you do if all you wanted to do was teach, and you knew that one day, you’d find yourself literally unable to do it? How much would your administrators support you? After a certain point, would students’ education begin to suffer? How much disability is too much?

I’m Scott Cech, managing editor of Teacher Magazine, and I’ll be moderating this discussion with Taylor on teaching against time and overcoming the challenges of disease in the classroom. We’ve given her a head start answering questions already submitted, but there’s still plenty of time to jump in, so let’s get right to it.

Question from Carolyn Southall, Aspiring Administrator, Charleston County School District:
What are Ms. Taylor’s plans regarding her employment?

At what point does she feel her illness will impair her ability to teach effectively?

What administrative measures are being taken to ensure that student learning is not being impeded?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Thank you, Carolyn; you’ll make a good administrator! My plans are as follows.

If offered a contract to teach three--no more than four--classes at Blue Ridge next year and continue piloting the Accreditation Process, I will sign it and serve another year. Blue Ridge offers yearly contracts only with no tenure or other security, so plans are on a year-by-year basis. If that is not God’s plan, I will certainly be interested in what He has in mind!

I’m going to switch the order of your questions here. Administrative measures, per se, are standard as for any other teacher. We are a small school, and thus tightly knit. Regular observations, feedback, parental contact, and student visits help ensure that student learning is not being impeded.

I would imagine, although I haven’t asked, that our Academic Dean looks a bit more carefully at my weekly lesson plans to make sure that I haven’t done something goofy such as decide to teach students the same chapter of a book six different times. I have been involved in helping set the standards of assessment for units, so I would also imagine that the Headmaster and Academic Dean check to make sure I’m using multiple assessments to reach all modalities, and it’s highly possible that while I’m teaching, the office intercom is on so that discussion quality can monitored. I hope so--those kids are bright and deserve the recognition!

Ours is a school where we know all our students by name, and many of our students are second-generation. We have a faculty who cares about the students themselves, and when we’re “stuck” on how to accomplish a goal, we’re free to go find the person we think would best help us come up with a new way to achieve that goal. I work closely with our Discovery Therapist for my LD students and frequent visit with the Headmaster about the progress of various students. He is in and out of classrooms frequently, as is the Academic Dean, and very little gets by him. I really haven’t discussed specific measures with him, but since I serve as the head of a department, I’m fairly sure I’m right in what I’m saying here.

Now, at what point does Miss (sorry--Ms. to me always reminds me of the abbreviation for morphine or for manuscript) Taylor feel that her illness will impair her ability to teach effectively? Well, let’s get rid of that verb, all right? I can’t plan my future based on a point at when I “feel” my illness will impair my teaching. In our non-specific culture of today, that is a dangerous route. So let’s try it this way: at what point will I KNOW it’s time to go?

Well, a big clue would be no contract, of course, and if that happens, it happens. So far, my observation evaluations have all been highly complimentary, and I have received no verbal warnings or written notices that I am losing my grip--oops, bad pun. At this time, with the four classes and the accreditation process, which allows me to work at home in the afternoons, things are going fairly well. The progression of the disease, however, is inexorable, and even though I fight it with every weapon I have, I know I cannot win.

When grading papers, which is so time intensive, becomes overly onerous, that might be the kicker. Right now, as my hands grow less reliable, developing a reliable grading system is interesting. I am very grateful for Dragon Naturally Speaking Software and a wireless printer; I don’t think I would survive without them. My students and I are experimenting with email, and this next quarter, I’m going to experiment with emailing/editing comments back to them and see how that goes.

Energy is another key. This disease is enervating, and I’ve given up a lot of life so that I can teach. I’m writing about my forced march (this is NOT a journey) into the world of suddenly seated people, and I may discover that one day someone actually wants to publish my stories of what it’s like to conquer the handicapped stall at the Wal Mart ladies bathroom. If so, I might come to a point where I can say, “Enough; I can do no more.”

If God enables financially, a logical process would be to move to part-time rather than full-time. I am investigating Social Security Disability, of course, but the mills of the government grind slowly, although the people who work for this department are some of the nicest, most helpful indviduals I have had the privilege of meeting. Health insurance is a big consideration, too, but that’s another issue.

Common sense is the most obvious key. I think that if people suddenly start asking me to repeat everything I say, and if my hands shake so badly I look like I’m tryiing to emulate a hummingbird, it’s time to go, don’t you?

Thanks for your question; good luck with your aspirations!

Question from Debbie Arthur, Preservice Teacher:
How have others within the school community provided support? Has that support been voluntary or under a sense of obligation?

What have your students done to support your special needs? What has the district office said about your continuing in the position you currently hold?

Norma Jean Taylor:
The support that I have received has been voluntary. John Jakes, our Bible teacher, carries a big load where I am concerned. At this moment his wife Amy is typing my answers. The school secretaries have a network system organized if I have an emergency and need medical care. They have done this all on their own.

My students mother me. It is as simple as that. This year they call themselves my posse. In a Christian school we don’t have a district office, but the church that supports our school regularly prays for me, and the senior pastor’s wife has even taken me to physical therapy at times. I think everyone does his best to help me maintain an illusion of independence. :)

Question from William Wallace, CDR USN Retired:
I find it interesting that the school where Norma Jean teaches is a Christian School. Do you think a secular state school would have been as supportive?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Greetings, Cdr. Wallace. My brother did two tours of duty in the Navy in Vietnam!

I have no way of answering your question via experience. By choice and conviction, I teach at a Christian school, so my suppositions are all I can offer.

In a public school, with unions, I would imagine that the situation would have to be legally far more formal. Paul, my boss, didn’t go around reading the ADA regulations to me this summer, because he was too busy kneeling by my wheelchair fixing my seatbelt latch. I would hope, however, that the situation would not be based on the secular nature of the school but rather on the willingness of the teacher and administration to work together to find the best way to make a bad situation as good as possible.

Comment from Nichole Matanane, Teacher, Ka Waihona o Ka Na’auao P.C.S.:
No question just a comment for the guest, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” You have a stong will and I commend and admire your motivation and desire. I believe with as much passion as you exhibit, your path will definitely show itself and will be what’s best for you and for your students. Much Aloha to you!

Question from Renee Norton, Parent from Massachusetts:
While I believe all children benefit tremendously from having a teacher that loves to teach, is it fair to the students, especially those that are struggling academically, to have a teacher that can no longer do his/her job?

The role of the student is to learn, the role of the teacher is to teach. If a teacher can’t speak - how can she pass on new concepts to her students? If she can’t write on the whiteboard, or use the computer, or walk around the classroom to check student progress, etc., the students aren’t receiving the education they deserve.

The fact that all the faculty love this woman and try their best to pitch in and help clearly indicates she can no longer do her job. If a person needs glasses, he/she can’t be a pilot in the military, if a man is only five and a half feet tall, he isn’t going to be a professional basketball player, etc. I think everyone would do Ms. Taylor a greater service if they tried to figure out what alternatives are available to her in the education field that are possible even with her increasing disabilities.

This shouldn’t be about the right of a teacher to teach just because she still wants to. Emotions should play no part in this. The rights of her students to learn from someone who is capable of teaching them should be the prime concern. Does Ms. Taylor really feel she is being as good a teacher to her students now as she was ten years ago, five years ago? If she honestly loves her students and wants what is best for them - why has she continued to teach? Why has she forced the administration into this uncomfortable situation of having to decide? Americans have really got to get over this belief that we are all “entitled” to do whatever we want.

I do have great sympathy for Ms. Taylor, but the reality is she wouldn’t ever have been hired as a teacher twenty years ago if she had had the physical problems she exhibits today. Why? She wouldn’t have been capable of doing the job. Period.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Renee, your comments are really great, and I thank you for for your questions. First, I concur that the concept of education is reciprocal. It is, of course, also intentional. Let me try to address your concerns in the order you wrote them.

I have a feeling that you’re picturing a person who wheels in, slumps in her power chair, and garbles and grunts her way through some unintelligible commands while pointing to the whiteboard or computer and expecting the students to figure out what the poor wretch wants. While I admit that I did picture myself somewhere, bereft and drooling in a corner, the day the neurologist broke the big news to me, the reality is that I am reasonably articulate.

I still command enough vocal ability to control a group of active teenagers and explain nebulous concepts in creative ways. The speech problems I have at this time have been ameliorated through intensive speech therapy. The major deficit areas were perseverations on sibilant consonants, forced hard onsets with certain vowels, and occasionally, when overly tired, ataxic bursts of sound, which would be somewhat like a minimal stutter.

While a time will come when my speech problems worsen, at the present, I can still explain, say, the difference between a metonymy and a synechdoche without too much trouble. (I have never, however, been able to say the word synthesizer without pausing to say it syllable by syllable; do you have any words like that?)

Writing on the whiteboard is difficult for me simply because of fine motor skills. I am not unable to do so, but I find that using either PowerPoint or Corel Presentations is much easier for me. One of my dreams would be to afford a SmartBoard and an Airliner (I think that’s the name) Wireless Slate which would interface with my laptop. My medical expenses and costs of living are much too high to afford that at this time, however. My students simply are willing, when we’re listing things such as due dates or reminders, to take on that sort of task for me. And because I drop markers, they like to make a game out of catching them.

Now, as for the computer: I’m a little unclear about why you think I can’t use it. My students do hook my laptop up to the Dell Projector so that I can display the notes for the day, because they know that fine motor movements are very difficult for me. Because they are very courteous and considerate, they often ask me if I would like them to hold the cordless mouse and just tell them when to click it to change slides. They like pushing buttons (pun intended). Since I teach without notes, this isn’t really necessary, but it’s fun for them, and I really appreciate their very good manners and courtesy. And, frankly, since my hands ARE clumsy, there are days when I am very grateful for their consideration.

True, I can’t walk around the classroom, but I have the desks are arranged in a half circle, so monitoring progress is not a problem. My largest class is a class of eighteen students. During writing conferences or other one-on-one activities, we meet at my big desk, which is arranged to face the class so that I can talk to the one student and monitor the rest of the class as well.

Yes, the faculty has pitched in and helped me. I certainly am grateful. When Jamie (Tripp) was coaching volleyball, however, and was gone on sports trips, I reciprocated and taught some of her classes--and was thoroughly impressed with my former student’s students. At BRCS, collegiality is expressed in the concept of each one of us doing what we can to serve each other; thus, when John Jakes is gone, I am more than happy to fill in for him as best I can during the hours I am free. Because much of our teaching is cross-curricular, this is of great benefit to the students as well.

You’re right. It’s important to figure out what alternatives are available to me in the education field. That’s why my headmaster cut my teaching load from seven classes to four and handed me the privilege of leading our school in the ACSI Accreditation Process. As I explore this new area, I am growing more and more excited at the ways I can use my years of experience to compile our curriculum guide and steer the self-study next year. We’ll see.

Perhaps it will reassure you for my students if I explain that even last year, when I missed so many days, my students’ AP English Language & Composition pass average was 83.3 percent; the national average was somewhat less. My AP English Lit pass average was 50 percent; again, the national average was somewhat less. Our ACT scores are high in the verbal areas on a regular basis, and our students report that they are more than prepared for college because of our writing-intensive curriculum. My ninth graders have written many types of paragraphs, several five-paragraph essays with specific thesis statements, a sonnet, a first-person short story, and are now embarking on an in-depth character analysis. Soon they will each be writing a psalm, using antithetic, synthetic, and synonymous parallelism so that they can understand the difference between Eastern and Western tradtional poetry, and they will do well. OH--now that we’ve discovered that as long as I don’t try to walk at all, I stay out of hospitals because I don’t fall and don’t get hurt, I haven’t missed nearly as many days this year, for which I am eternally grateful.

Do I feel that I am as good a teacher now as I was ten or five years ago? In English, yes; in fact, I think I am better. In drama, as I said in the article, no. I still think it hurts the class because I can no longer physically demonstrate how to throw someone over my shoulder but have to explain verbally and show videos. Yes, I can still teach them verbal expression and guide them to find emotional characterization; yes, I can still get them through the rudiments of dramatic interpretation. But I can no longer show them the difference between, say, a mincing walk and a sashay, and finding the words and descriptions takes a lot of time and energy.

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Let me reassure you again by sharing the fact that I serve on a yearly contract with no tenure or security of any kind. Thus, I cannot force the administration of Blue Ridge to do anything. Only God Himself holds my future. The only concept of entitlement I hold is that He has deemed me worthy of being His child through His grace and His grace alone.

Your comments are thought-provoking and I appreciate them very much. Our country’s children need concerned parents who want nothing but the best education possible for their children; I share your passion. Thank you also for your sympathy. I am confident you are sincere. As far as whether I would have been hired twenty years ago--well, we’ll never really know, will we?

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
Ms Taylor, have you been in touch with the state of Missouri’s Tech Act Project? Just in case, their info can be found below. Missouri Assistive Technology Project 4731 South Cochise, Suite 114 Independence, MO 64055-6975 Director: Diane Golden, Ph.D. Phone: 816-373-5193 Phone: 800-647-8557 (In State) TTY: 800-647-8558 (In State) TTY: 816-373-9315 Fax: 816-373-9314 Email: Web:

Norma Jean Taylor:
Karen, may God pour blessings abundantly upon you! No, I’ve never heard of this, and it’s even in the KC area. Thank you; I shall investigate yet another alley. If we had time, though, I’d tell you about a social worker who told me about how to grow a maidenhair fern when I asked for resource information. :-)

Question from Melinda Morrissey, Director Arts for Learning, Northeastern Illinoiss University, Chicago Teachers’ Center:
What have your students learned due to your disability that they might not have otherwise? Did your experience with disability strengthen your teaching in any way e.g. lessons in human cooperation, problem solving?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Once, not too long ago, I would probably have answered you carelessly. Because this disease has been wending its insidious path through my cerebellum, my students have actually been more aware than I of the fact that I even HAD a disability. Because of their care and concern, they protected me from serious injury even during the days when I was walking but unable to stand without support (this honestly did not seem important to me). I was so occupied with the tasks at hand that I never paid much attention the the fact that whenever I was going up stairs or standing on a stage or making quick turns, strong teenagers were always at my side.

Now that I’m in on the secret, too, I see that they’ve learned a lot about how to anticipate problems and prevent them. That spills over into their daily lives as well. For example, my College Prep class recently made their own version of Beowulf, and as they wrote the script, organized the film shots, planned the costumes, got the horses and weapons aligned, I was amazed to hear them say things like, “When Beowulf rides up to the lake, who’s going to be there to make sure that none of the little kids miss seeing it but can’t get hurt?” Another comment was, “When Beowulf and Grendel go at it, since they’re using martial arts, we really need to talk to the little kids first and slow walk through it with them to show them that it’s all fake. We need to show them that the arm is fake, too. We want them to know it’s just a story and not be scared of Jacob [Grendel].”

This experience has strengthened my teaching simply because I’ve had to say, over and over again, “OK, people. Here’s the goal; here’s what I WANT to have happen. Once upon a time, I would have done it this way, but tell me if you think there’s a better way.” Once they finish suggesting nap time instead of tracing the allusion pattern in Eliot’s “Journey of the Magi,” they have amazing solutions, and the classes are far more dynamic than they would have been if they had been done “my way.”

Humbling is bitter on the tongue, but oh, so sweet when the fruit ripens and the children become the adults. While we have not created Utopia and these young people are not perfect, they are more cognizant of the needs around them and they are able to meet those needs creatively and unobtrusively. Even more, they seem to enjoy doing so.

Comment from John Neel, retired Chair, Educational Policy Studies, Georgia State University:
I would think that anyone as giving as Ms Taylor would know best when it was time to quit. She would take her own needs and the needs of her students into her thoughts and make the decision for the benefit of the students. Shouldn’t we all support that?

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
Does Ms Taylor use Assistive Technology to access her computer or other classroom technology?

Norma Jean Taylor:
I use Dragon Naturally Speaking software at home, along with a wireless printer. At school, I’ve tried to use the voice-activated software, but it’s impractical, even during my planning period, because I have an open-door policy. I dream of a SmartBoard and an Airliner Wireless Slate (I probably have the terms wrong) and am investigating a larger keyboard, but with extremely high medical bills, that’s out of my realm right now.

Question from Deborah K. Lester, School Psychologist, Purchase Line High School:
If we provide students with instructional assistants in order to learn, why not provide an IA to the teacher in order to teacher? It would allow her to continue to be a contributing member to society, which is what we all strive for. I am sure it would be less expensive to provide her with an assistant than it would be to have her go on disability. In a day and age when many are content not to work, we should support her any way we can as she tries to teach.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Deborah, you must be one of the kindest people in the world! Thank you so much. In a dream world, I would have an assistant who would handle the “paper shuffle” and the onerous parts of teaching, such as creating the Powerpoint shows and doing the preliminary research for a unit, but in our Christian school, we don’t have those kinds of funds. We are walking--or in my case, wheeling--by faith, not by sight in this shaky economy as we seek to provide the best education possible to our wonderful students, even if they DO insist on chewing gum in class sometimes.

Question from Cheryl Stewart, student, University of Phoenix:
I have severe rheumatoid arthritis and am wheelchair-bound. I am currently student teaching at a public school, after having taught at the college level for 11 years. So far, I have not requested any accommodations, although I can see where I will have to when I have my own class.

In this era of budget constraints, how much resistance might I face when I tell potential employers, e.g., that I need the technology to do my lectures, etc on Powerpoint? Realistically, will I have a difficult time being hired?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Student teaching is worth it; really, it is. Good luck! It must be an interesting transverse time warp for you after 11 years on the college level.

I don’t really have an answer for you about provided technology. I use PowerPoint, but my projector came from a designated gift, and I bought my own laptop and software.

Actually, that’s pretty much how we handle things. My closest friend and housemate, Pauletta Salmon, directs the LD program at another Christian school, along with handling the house, the laundry, the yard, and most of my care so that I can be “independent.” We don’t make much money, but when we see a need come up, we eat rice and beans until we can afford to buy whatever it is. Pauletta can do more with less than anyone I know when she sets her mind to it.

Realistically, I don’t know about the difficulty in hiring. Again, health care costs will be an obvious, albeit silent, elephant in the interview room.

With your experience, I’d say you have a very good chance, but if you want to teach and the only thing keeping you from it is the needed technology, then could you simply save until you can buy your own projector? Surely that’s not illegal in a public school, is it?

I will be praying for you as you begin your interview process. If I can help in any way, please let me know.

Question from Wendy Harbour, Doctoral Student, Harvard University:
I am disgusted by the fact that the “blurb” for this chat session focused on the “help” Taylor needs instead of her rights and “accommodations” guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Could Taylor please talk about who is providing accommodations and what she is receiving? Is she having any difficulty with this and could it be indicative of larger problems for teachers with disabilities?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Hi, Wendy! Thank you so much for your concern! I didn’t read the “blurb"; I’ll have to go find it. What help do I need? I certainly could use a van lift which would give me personal independence! :-)

OK, sorry. Yes, Taylor can try to talk about who is providing accommodations and what she is receiving. First, however, you have to understand that this was a whole new situation to all of us. The disease crept up slowly, and as I’ve said, my students knew long before any of us (including me) that something was seriously wrong. Thus, they made accommodations on their own which, as I think of the many times I stood on a stage, probably saved me from a broken neck.

When I joined the ranks of the suddenly seated, I didn’t even know much about life in a wheelchair. While I was in the hospital, a social worker whirled in and told me that I was going to go to rehab, and I thought I was being punished for no reason. Bear in mind that (this really is true) in the Emergency Department, they had to explain what they meant by recreational drugs, and I gave them a long, stern lecture on such a ridiculous term. No, I don’t get out much.

After rehab, I was sent home with home health care, and another social worker told me I should wear glitter and that Buddha was born before Jesus (such was her help). So I decided that I didn’t need much more in the terms of home health care; however, then a lovely therapist came and did a school visit with me.

We attempted to decide which bathroom I would use. After much experimentation, we developed a system which seemed as if it would work--that was when we still thought I could walk a few steps with a walker. In March of 2005, new discoveries were made, such as I should not stand or try to walk, and then we needed to readjust the plans for physical relief. Praise be to the Heavens above, the junior high girls’ locker room and restroom has a lovely ADA stall, so I just get to see more students if I have a need. And since I don’t teach junior high, it’s been kind of fun to go down to that area and watch them interact.

The office intercom switch has been moved so that I can reach it. When I want to go to the office, I simply knock at the door, and someone always lets me in. :-) (My chair has extended legs, and it’s easier for them to open the door than it is for me to open it and maneuver the chair in and out.)

Let’s see: If I want someone to pick up my mail in my box, I ask them to do it; so far, no one has seemed to think that’s overly burdensome. When my asthma is acting up and I’m on Prednisone, like right now, one of the secretaries is always willing to do a McDonald’s run if I have to have a sandwich.

Wendy, I’m sorry. You’ll need to help me here. What is disgusting you? I kind of like Room 408 at BRCS. I’m not really a litigious person, but I don’t think I’m in some sort of sweatshop, either. Maybe it’s a matter of semantics; in a Christian school, we sling Biblical terms like help and serve and comfort around constantly.

It would be nice, of course, to have a SmartBoard and all sorts of techno-whizzes, but we are a small school, and that would be around a thousand dollars. It would be nice to have the heavy metal doors where I enter the school open easily, but that would be around 1500 dollars. That may not sound like much, but I don’t manage the budget, and the economy’s not that great.

It would be nice--now, here’s a dream--to have someone figure out how to upgrade my “school” computer so that the CD-ROM would work and how to get my laptop to connect wirelessly with the Internet at school. But those are budget matters, not ADA matters, right? So if this doesn’t answer your question, I guess I need a little more information.

As far as my situation being indicative of larger problems for teachers with disabilities, again, I’m brand new at this. I don’t see anything wrong with the word help, but then I think we’re back to semantics again.

I hope I haven’t frustrated you more. Please feel free to chime in again and clarify your question, because I have a horrible feeling I’ve made it about as arcane as can be.

Comment from Rod Vicars, former teacher:
I am writing to comment on your condition and desire to teach. I, too, have been out of teaching for three years due to a terminal illness and was told that I would have three months to live. Teaching is my calling and my love and have found it to be extremel difficult and devastating not fulfilling my calling to the profession.

I empathize with you and your situation

Rod Vicars

Question from sj king, counselor, grand rapids hs, gr, mn:
Are motor skills all that are affected? I’m thinking of Steven Hawking’s career as a physicist with ALS. Surely as long as the brain functions well, teaching can be continued?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Yep--motor and coordination only. I’ll never lose cognitive skills.

Eventually, my speech will slur badly, and that’s why I’m trying to find a DVD from which I can learn ASL now.

Also, my energy will continue to deteriorate, and that’s obviously going to be a consideration. But not yet, and prayerfully, not for a long time to come.

Question from San JacintoTeacher of 9 years:
I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 3 years ago. I have kept my Administrator up and current on my condition. I often times wonder how much support and consideration of my condition does my Administrator have in regards to the Disability Act?

What kinds of considerations do they have to give me, can I be let go even if doing an Outstanding Job, and what assistive devices or conditions can I ask for? I have always worried about being fired on a trumped up aqusation due to my medical health.

I am high functioning physically as well as mentally. But there are times when I have to fight the signs of an exacertaion (relapse). How much disability is too much? How much is my Administrator required to support me?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Oh, bless your heart! It sounds as if fear and stress are actually worse than Multiple Sclerosis for you right now.

I’m kind of a direct sort of person, so my first thought is this: Have you read the ADA? Basically, as far as I understand it, if they accept Federal money, and if they have thirty or more employees, they cannot let you go BECAUSE of your disability. If your disability causes you to need an assistive device, and that device is not an undue financial hardship on the employer, the employer is obligated to provide it.

The assistive devices you ask for would be based on your medical needs, and I have no clue about what types of documentation you would need. I would imagine you’d need some sort of medical referral, but I could be wrong. You can call an ADA attorney for advice if such advice would give you peace of mind.

My guess is that the future is looming in your mind, and I certainly do know how you feel. My future sort of jumped in my lap all at once. I’m working on being very calm and trusting God, but there are those moments when I wish He’d send me a letter and tell me that just what His plan is and how He’s going to provide. Your worry about a trumped up accusation in connection with your health is unnecessary; simply keep careful records of the times you miss, the reasons, and keep records of dates of doctors’ visits and so on.

It sounds as if you have a very open relationship with your administrator. That’s great. But don’t let fear of what may come wear you down so much that you do have an exacerbation. Any neurologicqal condition is worsened by stress; I’m sure you’ve discovered that already!

You’re asking the question Kendrick asked in the article: How much disability is too much? And my answer is the same: You’ll know when the time comes. It sounds, at least for now, as if that’s a long, long time in the future for you. Take care.

Question from Joe, NoNameSchool:
Do you have any opinion about religious schools being exempt from American With Disabilities Act (Title III)? For instance, religious schools do not have to provide wheelchair ramps or elevators or install railings in the restrooms.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Yes, I do have an opinion, but I am first going to speak for Christian schools. Christians are called to a higher standard than the ADA. Jesus told us to render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, but He also told us in Matthew 25 that we are to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, and clothe the needy. Christians already have the mandate to serve “the least of these"; if we fail to follow that, we fail to follow Him.

Second, do you really think any religious school, regardless of faith, would refuse to help a child get an education because she was in a wheelchair? I can’t imagine it, can you?

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
Yes, 20 years ago the “accommodations” that exist today did NOT exist. Today, preventing a person with disabilites from teaching is ILLEGAL. Have you checked to see what your legal rights are that would enable you to continue teaching with the accommodations that the law provides?

Norma Jean Taylor:
No, frankly, I’m so busy trying to survive and teach that I don’t have the time to worry about legal rights. Also, I really don’t feel that I’ve been prevented from teaching; if that time would ever come and I believe it is still my calling to remain at the school, as a Christian in a Christian school, I would seek Scriptural mediation first.

Question from Jay Ginsberg, District Consultant:
Presume there comes a point when Taylor can no longer get her wheelchair from her car or all of her books and materials to class. I know that under the ADA and our local state law (California) a district has no obligation to hire a person to meet her at her car and take her wheelchair out for her and wheel her to class. But what kind of accommodation COULD we do that could assist her with her mobility issues so that she could get to her class and teach? Also, without hiring another person, how can we assist her in performing duties? What if there are not people who are willing to “volunteer” to do these tasks?

Norma Jean Taylor:
We are already there. I can not do that because I can not afford the lift I need. At this time God has graciously provided Christian friends who support me and make teaching possible. If God leads them one day to say no, obviously He is telling me it’s time to look for another ministry.

Comment from Martha Foster, Retired teacher, HoustonISD, currently substitute in FredISD:
Ms. Taylor has, by sheer determination and with the wonderful rallying force of her fellow teachers and students, a reasonably successful outcome for the time being, albeit due to the fact she is in a small private school where accommodating her disadvantages and successes is more easily accomplished. I agree that this would not be so easily accommodated in the public school arena for many reasons.

But this should pique our interest in how this could impact students in our special-needs classes. There are many instances where mentally competent students are compelled to minimum successes due largely to the lack of intuitive thinking and initative. In today’s world of wonderful, innovative advances in technology, situations like Ms. Taylor should serve to show us that will and determination can overcome many obstacles with a little (a lot) of fore thought, if we would take hold of what is and can be made available to them.

How can investing in this important aspect of education for our special needs students be brought to the forefront and given more consideration? It is certainly an important part of the NCLB directives. These students will grow up and become apart of our society. They deserve to have the best of what we can provide for them.

Question from Clarel Owarish-Radicella, Special Education Teacher, Englewood Public School District:
Hi: I was diagnosed with an AM in the brain last February. Because I am willing and disabled, I have encountered the following problems: I have been denied any kinds of disability benefits (such as SSI/SSD). I was a long term substitute teacher at the time, and was told that I did NOT qualify for the state’s disability plan. I never received any kind of financial help except for the monies that my colleagues put together and offered to me.

Because I am willing to work, and am not able to go back into the classroom (I’m tutoring part-time), I am not receiving any kind of salary. I attempted to file for unemployment based on the fact that I can not find anything to fit my “professional needs”, but was turned down as well. I don’t know what to do. I need help. Any suggestions?

Thank you. I can not wait to be a part of this chat.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Wow, Clarel; I’m not sure what an AM in the brain is, but it sounds serious. My best guess is aneurysm, but I’m betting I’m wrong. Arterial m. . . help? I’m curious!

But that’s my problem; you’re asking something else entirely. Your story brought back so many memories. When I was first hospitalized, and I began to realize the cost of all this, I was horrified. Yes, I had insurance, but oh, my word! Even with insurance, I went from being debt-free other than a mortgage to multi-thousands of dollars of debt in a matter of months. And on my salary, that is not a pretty story.

What was and is even more ironic was the number of people who asked and still ask how to pray for me. I asked and still ask for them to pray for God’s provision. I was told and am told, over and over, that there were/are tons of programs “out there.”

Clarel, I am still looking for the latitude and longitude of “out there.” If I find the address, I’ll let you know.

I’m beginning to think that in our society today, the social compact is such that the working poor who desire to continue to work actually are unable to receive benefits for which we have worked.

I have a group of friends via the Internet who have started a fund to try to help me obtain a van which would give me independence. Dear friends from our former church faithfully drive sixteen miles one way to take me to school (another fifteen miles) and back again daily so that I can be “independent"--thank you, Dave and Carolyn Cox.

My church has helped us by providing food, gift certificates, and groceries, and twice, they’ve come and helped to clean our house.--Thank you, SABC.

One of my former students brought in a week’s worth of meals last year to help my housemate, who has the whole burden of our split-level house, laundry, and yard on her shoulders. Occasionally, someone at my housemate’s school (another Christian school) will donate gift certificates, and that school (God bless you, Harrisonvile Christian School) also had a fund-raiser to help us pay some medical bills.

So I understand. It’s tough. I thought the obvious answer was Vocational Rehabilitation, and it may be for you. I’ve worked since July of 2004 with the Voc. Rehab. system here in my county, and it’s been . . . interesting. Suffice it to say that after jumping through multiple and bizarre hoops, I’m back at the place I was when I began the process almost two years ago.

But I’d think you might have a much better chance than I did, because you may not have a black cloud over your head which causes all the lights to go out when a logical solution to a problem occurs. :-)

Vocational Rehabilitation is designed to keep people working. Once upon a time, it was elegantly simple; for every dollar it paid out to help someone train for employment, it took in three dollars in taxes. Bureaucracy was minimal, and the system worked almost flawlessly.

It’s really worth a shot. Look in the county pages of your phone book and call the Voc. Rehab offices and make an appointment. Be prepared to fill out a long application. Be prepared to bring every possible financial document which seems irrelevant to every meeting.

Be prepared, after your initial evaluation/meeting, to wait to see what “tier of need” you fit in. Once some anonymous doctor decides the greatness of your need, be prepared to wait until funds in that tier open up. Actually, the anonymous doctor concept is a good thing; it’s one of the efficient things left about Voc. Rehab.

IF, after all the hoops, your counselor doesn’t seem to have it all together, ask to talk to his or her supervisor. Your state should offer you free career evaluation, and depending on which state you inhabit, specific benefits based on your income or lack thereof.

I hope it works well for you. Another suggestion is to visit your state’s Career Center. You’ll get free advice and help with employment there as well. You might even end up working as a career counselor!

Question from Bonnie Lindsay, ESL Teacher, formerly of Lower Salford Elementary:
I am a late bloomer and graduated in 1997 at the age of 37 after working, raising a family and going to school nights for 11 years. That summer, after teaching for only one year, I got sick with a mysterious illness. I lost my hearing fairly rapidly and was finally admitted to a specialty hospital after becoming completely deaf! I was in and out of the hospital for several years and underwent chemo therapy and a varity of other medical practices and therapies. In the end, they did manage to save most of the voice range hearing in my left ear but I was completely deaf in my right ear. I knew I would never be able to teach a whole classroom again for the deafness combined with the tinnitus(loud ringing in my ears) that I was left with made hearing in that environment impossible. I tried everything that I could find to help me adapt in that environment but nothing worked. The only way I could understand what was being said was if I was working one-on-one or with a small group that was pulled out of the classroom. I miss some beginning sounds and watching lips helped me overcome this problem.

So, I thought, why not get a job working with small groups or one-on-one? I applied and was hired as an ESL teaching assistant. This worked out great and the next year I applied and was hired as an ESL teacher. The people that hired me did not know that I had a hearing disability. This soon became a problem as my principal was not accommodating. Two years later, after doing everything in my power to please this man, I was asked to resign. I was a complete basket case by this time because no matter what I did, he was never satisfied.

Now, I am rethinking my career goals. What can I do? Where can I go for the support and guidance I need to be successful in this fast-paced, high performance carreer? I don’t want to do anything but teach and, since I didn’t have tenure, all I get at interviews is why did you leave your previous employer?

I don’t even know what kind of referral I get from him when they call (I was promised a good referral - whatever that means!)HELP! Is there anyone out there that can help? I’ve just about given up.....

Norma Jean Taylor:
I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time.

May I ask why you didn’t tell your principal about the hearing problem? With all due respect, I don’t see how he could accommodate your needs if he didn’t know they existed.

It seems that would be the place to start, even now. Truth is honorable, and so is perseverance. Have you considered career counseling? How about a tutoring center where students learn one-on-one?

Tinnitus is awful; I know that. But if blind Milton and deaf Beethoven managed to give us literature and symphonies, then I think you’ll manage to find the perfect spot as long as you erase surrender from your vocabulary.

Question from Wendy Watkins, Student, University of La Verne:
Dear Ms Taylor,

I am an older student working on a M.Ed.and credential. December 1st of 2004 I woke up in horrible pain and could hardly walk. I’ve been diagnosed with multiple herniated dics causing stenoses, sciatica, and sever muscle spasms. My condition could possibly be cured by the right type of surgery; but of course not having good medical insurance drastically effects the quality of care one receives.

I’m concerned whether a school or school district will even consider hiring me because of my health problems and age (50).

I will keep you in my prayers.

God Bless You,


Norma Jean Taylor:
Wendy, I will be praying for you as well. Yes, any administrator will have to look at the bottom line, but at the same time it is illegal to ask about health on a job application. I am not a career counselor, but I once knew a woman who learned Greek when she was 80. Nothing is impossible with God.

Question from Jay Ginsberg, District Consultant:
One of my concerns is the school’s liability. For instance, we have a teacher with a similar disability. However, she is a college professor. We do not have a network of willing volunteers who can accommodate assisting her throughout her office hours and classes and traveling to and from her car. You are blessed to have so many people willing to help you, but what of the Districts where the teacher admitedly is not mobile and cannot get to class without assistance, but who insists on continuing to teach. I am concerned that if the District provides assistance and Heaven forbid the assistant causes injury or damage to the professor, then the school will get sued simply for trying to accommodate this professor’s desire to continue to teach when her body simply wont let her.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Jay, that is a really good point. Perhaps it is my personal conviction of individual responsibility, but I really struggle with the idea of an educated person who would force it so far as to cause a clear and present danger. Would it be possible, in this case, for a legal waiver to be signed? I know in my case that when I reach a point where I know it’s not safe, there will be no question as to who will make the decision. Most accidents are preventable with safety training from skilled rehabilitation therapists, and it only takes a couple of visits. But the bottom line is still that you have to look at the greatest good for the entire district.

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
Norma Jean, You had commented that you “dream of a SmartBoard and an Airliner Wireless Slate (I probably have the terms wrong) and am investigating a larger keyboard, but with extremely high medical bills, that’s out of my realm right now.” I believe that I can assist you in obtaining these (or other) devices. If you would contact me off line, we can discuss. :-)

Norma Jean Taylor:
Thank you so much! I will be in touch and I appreciate your kindness.

Question from Anita Van Allen, Student Teacher, Indiana:
I am a student teacher nearing graduation in a few weeks. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis as I began my journey back to college to become a teacher. I have dealt with walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, tremors, blindness, and extreme exhaustion to be graduating with a 4.0 GPA.

My question to you is, when I interview for a job how much information should I reveal about my condition? There are days when I look completely normal and hopefully interview day will be one of those days. Will employers be angry or feel taken when I show up for the first day of school in a wheelchair? If I bring it up in the interview, what are my chances of getting the job? Thank you for your time and God bless.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Congratulations! Scott, get this woman’s story--she’s the one you should write about!

Legally, no employer can ask you about your health, but at the same time, let’s face it--a wheelchair is a little more obvious than a bandaid. Is there discrimination? Yes, I’d say there is, just from the fact that health care costs are prohibitive, and the employer has to keep an eye on all that. With that said, however, schools need teachers.

I can’t give you any advice except what I’d do in your situation. Since I believe in truth, I’d start with the truth once I made it to the personal interview. I’d tell the basic fact that I have a neurological problem which did NOT keep me from achieving a 4.0, and I’d outline my strategies for guaranteeing good attendance and maintaining good health.

I have absolutely no idea what your chances are of getting that job, but I’ll tell you this: If I ever would place a money bet (no, no, I don’t gamble), I’d place it on your ability to do whatever you set your mind on doing. I’ll be praying for you, Anita; I wish we could keep in touch!

Question from C. Washington, M.Ed./Teacher & Consultant:
I am an English teacher as well. My students are studying “The Miracle Worker” and reading books about others who have overcome a disability and/or opened doors for others. You fit into both of these categories!

Sometimes, students allow any and everything to keep them from obtaining a quality education. I hear so many excuses--even from those who say they want to go to college. I know it may be difficult for you at times; however, have you seen evidence of students’ exposure to your diagnosis (forgive me if I am not addressing my question appropriately) encourages them to do better and to respect each other more? Also, do you see yourself as having an added responsibility to teach students respect for people who may be different from them physically, etc.?

I commend you for continuing. I pray that you will be a testiment to your students, their parents, and your colleagues!

9th Gr. English Teacher St. Louis, MO

Norma Jean Taylor:
If Helen Keller can’t inspire us, we are all lost! I agree; we must all work to teach our youth the reality that choices have consequences and eradicate the idea that it’s all right to blame a person or a problem when life gets hard.

Teens are far more open to learning about disabilities than many adults, I think, and are also far more open to finding creative solutions to problems. As we grow in understanding, they actually teach me more than I teach them about love, support, and caring. I see that in their lives as well; my students adopt entire families at Christmas, mentor the incoming freshmen, and hold each other accountable to find new ways to seek and serve those who hurt. I believe that will spill over into their lives as adults as well.

Question from Peggy Sorensen, Parent:
I have a son with emotional (bipolar) disorder. One of his most effective teachers was a woman who was a quadraplegic working in a therapeutic recreation program. While their disabilities were quite different, she had developed an excellent process of being able to identify barriers (even if they were more emotional than physical) and develop “work-around” strategies.

I am curious if there have been any positives that you have experienced in your teaching as a result of your limitations that may have enhanced your teaching ability?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Peggy, how blessed your son must be to have had not only loving parents but such a teacher as well. How is he doing?

My answer is absolutely, yes (except for teaching stage combat in drama). The more my body betrays me, the more I see what an undiscovered country the mind is.

One short example: sitting is actually very tiring. I was praying about how to survive “another round” of 9th grade book reports and suddenly thought--why should I “survive”? Why shouldn’t they sell the books to me? I’m a captive audience, after all!

How I wish you could have been in Room 408 to have seen some of the best commercials for books ever made. And the result--the STUDENTS--yes, freshmen boys and girls-- HAVE MADE A LIST OF THE BOOKS AND ARE READING THEM BECAUSE THE COMMERCIALS MADE THEM WANT TO READ THE BOOKS.

Emphasis on purpose. Thank you for asking this--and may you and your son be blessed.

Question from Edmund Furlan, Student (Education), Loyola University:
While there are many devices to help students with specific challenges and disabilities (E.G. Dynamite for speech) Are there many in terms of support for staff such as teachers? And if not should there be some type of system(s) in place for non-discrimination on those terms?

Norma Jean Taylor:
In my search, I have found many devices which would be of great help. All, however, cost money. The last time I looked, King Midas, sadly, was just a story. :)

I don’t look at it as discrimination or non-discrimination, but more as a new path. As the baby boomer generation continues to teach, we are going to grow more decrepit, but still stay mentally acute. Bill Gates could make another fortune if he’d just notice that fact.

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
How can investing in this important aspect of education for our special needs students be brought to the forefront and given more consideration? It is certainly an important part of the NCLB directives. These students will grow up and become apart of our society. They deserve to have the best of what we can provide for them.

In response to Martha’s inclusive setting for students with disabilities not only benefits the students with disabilities, but also their “typical” peers. It fosters a better understanding, patience, collaboration and a heartfelt concern for ALL persons with diabilities. Life is inclusive and the classroom should be too! It is equally important for society that teachers and administrators with disabilites be fully included in the educational setting so that their students can experience that a person with disabilities isn’t “different” but that a person with disabilites simply does things “differently!”

Norma Jean Taylor:
Well, I never planned on being the poster person for this cause, but it is becoming a passion of mine. As I have said, I am trying to chronicle this forced march into disability and hope to find an audience. It seems to me that you and I are singing in the choir together. The more my students show me what I can do, the more they will teach others as they leave Blue Ridge and make an impact on the world at large.

Question from Sue Ellen Smith, Associate DIrector Instructional Services, DeSoto County School System:
Is there anything being developed or researched in the area of spinocerebellar? Are computer companies working on systems that would be more accessible for persons with spinocerebeliar? I know that Christopher Reeves used a special system for his injury related physical system problems.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Hope springs eternal. However, at this time there is no cure and no treatment. Neuroscientists continue to explore the mysteries of the brain and perhaps one day an answer will come. Since this disease is so rare, however, it will be serendipitous.

Question from Brenda Elazier, Credentialed Teacher in Sacramento, CA:
As a pedestrian, I was disabled by a pickup on 11-04. I had recently completed my Credential, and looked forward to going into the elementary classroom in the Fall. Any suggestions on how to approach prospective employers that given the opportunity, I could offer their students quite a positive lesson?

Norma Jean Taylor:
While I am not a career counselor, I think you have the best thing going for you already, which is a great attitude. Life happens, and the sooner our children are exposed to the richness and diversity that even adverse circumstances bring about, the stronger their characters will become. Look at your disability as an ability in disguise, as one person suggested. I will be praying for you.

Question from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
In the article you say that “It’s hurt the class very, very much.” Do you still feel that way?

I hope that instead you might consider how much your presence in the classroom has benefited your students, not only from your incredible teaching “ability”, but also by your introducing the students to how persons with disabilities are not worth “less” but that disability can mean just doing things “differently.”

Norma Jean Taylor:
Karen, thank you for mentioning that point. The only class to which I was referring was drama. By the very nature of this class, I believe my inability to demonstrate what I want has hindered my shyer students and has the potential, if I lapse in attention for an instant, to hurt some of my more confident students. Before, when even the teacher would “melt” on the floor, it was much easier for a young, self-conscious teenager who’s in a drama class simply to get a fine arts credit to dare to attempt to do the same.

In the same light, paramount in performance is the actors’ safety, and if my students are performing a sketch which requires any form of combat, now I must tell, not show. I do use videos, but even they don’t take the place of my being able to stand in front of a student and movement by movement, demonstrate how to safely choreograph a fight. I’m sure you know that many teens operate on an unspoken code of invincibility, so I must be ever-watchful that they don’t make false moves which could harm themselves or others when we are rehearsing.

I passionately concur that disability just means “different,” but the quotation itself is simply referring to the physical nature of the class I was discussing. Let’s face it; if you can’t stand up, it’s hard to show someone how to fall down. :-)

Question from Marjorie Bloom, Writing Resource Teacher, Brevard County Public Schools:
I was wondering if it would be possible to video Norma’s outstanding lessons, so that teachers coming after her could learn from her. I was also wondering if another teacher could coteach with her to learn from her, so that Norma could pass the baton when she’s ready. I think it’s remarkable to have that kind of courage to stay the course, but it’s also important to look to how to transfer the legacy.

Norma Jean Taylor:
Marjorie, you are very kind. I really don’t know how to answer that; while I have CDs and tapes of seminars I’ve given and videos of teacher in-service presentations, I don’t think of myself as someone who is that fantastic. I’ve told Scott all along that I’m about as interesting as wallpaper; all I do is get up and go do the job I love as best I can.

As far as co-teaching, please remember that I teach in a small Christian school, and we just don’t have that kind of funding. What a dream that would be, but the costs would be prohibitive. Of course, that sounds like I’m limiting God, doesn’t it? Oops!

Question from J. Brian Harris, Ph.D., P.E., educational systems research scientist, Licensed Professional Engineer in Private Practice:
What benefits to education might result were we to regard so-called “disabilities” as opportunities to learn how to improve educational sytems in ways that enhance our practical ability to affirm the whole of humanity?

What if “disabilities” are really contrasting abilities, albeit as though in disguise?

Norma Jean Taylor:
I absolutely love your terminology! Every child, every person is worth the life of God Himself; the least we can do is pour out our own lives in any way possible to show our defeated mainstreamed children, “Yes, you CAN, and I’ll show you how.” When we see that spark of hope--when that child turns in a successful paper or does a good project--God smiles.

May I edit your first question just a bit? What benefits to the WORLD might result . . . Yes. It begins with belief and cannot be stopped as long as hope exists.

Comment from Karen M. Clay, Advocate Florida Developmental Disabilities Council:
Norma Jean, I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this has all been for you, but your spirit continues to shine! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and your’ve made my day. From the Heart, Karen

Question from Bob Frangione, Graduate Student:
As someone who has dealt with disability for decades, I find it odd to even refer to difficulties as disabilities. What is the measure by which one should decide what is detrimental to one’s career?

Norma Jean Taylor:
Hi, Bob. What a thought-provoking question!

It’s all a matter of semantics, isn’t it? I still don’t think of myself as disabled; in fact, I still keep thinking that one of these days I’m going to get up and start walking again, even though I watched my dad wither and die from this. Of course, at that time, we didn’t understand a lot of what we know now--the sick joke in neurology is that the best time to get a neurological disease is five years from now.

So. Is a broken arm a disability? Yes, it is for a season. Is that term pejorative? For some people, it probably is. I find that difficulties, problems, situations, disabilities--roses by any names all have thorns and all have their own incarnate beauty. You sound as if you are intimately acquainted with this concept and can answer your question better than I ever could.

For me, the measure by which one should decide what is detrimental to one’s career first goes to character. Without character, a person can be in perfect health and be the greatest deterrent to society and to himself. Polonius was a windbag, but there was wisdom in his advice!

Second, of course, comes knowledge of one’s abilities and limitations. Perseverance is all very well, but it would be ridiculous for me to insist on continuing to walk simply because I can move my legs. If I chose to stand rather than to ride around in what the kindergartners call my “go-car on wheels,” I would be choosing pride over quality of teaching, because I would be expending all my energy in attempting to stand--and before the first class had ended, I would be on the floor.

And what I am finding--and what I suspect you have already learned--is that the major key is acceptance of reality. Amy Carmichael is one of my favorite poets, and one of my most cherished lines is this: “In acceptance lieth peace.”

Once we accept that which has come our way, we can season our days with humor and with a bit of salt in our tears during the private moments as well. And as we accept the limitations, we suddenly realize this: in the twenty-first century, with technology, there’s a new way to get around just about everything! I use a wireless printer (21st century) and a buttonhook (17th century). Both are necessary; both provide me the tools I need at the moment to be an asset to the school.

So, what IS the measure by which we decide what is detrimental to a career? Hippocrates was very wise. Are we doing harm? Then find another way or do another thing.

Scott J. Cech (Moderator):
Thanks for all the great questions, and thanks to Ms. Taylor for joining us. Unfortunately, we’re out of time, so we’ll have to leave the discussion there.

A transcript of this chat will soon be available on the Teacher Magazine Web site.

To read writer Kendrick Blackwood’s story about Taylor, “A Fragile Rock,” in the current Teacher Magazine, you may link here:

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