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Re-articulating, Re-confirming, Re-configuring, and Re-writing Identity

sara.gladwin's picture

I’ve been struggling unnecessarily to write these posts for class, and so I’m going to try to do a little writing on why that might be.

I had started writing notes for the second identity post long before it was due. I had planned to write about the complexities of access by illustrating the trajectory of my own education, and the ways in which my identity both has and has not restricted my access to further education. I had the whole story planned out. I was going to talk about having an LD label, but having the means to attend a school for students with various LD labels, a place where I could be successful and then ultimately have access to an institution such as Bryn Mawr. I was going to talk about coming here, and finding that being enrolled didn’t necessarily mean I had access to understanding what it meant to actually be a college student, and having to take a semester off as a consequence. Then, I would talk about coming back and what it took to gain that access. Finally, I’d write about more in depth about access as a multi-layered concept.

I already knew the story I was going to tell intimately. Since around the fifth grade, part of my education has been about learning how to articulate to others about my LD label as a means of gaining access to accommodations in the classroom. However, the narrative itself is beginning to feel a bit worn out. Given the wide range of educational journeys that LD students embark on, it’s not even a particularly outstanding story. It is one I’m honestly tired of telling. And I wonder if this process of articulating and re-articulating has been central in actually solidifying my student identity and it’s limitations. I’ve thought for a while now about the way traditional classroom structures work to fix identities into place rather than interrogate, explore, and re-configure them (the McDermott article on the Cultural Work of Learning Disabilities touches on this). Rather than working and learning towards my personal strengths, I’m usually apologizing for my weaknesses with the promise that I’ll try my best to fit into the mold of a “model” student as laid out by the standards of “normalcy.” It took me a long time to recognize that not fitting in did not equate being unintelligent. I think I’ve become invested in the study and practice of educating because I’d like to believe there can be a place for me in higher education… and I recognize for all the ways I’ve felt that I was unable to access what was being taught, I’ve been given access to much more than could be understood through a class or a book.

In writing this, I’ve hinted at several of the questions and thoughts that have been circling through my head. The first thought is the acknowledgement that access is complex and layered- having access to higher education doesn’t always guarantee access to what that institution offers. The second question has to do with the part we play in fixing our student identities- does the act of re-articulating an aspect of your identity actually further it’s solidification?


maddyb's picture

Hi, I love your thoughts about access not necessafily granting access to the offerings you thought you gained (sorry that was confusing). The idea that even though you gained access to Bryn Mawr but did not perhaps have access to what comes next is an interesting one. I like this layered look at access and your identity. I wonder have you had to change aspects of your identity to try to gain access to the offerings at college? Have you changed the story of who you are throughout the re articulation over time?  Great post! It got me thinking!