In addition to including information about the Disability Services office and clearly stating student expectations, I use a form at the beginning of each semester to get relevant information that would allow me to know and understand the students. I work with them individually if needed. Many times, students shy away from visiting the Disability Services office, so I use this opportunity to tease out anything that could impact their success in the class. Sometimes, they share information that we do not usually think about which gives me an opportunity to understand their lived experiences so much better and then to channel them to the various campus partners.
During my years here at UMass Amherst, I have learned to listen carefully for what students do not say and to find ways to allow them to open up about what’s fearful; what’s happening in their lives that may impact their learning; how can I help them to have visions of possibilities when they are unsure; reassure them that visiting Disability Services is not a stigma; that their ways of knowing, thinking, or doing comes from their standpoint and lived experiences and are important to how they understand the world around them; and that what they have to share is important to the teaching and learning environment of the class. I have also learned the importance of adjusting my pedagogy, and I have been able to shift my own unconscious thinking."