By Andrew Feese
2010 FAME Essay Winner
This is a new age for people who are disabled. There are electronic aides, there are therapists, and there are exceptions.
I have a speech impediment. I am lucky that help is available. After I make a verbal comment or engage in public speaking, I can see people with that God-bless-him-he-tries-so-hard smile. I can recall a time my freshmen year when we had an assignment in English to recite Shakespeare’s, “All the World’s a Stage” in front of the class. I was excused from it, I guess, because the teacher thought I would be uncomfortable. She was right, I would have been. I ended up doing a word search instead.
It was not until about halfway through my junior year that I gave my disability much thought. Also, it was not until then that I had a teacher who did not excuse me from anything. What was even more confusing to me was that this was a class that required speaking all the time: French. This person sparked a new attitude I hold toward my disability, making her, without a doubt, the most influential person in my life.
I am not sure if Madame was asked to or not, but she never gave me special treatment for my disability. She held me to the same standard of speaking the other students in the class had. I don’t know if she was ever asked to excuse me from speaking, but it has led me to the notion that while exceptions are good, equality is better.
Speaking French has proved to be exciting for me. The fact that I do not stutter is a great factor in my love for the language. I strive to be on the same speaking level as my peers and show an example of improvement and overcoming. French has also helped with my speech. My communication continues to improve thanks to newly set goals and ambitions. This mindset would not have happened if Madame had not held me at the standard of the rest of the class.
This relationship has helped me focus on my dream of being a teacher. Maybe one day, I can be an influence in a young person’s life as Madame has been in mine. I have come to regard my stuttering not as a weakness, but as a challenge. A disability only impairs me as much as I let it. Out of all the lessons a teacher has taught me, that is the most important.