coming out to my students

I couldn’t teach my physics lab a few weeks back because of confusion, for the first time. My colleagues covered for me.

It was such a rough week.

My Monday lab was taught by the professor whose office I landed in, an hour before class, in tears. He knows I have neurological problems; he didn’t know memory loss was one of them. And despite the uncertainty of my future, he showed every confidence that I can finish out the semester; that no matter what happens, I am still a contributing member of the faculty.

BF taught my Thursday evening class for that week. (BF is how I ended up in this college town, and how I got the gig teaching physics lab. BF is a physics professor.)

When I taught my next scheduled class, I made some vague excuse about some vague illness. The students bought it. They have no reason not to. But it felt icky, because I was not being true to myself.

So then, I resolved to tell my students that I have memory loss and that was why I could not work that week…and that is why I still can’t learn their names and that is why I sometimes stop at the board and forget what I am doing and that is why I sometimes substitute words without realizing. So then, I told my next class that I have early onset memory loss and I don’t really know what’s going on.

And the world didn’t end. The kids didn’t pack up their notebooks and walk out of lab. And the next time I lost my train of thought, I just said “See? I told you that would happen!”

OH MY GOD what a relief. I have been working SO HARD to hide the shame of my changing brain! No hiding, no shame.

Two of the students in this class…my first coming out class…pre-med students, were fascinated by my story. Rather than telling me that my experiences couldn’t possibly be, they asked me questions. I will always have a special place in my heart for these two young women…my brain will probably forget them, but my heart won’t.


One thought on “coming out to my students

  1. I can understand how frightening it must have been to have the memory lapses while you were teaching. To let others know what is happening, especially where you work is brave and very inspiring. Just about everyone has heard about dementia but few really understand that it is not always older people who suffer from it. The more people can be informed, the more the condition will be understood by the general public and hopefully in the future there will be better places for people suffering from the condition to live out their lives once they can no longer care for themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

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