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.

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