Michael Taub is a past client at the American Institute for Stuttering. He attended an intensive therapy program several years ago, and he regularly attends our Tuesday night practice/support group. Recently, he shared a story with us about his experiences as a student teacher in a middle school classroom. He was kind enough to share it with our blog. Michael, your motivation to become an excellent teacher is inspiring. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
Written by: Michael Taub
Some days I hardly stutter at all. I know, I know: this type of thing shouldn’t matter to me. But I admit that sometimes when I find myself speaking almost fluently for a good amount of time, I think, “Look at how far I’ve come.” “My work is finally paying off,” etc. What usually happens then is that I start getting hung up on not stuttering…and I start silent blocking more. It’s a cycle – one of stuttering, managed fluency paired with bouts of spontaneous fluency and bursts of confidence followed by moments of uncertainty. People who don’t stutter are probably familiar with this type of cycle too – one of ups and downs, ebbs and flows – life. But no matter what part of the cycle I find myself in, I always come back to the tool that helps me most: advertising – just telling people that I stutter. Without advertising, I don’t know how I would’ve dealt with one of my bigger more recent challenges.
I began my middle school student teaching placement a month ago as part of the process to become a state-certified social studies teacher. This wasn’t going to be my first time in front of a classroom. I taught English for a couple of years in Ecuador, and this past fall semester I student taught 11th graders in a South Bronx high school. However, because this was going to be my first attempt at teaching young kids, I felt like the stakes were high. I wanted to show myself that I had a newfound confidence that I lacked in 1998 as a middle school student. I wanted to show myself that adult me could stutter without fear and shame. I wanted to show the middle school students that I was a confident teacher.
When I was in middle school, I was always trying to blend in with the rest of the kids. Before I started getting serious about dealing with my stuttering, the last thing I wanted to do was draw attention to what I used to consider a weakness. So now, there I was – standing in front of 27 twelve and thirteen-year-olds, part of me feeling like I was in eighth grade again, as if I was about to deliver an oral report that I had been dreading for days. I could hear my cooperating teacher’s voice and suddenly I was half-dreaming. “Mr. Taub will be with us through the spring. Mr. Taub, is there anything you’d like to say to the class…?” Everything seemed surreal. I reminded myself of some of the experiences from the past decade that separated adult me from teenage me…
“I’m looking forward to working with you guys. Oh and, one more thing. I w-w-w-want to let you know that I stutter, which means that sometimes I repeat my words or syllables or speak slowly. I’m fine with it, so if you ever have questions about it or if you need me to repeat myself, just ask.” Some kids looked surprised. Some didn’t. I chose not to worry either way.
At the end of the third class on that first day, a co-teacher in one of our integrated “mainstream” and special-ed classes said to me, “You know, this is really going to be great for John.” She pointed to a student putting a notebook into his backpack, pushing his chair back under the table. “John stutters, and he’s going to enjoy having you in the classroom.” And I remembered again why I’m proud to be a person who stutters.