Line of Sight
I saw a former student on campus the other day and it triggered a memory. He wasn't even "my" student as he was assigned a lab section belonging to someone else. I was teaching my evening lab and everyone was worried about the upcoming midterm. The Tutoring Center had been full of anxious students earlier that day. At one point I turned and found an unfamiliar face by the doorway. I immediately felt guilty for not seeing him earlier: he was in a wheelchair, placing him a good two feet below my line of sight. The Tutoring Center was closed, but he had a quick question, did I have time to answer it? He went over to a table so that I didn't have to worry about whether to stand or to crouch while answering him. It was a quick question and he was on his way and I went back to my students.
Then it happened again. I turned toward the door and he was there again. I hadn't noticed him enter for the second time. Cursing his silence and necessary short stature and feeling guilty at being so oblivious, I went over and answered another question for him. He was very cheerful the whole time and thanked me several times for taking time out to help him. Then he was gone for good.
It struck me that there are experiences related to being wheelchair-bound that I've never considered. We all know about the ramps and older buildings not being very wheelchair accessible. How many of us have thought about living life at waist-height to everyone else? To be overlooked in a crowd, to not be tall enough to be seen with peripheral vision? Sharp contrast between being invisible sometimes and having people stare the rest of the time?
Sometimes the teacher becomes the student in this life.