It’s been a few weeks since I finished reading The Spirit Catches you and You Fall Down, but one part of Lia’s story that comes to mind quickly is when her doctors requested she be removed from the custody of her parents–and succeeded.
Lia’s epilepsy and the communication barriers between her family and the medical practitioners led her to a vegetative state. Despite this very sad consequence, I think the greatest consequence that I see as having a relation to teaching is her removal from her home. Anne Fadiman does not judge Neil and Peggy, the doctors responsible for the request of removal, but leaves the implication that things could have been done better. They could have done something different to begin with to avoid such a drastic method of treating Lia. I wonder what would have happened if the energy it took to remove Lia from her home had been channeled into better communication with her parents.
I hate to think of this as a “warning;” I think Lia’s story and the cultural battle that occurred between her family and the hospital are more complicated and complex than a simple tale of what horrible things could happen. But there is a lesson here about the importance of making sure that I, as a teacher, keep in check the assumption that what I believe as an educator is more important or valuable than the beliefs and ideas of my students’ families.
To be honest, I’ve suffered from the delusion, on more occasions than I’m proud to admit, that my education makes me more knowledgable than someone else. It’s an easy mistake to make, so it has been imperative for me to learn that education is not the marker of knowing. But I do want to utilize my education to ensure positive communicative relationships with children’s families.
There is a lot to unpack here in terms of Lia’s story and the effects of her removal from her home had on the emotional and mental health of her family. It is something I’ll continue to consider for my reflection at the end of the quarter.