DR. WALLACE: I am in my second year at the University of Illinois. I would like to teach English composition and literature at the high school level when I graduate, but I am concerned that my physical disability will cause school districts to rule me out as a teacher candidate.
For the past nine years, I have been unable to walk. My father and I were in a car that was hit head-on by an intoxicated driver. My father was killed, and I suffered permanent injuries to my spine and legs.
I get around by means of an electric-powered vehicle also commonly known as a wheelchair. I'm very comfortable maneuvering around campus in my vehicle, and I'm positive that I could function without a problem teaching at the high school level if given the opportunity.
Since you are a former high school administrator, I welcome your input. — Hoping to Be a Teacher, via email
HOPING: The great majority of school districts in the United States will hire the most-qualified candidate to fill their teaching vacancies, full stop. Showcase your teaching talents, your intellect and your enthusiasm for teaching young people every time you get an opportunity to interview for your dream job.
When I was teaching English and coaching varsity basketball at a Phoenix Union high school, one of the most-respected teachers on campus was a gentleman confined to a wheelchair. He taught mathematics and was the freshman basketball coach. He was absolutely superb in both areas. The first day of basketball practice, I observed him to see if he could function as a coach. Within an hour, I could see how talented and knowledgeable a basketball coach he was! I never gave a second thought to the fact that he was doing his with the assistance of a chair with wheels. His personality, skill and experience made him a very popular coach and teacher.
My advice to you is to plan on being a high school English teacher, because it's going to happen. Do everything you can to prepare yourself so that you will be a highly qualified candidate for the job you seek. From there, I feel it's only a matter of time until you shall become a great teacher!
MOST PEOPLE ARE SHY
DR. WALLACE: I'm a very shy person, and because of this, I miss out on a lot of excitement and fun. What really bothers me is that almost everyone I know is outgoing and doesn't appear to be in the least bit shy.
My older sister (she's quite outgoing) said that she was shy when she was young and that everyone is shy at one time or another. Is that true? I hope so. — Super Shy, via email
SUPER SHY: A survey conducted by Dr. Philip Zimbardo and a research team at Stanford University (which has done extensive studies on shyness) found that being shy is a quite normal human emotion and universal in scope.
Only 7 percent of the people they questioned claimed they had never been shy. That leaves a whopping 93 percent who can't make that claim. Shyness is equally common among men and women, with teens experiencing the greatest frequency of shyness. Dr. Zimbardo discovered that, during the teen years, girls were often shyer than boys, mainly because of the physical changes that occur earlier in females.
Often a good first step in overcoming shyness or making any personal changes in your life should start with self-acceptance. Optimistic thoughts can change one's life and allow a shy person to gradually become more comfortable socializing. Please know that your situation is normal and common and will likely fade as time passes. Do all you can to initiate a conversation or two per week with classmates you share something in common with. Remember these can be very brief conversations at first. Don't feel that you need to prepare a big speech! These short conversations will likely be brief and go very well. Good luck, and give it a try when you feel comfortable doing so.
I'M A DREAMER
DR. WALLACE: My dad says that "daydreaming" is a sign of being unorganized and lazy. Is that true? If it is, I'm unorganized and lazy, but I really don't believe that I am. I like to see myself doing great things in the future; that's what dad calls "daydreaming." Am I wasting my time? — Dreamer, via email
DREAMER: Daydreaming is a normal, common experience that nearly everyone engages in daily, according to the University of Michigan Medical Center. For most daydreamers, these experiences are welcome mental "mini-vacations." One should become concerned when daydreaming interferes with the normal routine of daily living. For example, if your schoolwork is hindered because of excessive daydreaming, then obtaining help is in order.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.