I was thrilled to get this response from Vernon Frazer in the comments -- which I am reposting here:
I don't know the nature of your disability. You may or may not know that I have Tourette Syndrome.
Havng paid a high rice in social and economic terms for my condition
and established some pretty decent writing credits over the years, I think if I were in the situation you described, I would tell them I didn't like being patronized, to Google me if they cared to learn what they missed, then go home and write. I would neither volunteer nor serve if asked in the future.
Thank you so much for your comment! For me though, the issue is and remains difficult. In this one instance, I was asked to volunteer with the DOE as a poet through NYFA. But, I am actually also an employee of the DOE. I was hired six years ago through the Fellows program and am now a certified permanent English teacher. This is only one of hundreds of problems with the DOE's problem with my disability. i have been turned down again and again for jobs I should have gotten. The minute people hear my voice on the phone, they freak out.
So this a constant battle for me. This year I took a leave and went on Social Security? Should I take the Disability (which is a sizable amount) and say fuck it! Surely, people who are a lot less crippled than me live off Social Security and don't even try to work. But, for me this creates ethical problems. How many crippled people do you see at work, on the train, with their children? Why do people allow themselves to be pushed into their houses? Why is the disability movement the weakest in the county? I answer my own question just by the fact that people stare at me, dismiss me, and make fun of me on a daily basis. I am NOT that crippled. I have a very slight speech impediment and an akward gait. You would think I'm the elephant man! But the fact is that there are so few PWD in jobs, the streert, the media, that people just aren't used to us being around.
Now I am going to share some dirty little secrets with you about the DOE:
1. The first priority for hiring teachers is that they are young and went to Bank Street or Teachers College. All these kids get jobs in a minute because of theirr status and youth. NONE of these kids stay with the system. They are not dedicated and leave w/in a few years. The older, smarter, more dedicated teachers aren't worth much. (Forgive me if you went there!) But these guys aren't just hired on their good looks and good school, it's economics too. Why hire a teacher who will make it to retirement when you can get one who won't!
2. The DOE's other priority is classroom management. This is a big reason I get passed over. I'm small, I'm handicapped = no classroom management. But, (again) they don't know me -- it's looks alone.
3. The DOE doesn't give a shit about talent. Books you've written? Ha! I got a major poetry award and they didn't even announce it at the faculty meeting! But God forbid if someone has a baby -- they rent out a hall! Also, there is no pay raise for a PhD.! Most teachers don't have PhD. -- Hell, why should they?
Thanks for listening.