Editor's Note: Allison Hilliker is a Federationist who serves as president of the Michigan Association of Blind Students, and she is a board member of the National Association of Blind Students. As part of her study of elementary education, she gained practical experience in the classroom. Here is what she says about her experiences with second grade students to subscribers of NOBE-l, a listserv sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind and the National Organization of Blind Educators.
Every day is an adventure. The kids see me as a teacher, and the classroom teacher has been giving me ever-increasing levels of responsibility. Last Thursday, however, was a day that tested my philosophy and confidence. That was the day that we all went sledding. Now, this really hadn't been something I had planned for, but when the situation arose, I had to find a way of dealing with it.
Having grown up in the Midwest, I have been sledding a number of times. I knew that it was something I could do as a blind person, but I also realized that the teacher and students didn't necessarily understand that. The teacher confirmed my suspicion when, without asking for my opinion, she announced to the class that before heading outside they would all sit in a circle while I explained how best to do things for me. When they had gathered around, I took the chance to re-explain how I use my cane. I also reassured them that I could do much by sound. I tried to make everything seem as normal and as easy as possible, but without asking me again, the teacher next tried to assign one of the kids to guide me around outside. I politely explained to both the child and the teacher that a guide would not be necessary. The explanation seemed to suffice, and I headed towards the hill, using my cane and following the sounds of talking and laughing children.
The hill on the playground was pretty chaotic. All I can say is, thank goodness for the blindness skills I've obtained; otherwise I would have likely never managed. There were kids, sleds, snow, and ice, everywhere.
After some hesitancy to have me climb the hill by myself, they became used to it. I sledded down that hill with the kids and things went fine. The best part of the experience was when a couple of the girls in the class begged me to race down the hill with them. When it was all over, I was tired, cold, and sore, but happy that things had gone well.
Not one person offered to guide me on the way back into the school, so I felt that I had done some educating. I helped the kids gather their sleds, and we walked into the school together. I like to think that everyone, kids and teacher, learned a little bit on that afternoon.