I have been teaching at The Chatsworth School in Reisterstown Maryland for six years, but my presence there began before that. I started as a paid parent helper, which allowed me to work alongside four seasoned teachers. I was able to fine-tune some of my skills in a non-threatening environment. For example, I was given a small math group to instruct, and later I was asked to teach a reading group. After three months, a position became available in the second/third grade program. Because of my reputation, I was asked to interview for the position. I gladly accepted.
As a teacher who is blind, I use adaptive techniques in my classroom. Some strategies that I use in my classroom are tried and tested techniques. Others are things that might work for that moment and may not work for the next. I start each year off by labeling cubbies, hooks, books and lockers in print and in Braille. I also use a laptop computer to maintain all my records. Because we constantly share information with our teammates, starting this year, I will have the capability to log into our school’s network system. This will allow me to instantly share grade report on any student that I teacher with any teacher in the building. Another benefit will be that I will be able to complete my report cards electronically without the aid of a reader.
One learning situation that I find unique to the early childhood field are dealing with handwriting and helping students develop basic writing skills. In dealing with handwriting I have worked hard to be able to model correct handwriting for my students. I also have my readers look at students’ writing samples to check for any mis script in their writing. I also have them check for grammar and punctuation errors in every writing exercise. If there are errors, students revise, and the work is then turned in again. This has made my students more conscientious in their writing. This practice goes above and beyond my coworkers’ practice of only checking grammar on writing assignments.
I find that the most important adaptive technique that I utilize does not necessarily relate to blindness: flexibility. I have to be ready to move when the principal comes in and changes the schedule. I have to be ready with a back up lesson when there is extra time. I have to be ready when the teacher next door has an emergency, and I am covering both classes for the first two hours of the day.
To be a successful teacher, one must be flexible. To be a successful teacher who is blind, we must be flexible and well equipped with alternative techniques. Only then can we show others what is possible.