4 E’s: Education

Hello, and welcome to Blindness Awareness Month! What exactly this means I confess to not entirely knowing. But I suppose the main idea is to continue to make society aware of the fact that we’re here, we function, and despite little or no use of our eyes, we are still quite capable of accomplishing great things. So in my clunky way, I will try to highlight how I and some of my peers have done this over the years. Of course, some things will be very much related to other posts I’ve already created, but well that’s part of the point right?

First, I’ve had an idea that came to me because someone asked that I feature their page on my blog. I’ve created a Disability-related Resources and Favorite Blogs page that I will modify as time goes on. Please take a look and tell me what you think.

So my idea for this month is to write about the Four E’s: education, employment, enrichment, and entertainment. I hope something I say is useful.

In my previous post about this subject entitled ADA 25: Blind Learning , I wrote a lot about blind people’s changing ability to receive an equal education within the public school system, as opposed to specific schools for the blind. I think in this piece, I will take a more in-depth look at how my own education, both book-related and physical, unfolded against the backdrop of the 1980’s and 1990’s with its burgeoning technology.

It’s funny: in my earliest days, I hadn’t even known there was a significant difference between me and the majority of my classmates. This despite the fact that I would usually leave the classroom everyday for some one-on-one instruction with what we called a Resource teacher, but who is now more often called a Teacher of the Visually Impaired (TVI). (It surprises me that this terminology is still used actually, as many don’t prefer to be called visually impaired even if they are low-vision, but there you have it.)

In this classroom, as probably mentioned in my prior post about the subject, there were all of our special equipment for learning and using Braille, as well as printing out our work.

RELATED: Wanna take a gander at learning some Braille? Check out this post.

The first, we’ll just go with TVI for the sake of simplicity here, was one of those mean, old-time folks who would whack hands with paddle if need be. This usually came about if I continued to insist that “I can’t!” as I so often did in those days.

It’s gonna be a crazy world for you out there,” she said. “So it is very important that you believe yourself able to do whatever you set your mind to! So I’m gonna do whatever I have to in order to get that through your thick head.”

I still love that woman for her dedication, and for what she managed to teach me. I saw her much later in life, once I’d gotten into university, and she was so proud of and happy for me..

A bit of a sidenote/amusing anecdote: once she recorded herself asking me how many legs a cat has. I was in the third grade, and we had a cat as a family pet, so why I responded with “16” will always be beyond me. Mutant cats?

In about the fourth grade, she gave way to another TVI who oversaw my progress pretty much for the remaining time I spent in the Charlotte Mecklenburg (NC) school system. She had a softer, but no less effective way of guiding me along my learning journey. Rather than whack my hand for expressions of doubt, she rewarded positive occurrences, sometimes with crackers or lunches, or my favorite cakes from the cafeteria. Hey, I’m easy to please! It was at about this time, in conjunction with my fantastic fourth and fifth-grade teachers, that I really began to take off.

That’s the mental aspect of my education. Important, of course, but not the only thing. There was also the mastery of body, through exercise and activity. As with everyone else, I achieved this through Physical Education (P.E) classes.

I have distinct memories of these classes, especially in elementary school. We were gifted an incredible individual named Mr. Beattie who insisted that we participate in classes to the fullest extent possible. I remember him attempting to teach me how to properly shoot a basketball.

“Ok, take the ball and position your hands like this.” He then placed my fingers as indicated. “Now, shoot it up and forward!”

I shot it up, all right. Then boing! Right off of my dome. “ouch!”

“No, I said forward!” he said, a touch of laughter in his voice.

Up, up, and down to meet dome again. *sigh* this seems to be a hopeless cause.

“Ok,” he said, taking the ball from my hand and sliding me back a bit. “I want you to try shooting it into the trash can.”

Oh yeah, I understood that concept easily enough. Still, when I attempted to aim at the basket, boing! On accident, I did manage to flick my wrists just so a couple of times and drop it through the hoop, but I didn’t fully grasp the idea until my uncle got my cousin and me a diminutive goal with small ball that we could feel.

“Ah, now I got it!” (My cousin and I wiled away many hours, and nearly decapitated each other, playing games on that goal. So much fun).

When it came to football and baseball, Mr. Beattie also helped us to be involved in these sports. In football, I would snap it to the quarterback, pushing it backward between my legs. I didn’t really understand the purpose of this activity, but did it faithfully anyway.

In baseball, I would hit the ball. I can’t remember exactly, but I guess it was mounted to a tee. Then I’d run the bases with a sighted guide. Well? It’s better than just sitting on the sidelines entirely, I’d say.

So thanks to the strong-minded adults in my life, I was and have always been both physically and mentally active. As with so many things, it worries me a bit that not only blind kids, but kids in general are experiencing less of the former. And I only hope that there are still some caring instructors out there who will take their place in a child’s memories as mine have, by giving freely of their time and energy to move them forward.

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