Sunday, October 05, 2008

You teach regular people?

I had every intention in the world to write about this a couple of months ago when the question was first posed to me. But somehow, I kind of forgot about it. However, I was reminded of the question when my nephew, Joseph, asked me this weekend. So, I thought I should certainly write about it at this point.

A few months ago, my father was bragging to my uncle, letting him know that his daughter was now an instructor at a college. I guess the news stunned my uncle for more reasons than one. Uncle John quickly responded to the news with a question that I'm sure was sincere, but nevertheless still birthed by ignorance. Here's how the conversation went.

Uncle John: You teach at a college?
Angie: Yes...
Uncle John: You're teaching blind folks at the college?
Angie: So far, I haven't had a blind student. I teach whoever enrolls in my class. And up to this point, all of them have been able to see.
Uncle John: What, you teach regular people?
Angie: Regular people?
Uncle John: Yeah... You teach folks that can see? How do you do that?
Angie: Well, since I'm not teaching them how to see, I don't think I'm going to have a problem with teaching them.
Uncle John: I'm serious. How can a blind person teach folks that can see?

Now, don't get it twisted. My uncle is one of my biggest fans. And he and I have a cool enough relationship that he feels comfortable telling me exactly what's on his mind. So, I wasn't the least bit offended. I finished our conversation by offering him up a quick lesson on how a blind person is "capable" of teaching sighted folks in a classroom setting.

Although I wasn't offended, it struck me that my uncle was probably not the only person that would be wondering how a blind person was "capable" of teaching sighted folks anything. I can only imagine the number of people that have that question bouncing around the walls of their mind, but are too afraid to ask me.

The only other person that had the nerve to ask me about the "way I teach sighted folks" is my darling nephew, Joseph. This weekend, I was explaining to him that I am a teacher. I told him that I teach grown-ups at the college. Well, Joseph, being exactly who he is, asked basically the same question as Uncle John.

"You teach folks that can see? How do you do that?"

I was kind of shocked that Joseph asked. But he and I have the same kind of relationship that me and my uncle have. If Joseph wants to know something, he just asks me.

So, why did his question shock me, you might ask. Well, because Joseph has never spoke about my blindness in a way to distinguish my abilities from his other sighted family members. I guess Joseph, who is about to turn seven in a few days, is now starting to understand what blindness means and how it truly impacts his auntie's life.

I explained to Joseph that I use my computer to help me teach. Since he knows that my computer has speech on it, he understood how my personal computer equipment could help me get around some barriers. He then asked me, how do I check their work. I told him that I get someone to help me do the things that I just "cannot" do by myself. That seemed to fulfill his need for info about me and my ability to teach "regular people".

In the coming days, I'm going to write a post that discusses how my students, those "regular people", respond to having a "irregular teacher".

**Note to the reader: Please know that I am completely clear that those that do not have a physical and/or mental disability are the least bit "regular". And I also know that people who are indeed disabled are as regular as you can get.**

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