Have you seen those videos of babies hearing their mother’s voice for the first time? Imagine what it must be like to have the mute button turned off and all of a sudden hearing the soothing sound of a human voice.
I experienced this in reverse after I broke my glasses yesterday. I wore them gingerly until my husband took them to try to fix them. It was astonishing to me how utterly dependent I am on them. I could navigate my house, and thanks to 40 years of typing, was able to write this and have it be relatively error free, but not much else. I could listen to a podcast because I knew the icon’s color and general design. But I couldn’t stop typing in the middle of a sentence, because I couldn’t go back and reread. If I lost my train of thought, well, it’s lost. (It wouldn’t be the first time!)
As I typed these words I realized what it must be like for students in our classrooms with learning differences that aren’t being addressed. When we don’t differentiate for these children, we’re essentially asking them to work without their glasses.
We insist that they read this book, do this math, write this story.
And, oh by the way, do it with one sense missing and hardly any experience to fall back on to help you.
Then we’re back in five minutes and wonder why they haven’t gotten more done.
Now we’re exasperated because they don’t know who the main character is because, well, it’s right there in front of them! How do they not see that?
My husband had my glasses for about fifteen minutes. I quickly became bored and frustrated. I was ready to go find something, anything, I could do without my glasses, even if it was only folding clothes.
I can’t imagine how I would feel after six hours of this. I also had a splitting headache, not because I was trying to read this, but because it was impossible not to look at the screen while I typed.
Learning to see by losing one’s sight is a literary device as old as literature itself. I’ve always thought I did my best to differentiate and make accommodations and modifications so students will be able to learn. After this experience, though, I wonder if I’m doing enough. From now on I’ll be much more aware of ensuring that every student can see (and hear!) exactly what they need to. I want to see that smile of joy and understanding spread across the faces of all my students.
Thank you to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, Beth, Kathleen, and Deb for this space for teachers and others to share their stories each Tuesday throughout the year and every day during the month of March. Be sure to visit Two Writing Teachers to read more Slice of Life posts.