[nobe-l] Fwd: help with teaching Catechism

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Wed Oct 28 05:06:43 UTC 2009

I have been asked to circulate the following.  It is from a blind 
person who does have it together -- just needs some 
teaching/classroom management advice.  She is not on this list, so 
please respond to her directly at:  gabias at telus.net

>From: "Mary Ellen" <gabias at telus.net>
>To: "'David Andrews'" <dandrews at visi.com>
>Subject: help with teaching Catechism
>Date: Tue, 27 Oct 2009 19:37:16 -0700
>Thread-Index: AcpXd5A/6U+g2UgyQsi1BbGBsNSCEg==
>I'm writing in the hope that you will pass this along to blind 
>teachers because I'm struggling and need tips for class control.
>I volunteered to teach catechism classes for the fifth grade 
>students at our parish. These are students who do not attend 
>Catholic schools, so they receive one hour of Catholic instruction 
>each week on Tuesday afternoons.
>My class includes six boys and one girl. They're tired of being in 
>school by the time they get to me. On top of that, the catechism 
>book we're using is frankly boring. My task is to teach one lesson a 
>week. For students in Catholic schools, the lesson is divided up 
>over five days. My job is to cover it (or as much of it as is 
>possible) in one hour. There simply isn't time to cover a week's 
>worth of material in such a short time.
>The class is held in the fifth grade classroom of the Catholic 
>school. We must set up and take down everything we need to use each 
>time. I arrive in the classroom at the same time as my students, so 
>there's no opportunity for me to set things up in advance.
>My students are testing me to see if a blind person can maintain 
>control of the classroom. I began by telling them they must give 
>their names whenever they answer a question. We talked a little 
>about blindness in the beginning. I showed them Braille and invited 
>them to ask questions. I laid out the general rules of the class.
>For the first two or three weeks I made what I call "newbie" 
>mistakes. I let the students go to the bathroom or to get drinks of 
>water. I've now learned not to do that. They're now required to take 
>care of their physical needs before they walk in the door. (The one 
>and only time I allowed them to go to the bathroom en masse I had to 
>break up a water fight.)
>I don't spend enough time with them each week to have learned to 
>recognize them by voice. Two weeks ago they tried to convince me 
>that we had a new student in the class. Being a trusting soul, I 
>attempted to talk with the new student. I quickly realized that he 
>was a fiction. It was one of the students trying to prank me. I told 
>them it was a good try but not very funny or particularly nice.
>Sometimes a sighted co-teacher is present. When she's there the 
>clowning around in the class diminishes. I'm willing to tolerate 
>some movement. After all, they've been sitting all day and genuinely 
>need to move. If I think they're disturbing the class I call a halt. 
>But there's no question that they respond with more discipline 
>toward  my sighted colleague. She doesn't prepare the lessons, but 
>she does help with some of the written exercises.
>Today the students told me one of their number was absent. I didn't 
>really believe them, but the space in the classroom was so tight 
>that I couldn't physically walk around the table and count heads. 
>About halfway through the class they admitted that he was actually 
>present. In addition to that, the students let me know that one of 
>them had been creeping under the table and disturbing the rest of the class.
>We had a discussion about mutual respect. I said all the expected 
>things about treating other people the way they wanted to be treated 
>and behaving the way Christians are supposed to behave. I also told 
>them that I had enough time to think up ways to make them miserable 
>and would not hesitate to do so if they continued to be rude and 
>disrespectful to me. I told the student who had been crawling around 
>on the floor that if he did that again I'd insist that his mother 
>come to the class to babysit him. (I once had to do that because one 
>of my sons was crawling around on the floor acting like a puppy 
>during Catechism class. Blind Catechism teachers aren't the only 
>ones with discipline problems.)
>What can I do to lessen the likelihood that the students will use my 
>blindness as a means of goofing around? There are no grades, so I 
>can't fail them. If I throw them out of the class they'll be 
>thrilled, since they're only there because they're required to go by 
>their parents.
>I need carrots to entice them to behave. I also need sticks to make 
>it more trouble than it's worth to misbehave. Above all, I need tips 
>blind teachers use for class control.
>I would appreciate any suggestions. You can write to me at 
><mailto:gabias at telus.net>gabias at telus.net because I'm not on the 
>Blind Educator listserv.
>Thanks for your help.
>Mary Ellen Gabias

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