[nobe-l] Fwd: my teaching questions

David Andrews dandrews at visi.com
Thu Jan 28 06:26:45 UTC 2010

>From: "Mary Ellen" <gabias at telus.net>
>To: "'David Andrews'" <dandrews at visi.com>
>Subject: my teaching questions
>Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 21:08:19 -0800
>Dear Dave,
>Several months ago you circulated my request for teaching tips to 
>the National Association of Blind Educator's list. Would you please 
>forward this update, since many of the people who responded asked me 
>to let them know about my progress.
>First, I wanted to thank all of you who responded to my somewhat 
>desperate request for suggestions. Your messages were both 
>encouraging and helpful.
>The Catechism year is more than half over and I am happy to report 
>genuine progress. At least I can report progress in the way my 
>students understand and relate to having a blind teacher. The 
>question of their overall response to their catechism lessons is a 
>hot topic among all of us who volunteer to teach them, but probably 
>not on topic for this list.
>I began by talking with the co-ordinator about my assigned room. She 
>agreed to move me. I now have space I can rearrange as needed in 
>order to move around among my students and separate them into groups 
>for doing projects.
>When we had settled into our new room, I began class by informing 
>them that I would not tolerate a repeat of the disrespect they had 
>shown. I let them know that I preferred peace but had some 
>formidable weapons of war if necessary. Specifically, I told them 
>they were in class for an hour and that I could either try to find 
>pleasant things for them to do or I could think of projects that 
>would make their time miserable. Then I gave them a few examples. I 
>also told them I would be speaking with their parents. Then I called 
>each of the parents and described my objectives for their children's 
>learning for the year. I explained the class dynamics and the 
>specific discipline problem. They all expressed support and assured 
>me they would talk with their children. We also agreed that, if the 
>misbehavior continued, any unruly student would come to my home for 
>a review class on Saturday morning. When the students heard that 
>misbehavior would jeopardize their Saturdays, their 
>behavior  improved immediately. In fact, they began correcting one 
>another's misdeeds.
>I still had to find a way to teach that wouldn't either put the 
>students to sleep or cause them to fidget from the suppressed need 
>to get up and move. I quickly discovered that anything remotely 
>resembling a lecture format was doomed to failure. At first, 
>probably because I'd been so stern with them, they were reluctant to 
>answer questions or participate in discussions. They did like some 
>of the activities in the teacher's guide and supplementary exercise 
>books. We do crossword puzzles and word searches from the book. I 
>ask them to read their answers aloud.
>One week, when it was obvious that sitting still was almost more 
>than they could bear because it was a beautiful fall day outside, I 
>told them they could go outside and have a paper airplane contest, 
>provided they wrote a verse of the Appostle's Creed on their planes.
>Another week we played hangman using their Faith Vocabulary words.
>Two weeks ago I divided the class into two groups and assigned each 
>group to prepare a poster about a chapter and teach the material to 
>the other group. I walked between groups suggesting ideas. The next 
>week they performed. One group did very well; the other? Well, let's 
>just say they needed a lot more structured help than I'd provided. I 
>knew it wasn't going to be a great day when they began their lesson 
>by giving the other group a test on the material. If I do something 
>like that again, I'll give them less freedom in designing their presentation.
>Yesterday we were discussing St. Paul's journeys and his first 
>letter to the Corinthians. We had a really good discussion about 
>ways they would spread the Gospel if Christianity were brand new and 
>they were advising St. Paul. Some of their methods were quite 
>creative. Except for a few minor digressions concerning how to catch 
>crabs, (St. Paul did have to cross the ocean to get to Corinth after 
>all, and one student was reminded of his visit to a crab fishery), 
>the discussion was quite good. We were talking about St. Paul's 
>influence over people. One student described how he and his brother 
>influenced the people on their paper route to give them tips at 
>Christmas by deliberately showing up late with the papers and 
>knocking on the doors to appologize and wish their customers a merry 
>Christmas. I told them of my experience delivering papers, which 
>sparked questions about how I could possibly do that as a blind person.
>All in all, I believe the class is finally coming together. I'm not 
>kidding myself, though. I'm absolutely sure they would all rather be 
>almost anywhere else on Tuesday afternoons. But at least blindness 
>hasn't remained a major issue in the way the classes proceed.
>Mary Ellen Gabias

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