[blindkid] Chorus class

Allison Hilliker AllisonH at benetech.org
Mon Feb 2 14:45:03 UTC 2015

Hi Merry-Noel,

I don't post too often on here but I was so moved by your story that I wanted to respond.

Something very similar happened to me with show choir in high school. My experience, more than 15 years ago, was so much like Ashleah's that it makes me sad to know that things haven't changed all that much.

As a parent, NFB member, TVI, and advocate, you likely want to fight this battle to the end because this teacher's attitudes are so totally not okay. That said, there is one variable in this case that makes this less of a good idea. Ashleah is a teenager. And teens want to do just about anything not to stand out, especially if they already do stand out because of blindness. My guess is, even if you won this show choir battle, Ashleah still wouldn't enjoy the experience because it singled her out to more or less take on a teacher. And to some extent Ashleah would be right in her feelings because this teacher has authority and can find many micro ways to complicate Ashleah's life even if she does make it to show choir.

I'm not sure what your best solution to this situation is, but here's what I did. I didn't do show choir myself, and instead I got involved in two other things that built my confidence. I got involved in community theater and my school's quiz bowl team. Quiz bowl was an academic competition team. Most schools have them, but they are called by many different names. Both of these things built my confidence because I was able to excel in areas in which I experienced less blindness-related adversity. Yes, I had some, most of us blind people always will, but there wasn't much overt discrimination. This helped reassure me that I had things I was good at and also that I could compete as part of a team of sighted people. I think that for teens, that is more important to learn than the advocacy skill benefits of fighting a discrimination battle. I wouldn't say that was necessarily true for younger kids, whose battles will be mostly fought by parents, and certainly not true for adults who must do their own advocacy, but for teens I think it is true. JMO.

So I think you are doing a great job here so far. You're letting Ashleah know that you believe she can do show choir, and also reassuring her that if she wants to advocate for herself that you will help her out. And that, unfortunately, is pretty much all you can do since she's asserted that she does not want to try for show choir. It may make you sad and frustrated not to insist, but that may be your best option. Moreover, you're not totally out of proactive options either, as a parent, you can now nudge your daughter into trying new things in other areas. She may ultimately find something she likes better than show choir.

As another interesting side note, I didn't do show choir myself in high school, I just joined the regular school choir that everyone could get into. And in that choir I met one of my life-long best friends who I still keep in touch with today. She was sighted, but one of the things she and I first bonded over was how much we both disliked the choir teacher. Because, just as Ashleah's teacher does, mine too had her obvious favorites. And my sighted friend felt that this teacher wasn't giving her a full chance either. This showed me that, even if I wasn't blind, I still might not get picked for show choir because I just might not be one of the favorites. And learning that it's not just blind people who are treated unfairly sometimes was an important life lesson too. And now, looking back, I'm so thankful to have my friend Tiffany that it seems worth not having been in show choir because I met an amazing friend. In other words, there will most likely be something even better out there awaiting Ashleah even if she doesn't do show choir.

Hope this helps. Good luck and let us know how things go.


From: blindkid [mailto:blindkid-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Merry-Noel Chamberlain via blindkid
Sent: Sunday, February 01, 2015 10:53 AM
To: blindkid at nfbnet.org
Subject: Re: [blindkid] Chorus class

Hello everyone. I hope all is doing well and keeping warm and safe this winter season.

My husband and I went to our daughter's Parent/Teacher conference last week. Ashleah is a 9th grade high school student, blind, and an academic student with all As. She loves to sing and does it well. (Not just a mother's point of view here.) Anyway, her school has a "Show Choir" that she has shown some interest in but the teacher, the her friends have told me, has her favorites and constantly picks those for solos. Usually these are students in Show Choir. This is the third year Ashleah has had this teacher. I thought she would get a different teacher when she went to the high school but that didn't happen. Ashleah has never tried out for Show Choir because of this teacher having her favorites. So, back to parent/teacher conference night. I reached my boiling point, which doesn't happen too often, mind you. The teacher commented that Ashleah is receiving an A+ and she would like for Ashleah to try out for a special event that, "doesn't require any dancing." Ashleah would just need to walk around the audience while she sang with the rest of the group. At that moment, I asked the teacher what she would do if a student of hers were in a wheelchair and wanted to sign up for Show Choir? Would she discourage that student just as she has done my daughter? I proceeded to tell her that Ashleah has wanted to try out for Show Choir but hasn't because of her. The teacher commented that she feared for Ashleah's safety on the risers. I told her that Ashleah is an excellent cane traveler and the woman nodded. I said Ashleah could learn the movements if she had some assistance...perhaps a video of the movements or a peer, or even she, the teacher, could assist her in learning the moves. The point being, I told the teacher, is that she need not close the door without giving Ashleah every opportunity to walk through. Yes, this was all said in front of my daughter, who was a little upset with me for fear the teacher would be upset with her. I told Ashleah, the teacher was wrong and I was being an advocate for my daughter in hopes that the next time, my daughter would be an advicate for herself.

I also spoke to Ashleah's case manager that night and informed her what transpired with Chorus teacher.

So since that night, the teacher has had a couple of "practices" in class. This morning, Ashleah says she officially HATES Show Choir. Her decision to not try to unlock that door.....not her teacher's.....(I hope.)

Merry-Noel Chamberlain

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