The Importance of Blind Mentors in Teacher Prep Programs

22 Sep
The following two tabs change content below.
West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB, NCUEB

West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB, NCUEB

Casey was named as the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children in 2012 in part for her constant advocacy that blind children learn braille in a positive environment. In addition to serving as an independent contractor with four school districts in Mississippi, Casey is an active researcher and instructor at Louisiana Tech University.

It is vital that we as teachers of the blind and visually impaired maintain high expectations for our students and understand the true capability of the blind. Meeting and collaborating with competent blind adults who are living the lives they want helps us to understand the skills that our students need to be successful. Unfortunately, many teachers and blindness professionals do not meet blind people until it is time for them to begin teaching. But how can you have a true, realistic expectation about blind people if you have not met a blind person?

One important factor that sets the Institute on Blindness apart is that our students meet, work with, and are taught by competent, independent blind people using non-visual techniques in their everyday lives. These blind adults serve as role models for us as teachers, for our bind students and for their families. They teach us the importance of blindness skills and help us to set goals for our students through their example.

Many of the courses for our teacher of blind students programs are online; however, students are expected to visit Ruston, La. for some hands-on training sessions. Students come for one week during their quarter-long course in orientation and mobility (which is specifically designed for teachers of blind students) to learn cane travel skills under sleep shades from blind instructors. This helps our TBS students understand the non-visual cues blind people use to travel independently and the empowering Structured-Discovery Cane Travel technique.

When I took that course, I remember tripping on the curb because I wasn’t using my cane correctly. My blind cane travel instructor, who used these techniques every day, however, was walking around just fine. That was the moment that I realized my blind niece had to get better cane travel skills! She would not be limited to route travel; she would learn the structured-discovery method.

It was in that moment when I realized how important the structured-discovery skills were that it was like a light bulb turned on for me.

Learning from a blind adult helped me to understand where my students need to be and what they can accomplish. (Tweet this!)

Recently, a student learning to be a teacher of blind students came to us to take only a few courses so that she could finish her degree from another university. She had not met blind people before enrolling at Louisiana Tech, and she told me it was totally different to see blind people working in all sorts of professions, including as her instructors. It filled her with enthusiasm about the potential for her students. She went on to say that it was one of the most important parts of our program for her, and it helped her see beyond only the blindness research.

As sighted teachers, we can teach our blind students a great deal, but, at the end of the day, we can take those sleep shades off. We don’t live as blind people. We at Louisiana Tech University make it a priority for our students to meet blind people, so they can set their expectations high and learn from positive, blind mentors.

I urge all professionals in the blindness field to seek out competent, blind role models for yourself and your students. The National Federation of the Blind’s annual convention is a great place to learn and network among thousands of blind people who are working in practically every profession imaginable. Check the NFB listservs for events, visit one of our structured-discovery rehabilitation training centers and consider joining a local chapter or division of the Federation.

Most importantly, if you know somebody who wants to work in the field of blindness, implore them to seek out a program where they will frequently interact with blind people face-to-face.

The following two tabs change content below.
West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB, NCUEB

West Robertson, M.Ed., NCLB, NCUEB

Casey was named as the Distinguished Educator of Blind Children in 2012 in part for her constant advocacy that blind children learn braille in a positive environment. In addition to serving as an independent contractor with four school districts in Mississippi, Casey is an active researcher and instructor at Louisiana Tech University.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

eighty − = seventy four