Treva Olivero, MEd, NCLB
A few months ago, I was teaching the braille code to a kid and, every time she got an answer right, she gave herself a round of applause. I’ve always heard the expression of cheering yourself on, but this child really practiced it! I don’t remember the exact circumstance, but—all of a sudden—she ran around the table twice and sat down. More than a round of applause, I think that was her victory dance!
I was shocked, but what she did next surprised me even more: this six-year-old sat down and continued as if she’d been there the whole time. This hasn’t happened ever again, but it sure brightened my day to see a kid cheer herself on!
I had that experience while working as a paraprofessional for another teacher of blind students in Louisiana. I think that we struck a balance that I don’t see happening in many classrooms. We were always the adults in charge, of course, but we helped our students to celebrate their achievements in fun ways.
Just a few days later, this same student came in and asked me, “Can I be the teacher?”
Now, I knew that she thought that she was teaching me, but of course it was reinforcing the concepts for her. In other words, she was learning the dot positions and braille signs through teaching. Heck, she was even applauding us for doing a great job, unless of course we (purposely) got the answer wrong! “What’s the sign for WH again?” I’d ask, and she’d answer.
A few times, I would ask her, “I don’t understand what you’re saying. Can you please write it down for us?”
And away she’d go on the Perkins braillewriter with a renewed sense of excitement! I hadn’t planned on this teachable moment coming up, but we still did the instruction…we just reversed the roles for a full class period. My tenure at the Institute on Blindness at Louisiana Tech taught me that we teachers have to be flexible…to a point. When the student came in the next day and asked to be the teacher again, I knew that we couldn’t do that every day, but you seize these moments and help kids get motivated to learn.