Feature Writer Alena Roberts – Getting Experience in the Classroom

As some of you may remember, I am hoping to become a teacher of the blind and visually impaired. Since I don’t have an education background, unless you count being raised by educators, I decided to get some experience in the classroom to see if teaching was for me. Last month, I was able to shadow one of our local itinerant teachers of the blind and meet some of his students. It was a great experience that taught me a lot in just one day. After meeting some of his students we decided to have me work with a few of them to enhance their braille reading and assistive technology skills.

Before I started volunteering, I was invited to one of the schools to do a presentation on guide dogs to not only educate the students, but prepare them for having me visit their school on a regular basis. I can now proudly say that the students almost always ask before petting Midge, and they’re respectful if I say no.

On my first day volunteering with my second grader, we practiced his braille reading skills. He is learning grade 2 braille, and making some good progress. Recess is during the time that I’m there, and on the first day I joined the kids at the request of my student. It was an interesting experience for me as a future teacher. I think for the sake of my guide dog, recess is not a good place for me because it distracts the kids from playing and is overwhelming for the dog.

One of my favorite things about volunteering is that everyone is happy that I’m there and that I’m using my own braille skills to help a young braille reader enhance his reading skills. One of the reasons I want to become a teacher is because I believe braille is critical for the blind to be successful, and I think that knowing braille means I’m more likely to spend the time needed to teach it.

If you’re looking for a way to use your knowledge of braille or adaptive technology, consider contacting your local school for the blind or itinerant teacher to ask if you can volunteer with their students. It’s very rewarding.

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