This is day 2, week 4 of the UA Adventure Semester. My group’s challenge today was to teach the rest of our group how to recognize one type of native plant, with a catch – half the group we were teaching would be blindfolded, and half would be blocking out sound with music. The goal was to successfully teach both the blinded and the deafened members of our group equally well, accounting for their radically different learning styles. There was, in this case, two sides to the challenge. First, making ourselves into effective teachers for all the students we were presented with, and second, successfully understanding the subject despite our constraints.
Everyone in my group faced their own particular struggles doing this challenge. Some of us were uncomfortable being unable to see, or had difficulties teaching both people who couldn’t see what they were showing and people who couldn’t hear what they were saying, at the same time. We found that in the teacher role, multitasking was extremely helpful, as were extensive visual and physical aids. Often, we’d bring in a sample of the plant to be touched and looked at. Similarly, we would use wikipedia pages or papers describing the plant to show what we were saying out loud, in writing. As a student, we found that handicaps didn’t handicap us nearly as much as we’d expected. When blinded, we could still hear and ask questions if something was unclear. While deafened, it was possible to learn more through observation. Some of us even still asked questions while deafened, because the teacher could still write out or show us the answer.
Personally, as a teacher, I found it useful to both write and draw what I was trying to describe. It was also useful to change colors of marker while I was writing, as it created visual variety and drew those who couldn’t hear me speak into the explanation. I would have liked to have more samples of the plant I was teaching about – chicory, to be specific – so that everyone could have felt and examined it on their own. Still, I feel that I gave a decently thorough lesson, and was attentive to the needs of the people I was teaching.
As a handicapped student, it helped to be comfortable in asking questions. The teacher wouldn’t always correctly assess what I could and couldn’t make sense of, so when I was confused, the quickest, simplest, and easiest solution was simply inquiring about it in some way. I also deeply value the experience of learning something regardless of such a major, personal obstacle set in my way. Being blind or deaf is not something you can remove, and it’s extremely valuable to have teachers who know to teach in a way that still gets the information across to their student, whatever the obstacle.
At the end of the day, I see this as a valuable learning experience. The lesson of both being a student with one major venue for information-gathering removed, and of how to accommodate for anyone who’s learning something from you, are lessons that I will carry with me all my life. It’s always important to find ways to do what you want to do, regardless of the obstacle, and it’s even more important to remember that such obstacles can be overcome. At the same time, it’s extremely important to remember that these obstacles do exist, and that we have to respect them and know when something simply will not work. You can no more show a blind person the sunrise than you can have a deaf person hear an orchestra.