Future Reflections                                                                                       Volume 20, Number 1

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Blind Kids and Magnet Schools: Our Experiences

by Amanda Jones and April Jones

     Editorís Note: This article is edited from the remarks that April and Amanda Jones made to parents at the NOPBC 2000 Annual Meeting in Atlanta. And yes, they are twins, and they are blind. They are also independent, bright, articulate, assertive, sociable, and curious. These characteristics have been carefully nurtured and cultivated by their grandparents, Pat and Jerry Jones.

     The NFB has also played an important part in their development. Shortly after the girls came to live with them, Pat and Jerry came to their first NFB Convention. They were delighted with the positive ďcan-doĒ NFB philosophy and decided right then and there that this was the spirit with which they would raise April and Amanda. And so they have, as you can see below, with quite admirable results. Here is what Amanda and April have to say:

                                                           Amanda

Amanda Jones
Amanda Jones

     The first year at my new magnet school was a great success. It started in Summer Spectrum. I explored creative writing for my first choice and drama for my second choice. I enjoyed both of them immensely. I have always loved to write so that wasnít very new, but I decided to try drama because I felt the drama teacher would be a great help in getting me to feel more comfortable in front of audiences.

     The first week of school was quite hectic for me. My schedule was very wacky because my creative writing and drama were switched around. I wound up in the commons (cafeteria) for about a week. Then I went into Aprilís drama class for a while to see if I would like it. The school almost didnít offer creative writing because there werenít enough students who were recommended for the class. But they did, and I finally got to take it. There were only six of us in the class. We wrote short stories, monologues, poems, and commercials. All of it was fun, but I liked writing short stories the best. We had a coffee house where students who wanted to share their writings could. I didnít share any of my writings, and a few people werenít happy about it, but I didnít feel comfortable doing it.

     I didnít get to take drama because it wasnít offered to students who wanted to take it as a minor. I was very disappointed. I took musical theater (which I didnít like at all) for the first semester and piano for the second.

     My math and American history teacher, Mrs. Schoonover, made us do two major projects this year, but they were both fun. The first project was to read a book and either put it on tape or make a cartoon board of it. I put mine on tape. I only got a 93 because it was too long. The second project was to make a poster of a person who influenced American history. I chose to do Mark Twain because I wanted to do someone who was a famous writer. Mrs. Schoonover is a horse lover like me. She now owes me a horseback ride for she promised the class that anyone who kept a 3.0 average would get a ride on her horse. She actually owes me two rides, one per semester.

     Speaking of projects, my English teacher, Ms. Hartline, also made us do a poster of the ďDiary of Anne Frank.Ē Mrs. Johnson, my science teacher, made us do a Rube Goldburg project. Harold Snider helped April and me with that project. We had to change a few things for the project to work, but we finally got it to work. [Editorís note: Dr. Snider is a blind scholar who studied in Oxford. He is an active member and leader in the NFB.]

     All the students and teachers accepted me quite well. I made more friends at this school than I have at any of the schools I have attended in my whole life. The majority of my friends were sixth graders, but I had a few high school friends as well as friends my own age. We had an award ceremony at this school. I won the Creative Writing Award and the Presidentís Award. I kind of had the feeling that I would win the writing award, but the Presidentís Award stunned me. I won it because I demonstrated the most improvement in my academic classes.

     Next year I am taking playwriting, creative writing, foundations of acting, and French. Weíre required to have 32 credits to graduate from high school. Everyone is on a college bound track, so those who donít want to attend college are not permitted to attend. I hope next year will be as successful as this year has been.

April

April Jones
April Jones

     I am attending a brand new magnet school called The Center for Creative Arts. I was very nervous about leaving my old school where I knew virtually everybody since first grade. My new school had a Summer Spectrum to help new students figure out where everyone was most comfortable. I found out that others were just as nervous as I was. I tried drama and band. I played in the band at my old school, so it wasnít anything new. My new band teacher was going to learn Braille music.

     Being a new school, the schedules were subject to change almost every day for a while. Amanda and I were in the same drama class for a short time. I didnít like it, but my drama teacher wouldnít let me drop out. Iím very glad that he did not let me drop out because I learned a lot and really liked the class. My drama teacher had us play games to teach us how to be more comfortable in front of audiences. One of the games we played was called Swat Tag. In this game a student with a ďnoodleĒ (the kind you use in the swimming pool) walked behind the seats, and as they came by they would give the seated person a gentle tap. If they wanted to tag you, they would smack harder. The tagged person would run to the center to a stool and wait for the person who tagged them to come to the stool. Then the person who had the noodle would lay it on the stool. The tagged person would grab it and try to swat the other person before he/she got to their seat. For my benefit when it was my turn, he would make the person who had tagged me close their eyes. They would have to find the stool on equal terms with me. All the games we played he adapted in some way so I wasnít at any disadvantage.

     In the second semester our drama class was going to put on a play. The parts I had were the narrator of Cinderella, the witch for Morgan, and the pot of brains, and several parts I canít remember now. We did the rehearsals in class. They were pretty good except when there were interferences. On the last week before our performance some people did not show up. Mr. Ray was pretty ticked, but he let it go after he heard the reason. On the last day of rehearsal two of the kidís parents came to pick them up an hour early. Mr. Ray came back and told us that the show was cancelled.

     I ended up not being in band because it was not offered as a minor. So I took chorus for my first semester and creative writing for my second. I also took a technology class that gave you a high school credit if you passed the exit exam. I learned all the shortcut keys for JAWS for Windows and passed the exit exam. My teacher didnít know the shortcut keys, but we had a print copy to give her from the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore.

     My P. E. teacher had the notion that I should count my steps around the gym when I ran laps. She was a high school teacher and couldnít handle middle schoolers very well, so we had a lot of trouble with her. I have her for one more year.

     Everything in the Magnet School was focused around the arts. One of the things we were required to do was see ďMadame Butterfly,Ē an opera sung in Italian. We were tested on this in every class. The school purchased tickets for us, and we had to meet at the theater in proper dress attire without our parents. Our parents had to pick us up after the opera.

     These are just some of the things that we did this year. Next year I am taking puppetry, band, oral interpretation, and French.

     I think that if other blind students have the opportunity to attend an arts magnet school, they should.

Amanda and April take a break between youth activities at the 2000 convention to talk over old times witht their former teacher of the visually impaired, Cheryl Gateley (center)
Amanda and April take a break between youth activities at the 2000 convention to talk over old times with their former teacher of the visually impaired, Cheryl Gateley (center).

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