Future Reflections Summer 1996, Vol. 15 No. 3
by Ruby Ryles
Editor's Note: Readers will remember Ruby Ryles as the author of "Is Your Child Age-Appropriate?" Those who have attended NFB National Conventions know her as Dan's mom, the 1992 Outstanding Teacher of Blind Children award winner, the First Vice President of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children, or as the IEP expert who conducts standing-room only workshops. But blind students from Arkansas, Alaska, and Washington know her as the Braille teacher who made a difference in their lives. They know that the creed she describes below is not just talk; she lives it. The success of the creed is irrefutable: it is demonstrated every day in the normal, independent lives led by her son and her former students. Here is "A Teachers Creed" by Ruby Ryles:
Foremost, I believe a blind child must have at least the beginnings of a positive attitude about her blindness before any formal instruction in the skills of blindness can really be effective. Since the home environment will have the most influence on her attitudes, I consider it part of my job to help her parents understand that blindness need not be the tragic debilitating handicap that most people believe it to be.
Next, it is my task to show them that there is nothing unusual about a blind child leading a normal child's life-washing dishes, learning to skate, walking to school, cheerleading, etc. Although friends, teachers, and others around her will consider her extraordinary when she does the most commonplace things"My, she does that well for a blind child"the family and the child should never measure her accomplishments by this false standard. I must help them understand the ceiling this attitude puts on the youngster's true potential.
I believe all blind children have the right to experience the untold joys and dignity of a lifetime of literacy. Fluency, efficiency, and comfort are the determinants of reading medium, not eye charts or contrived assessments and evaluations. I must teach my young student that Braille is not inferior to, nor a substitute for, print. It is no harder nor easier to learn than print reading. I have the responsibility to insist that classroom teachers and others hold blind students to the same standard of academic achievement and social behavior as their sighted peers. I need to impress on my student that her future academic excellence will be determined by her degree of literacy, perseverance, and study habits, not her visual acuity.
I believe it is my job to insist she learn to advocate for herself from a young age and to speak up with indignation when others regard her as second class or inferior. I want her to discover early that she is capable of learning and successfully accomplishing new tasks without my intervention or assistance. I should not consider myself her tutor, for then she will be restricted to the breadth of my own knowledge of a subject. This is the most challenging aspect of my job to make my role obsolete in her school life as soon as possible.
I believe it is my responsibility to introduce her to competent blind adults, so she will neither fear nor question her own abilities and quality of life as a blind adult. I believe that it is my obligation to encourage her to dream the dreams of the young, while instructing her in the nature of discrimination and the very real impact it can have on her dreams.
Finally, I sincerely hope I never become arrogant enough to think that degrees and certificates qualify me as an expert in blindness. And should I cease to listen and learn from the National Federation of the Blind and the countless blind adults who have taught me how to teach, I hope I am wise enough to recognize that it is time to retire, for I truly will no longer be qualified to teach blind children.