My First Steps

by Tanya Stewart

EDITORíS NOTE: Tanya Stewart is an active student leader in the National Federation of the Blind of Louisiana.

In March of 1998 I began my first quarter at Louisiana Tech University.† I had just graduated from the Louisiana Center for the Blind and was eager to try out my new-found skills and confidence.† One of my courses that I was to take was Education 125.† This class introduces the basic concepts of education.† As a course requirement I had to observe an elementary classroom for ten hours.† I was very excited about this class for it was here that I would find out if† I wanted to continue my long time goal to teach.† However, I was not prepared for the obstacles that I would face on the first day of class.

At the Louisiana Center, I had learned about blindness and the negative attitudes that many people have towards it.† My family and friends were somewhat skeptical of my decision to teach.† However, after seeing me read Braille and use a cane to travel, their support grew.† The question was no longer if I could teach, but whether I wanted to teach.† So when I walked into class with my yet untried philosophy, I was not prepared for my instructor's attitude towards me.† At first, she would not talk to me.† When she took roll, my name was not called.†

Thinking that this was some mix up, I ignored it.† However, when I approached her after class to discuss testing modifications and to sort out the problem of the roll, she informed me that my name was on the roll.† She then proceeded to ask me if I wanted to be in this class.† She was not sure how I would observe a class or how I would ever be able to teach.† I explained to her that I was intending to be a teacher and that this course was required.† She said that she understood and the matter was dropped, or so I thought.

As the quarter progressed, I noticed that she would never call on me to answer questions or to discuss parts of the text.† I was not sure how to bring this matter up, so I let it go.† After the first test, matters improved.† I scored well on the test, and the teacher was shown that I could complete my work competently.† I noticed that after the test, she would walk by my desk and feel my Braille paper where I had used my slate.† As the quarter progressed, she began calling on me.† I delivered my article review in front of the class, like the rest of the students, and handed in quality work on time.†† After awhile, she began to warm up to me.†

Toward the end of the quarter, my instructor asked to speak to me.† She wanted to know how I observed the classes and how I completed type-written notes.† She was no longer afraid of approaching me, and was beginning to believe that I wasn't a waste of her time.

When, at first, my instructor showed no belief in my ability to teach, I was hurt.† I knew that I could learn the material needed to become a teacher, but if I had not met other blind teachers, I may have been persuaded to drop the coarse.† The Federation and the center have given me the skills and confidence to follow my dreams.

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