American Association of Blind Teachers

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At the time this article was written, Juliana Raiche was a student at Virginia Commonwealth University where she majored in classical guitar. She has studied with such acknowledged masters as Pepe Romero. The following article illustrates the importance of creativity in teaching, whether the instructor is sighted or not.

Juliana Raiche

Is it possible for a blind teacher to instruct a sighted student? Before my own personal experience in teaching, I myself was not certain of the answer to this question. However, after teaching several private classic guitar students in my home, I began to develop a system of teaching. Yes it is possible for a blind teacher to successfully instruct sighted students.

As a blind teacher, I used a variety of teaching methods and tools. One tool that worked remarkably well was a guitar instructional book that was in both print music for my sighted student and in braille music for me. As my student played, I read the music notation along with her. Often, I would follow along and correct any mistakes or clarify any confusion.

In addition to reading music, I also focused on teaching guitar technique. This proved to be a little more challenging for both myself and my students. I used a number of different ways to teach technique. First, I used the sense of touch. I would physically position my students' hands, and then touch their hands occasionally as they played. I could tell if the student was playing in the style that I was teaching if the tone produced had a certain quality. Also, I would have my student place her hand on top of my hand as I played. In this way, the student could feel for herself the placement of my arm, wrist, and finger joints.

Next, I used demonstration. I would have my sighted student look very carefully at my hands and fingers as I played so they could see how their hands should appear during practice. I suggested that students practice in front of a mirror watching their hands rather than looking down at their fingers. Finally, I would coach my students by giving them as many examples and descriptions as I could of the specific sensation needed to create beautiful tone and maintain a relaxed hand position. For example, in order for the student to understand finger movement when striking a single string, I would say, "pretend that your fingers are walking slowly, deliberately, step-by-step with no hesitation." If the student needed more coaching, I would have her put down the guitar and walk across the room the way I wanted the fingers to "walk across the strings." The students found this exercise silly, but it consistently produced improved technique after the exercise.

As you are reading this article, you may be thinking: "That is not different than the way my teacher teaches, or not much different than the way I teach." That is precisely the point! With the senses of sight, touch, and hearing to instruct in the disciplines of classical guitar, it is possible for a blind teacher to have sighted students.

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