Unfortunately, most teaching positions include their share of non-teaching duties. Faculty members must assume the responsibility for these chores in order for all the work to get done. One concern that many administrators have when they consider hiring a blind teacher is whether or not he or she will be able to perform the extra duties that teachers must assume.
Admittedly, there are certain tasks--such as monitoring halls and cafeterias, proctoring standardized tests and bus duty—which would be difficult for a totally blind teacher. The inability to perform certain non-teaching duties should never stand in the way of an otherwise well-qualified teacher obtaining a position, but we all know that many administrators will take the easy way out and hire a sighted applicant, even if he or she is less qualified. How can you resolve this problem?
One wrong approach would be to try to perform duties that you cannot perform adequately without sight. This will only cause trouble because you will not be able to do the work independently and somebody else will have to pick up the slack. An even worse approach would be to allow your sighted colleagues to do the tasks that you cannot perform without sight. Doing this will only lead to resentment from the rest of the faculty because you will not be pulling your share of the load. Also, your colleagues will never respect you as an equal if they constantly have to do your work. A better solution would be to exchange the duties which clearly require sight for those that you can perform. For example, instead of cafeteria duty, you could supervise a study hall regularly or offer extra tutoring for students. Instead of proctoring tests, you could sponsor a school club or extracurricular activity. The possibilities are endless.
Another way to share the work load with your colleagues is to exchange services. For example, another teacher could monitor a test for you. In exchange, you might agree to make copies of his handouts for him or to take over one of his study halls or classes for a period. This way, both you and your colleague will benefit and all the work will get done.
A third way to share is to exchange resources with colleagues. I do this a lot in my present teaching position, and it's a win-win situation for everyone involved. For example, I share materials about foreign cultures with other teachers for particular social studies units. They share such things as toys, pictures, and games which I can use in my foreign language classes. Since I share my classroom with the art teacher, I am constantly looking for and saving materials that she can use in her art classes. In exchange, she helps me to make much-needed flash cards by having her students draw pictures of common objects or cutting them out of magazines for me.
In general, members of our faculty are constantly borrowing each other's books and other teaching aids. Rather than discarding items which are still useful but no longer needed, we pass them on to other teachers who can use them. Educational materials are often very expensive. By sharing resources with other faculty members, you will be able to offer so much more to your students.
A final and very innovative way to share the load with colleagues is to work together by taking a multi-disciplinary approach to education. This involves combining forces when you and another teacher are teaching related subject matter. By combining resources and sharing the work load, you and another teacher may be able to provide more to your students together than you could individually. There may not be enough money allocated to you to take your class on a field trip, purchase an expensive video series, or bring in a speaker to present a program. However, if you combine forces with another teacher or department, you just might be able to accomplish your goal. Some examples of this strategy include a combined field trip to a museum sponsored by the science and social studies departments, the art and music departments uniting to present a school concert and exhibition, math and computer teachers working together to purchase equipment and software for the school's computer lab, and a German teacher and a history teacher pooling their resources to bring in someone to talk about the Holocaust to their classes. Working with colleagues on combined projects has at least three benefits. First, it allows you to provide more for your students. Second, a multi-disciplinary approach shows your students how what they are studying in your class is related to other courses they are taking. Finally, working on projects with your colleagues promotes cooperation and good will all around.
In conclusion, those of us who are blind teachers know what a challenge it can be to win the respect of other faculty members and achieve equal status with our colleagues. We can meet this challenge and be much better teachers if we do our share of the work, offer our time and resources generously and work together with our colleagues to achieve the common goal of educating our students.
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