Editor's Note: The following letter arrived in my office this spring. Although the overall picture of education of blind children is dismal indeed, there are some bright spots. Ms. Swiech 's letter reminds us that there are still teachers of blind children who go about their jobs with skill, enthusiasm, pride, and most of all, a rock-solid belief in the abilities of the blind. We can take heart from their example.
April 20,1989 Dear Barbara, My name is Gail Swiech, and I teach a class of blind children in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have been a member of the National Federation of the Blind for ten years (my aunt is Karen Mayry, South Dakota NFB President) and a member of the Parents of Blind Children Division of the NFB since we started in Albuquerque three years ago.
I really enjoy reading the Braille Monitor and Future Reflections when I receive them. It still appals me that our students still are not getting a decent education in many parts of the country. I get so angry (and I know you do too) when I hear how the professionals (and I use that word loosely) treat children and parents. I am proud of the fact that all legally blind students here have the opportunity to learn Braille and cane travel; both by certified people who have the same beliefs and attitudes about blindness as the members of the NFB!
The academic progress and the growth in independence I have seen in my students has been very satisfying. As the school year winds down to a close, I would like to share with you and the readers of Future Reflections some of our neat successes and activities.
1. Last summer, during Braille home training, Louise, who was just learning Braille, sat down at her kitchen table. Someone had spilled a little salt on the table and, as she was exploring the table, she felt a grain of salt under her finger tip. She got very excited and exclaimed "Look, Mom. Here's an A!" Today Louise is reading simple stories using the Patterns Braille reading series.
2. Jessica is one of my second graders. She is mainstreamed into a third grade class for all of her academics. One of the stories she wrote for her English class impressed me with the creativity. I submitted it (on the sly) in a citywide competition called "Spotlight on Young Writers" sponsored by Albuquerque Public Schools the Albuquerque Journal . [Note: The story reprinted in the KIDS KORNER section of l issue.] I was told that more than 200 entries received; Jessica was the only winner from school!
3. Four of my students entered the Bra Readers are Leaders contest. Anywhere frc 250 to over 4,000 pages were read by the childrc The contest served its purpose; two kids who i not like reading were taking books home reading! I really noticed an improvement in t reading skills after the contest. We are m anxiously waiting for the results.
4. Our whole class is involved in a school-wide talent show called the Zia Follies. We are singing two songs from Cinderella; Jessica is doing a solo, "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes," and Jennifer is singing the introduction to "Bibbidy-BobbidyBoo"with the rest of the class coming in for the chorus. We had to practice and audition, and now we're ready to perform.
These are just a few highlights from our program. I think it's important that our children are involved and competing with other children. I'm ending my fifth year as a teacher, and it has not been easy at times. When I get frustrated I only have to think about all of the wonderful things that have happened. I feel sorry for those "professionals" who have such a hard time understanding our blind children. They don't know what teaching is all about. It's giving children the tools needed to succeed then sitting back and watching them grow.
I appreciate you letting me brag a little about my kids. I'm proud of them and cannot really imagine doing anything else. Best wishes.
Sincerely, Gail Swiech