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[teacherartexchange] Mixed classes, Randy


Date: Wed Aug 17 2005 - 06:10:01 PDT

This challenge sounds exactly as you described it...a very interesting
year. She is obviously in your class for the right reasons, her passion
for art. Since she is going to be blind soon, I think you should have a
very frank talk with her at the start of the year about working together
to make her art class as perfect as it can be for her. Ask her if she
has some preconceived goals that she wants to accomplish. I'd forget
standards if she has trouble accomplishing everything you want the rest
of the class to do and go with art for art's sake for her. She may feel
like she has a mission to accomplish in your class. Find out what it
is. I was at Arrowmont for a clay class with a young adult who had
retinitis pigmentosa. She was also going blind. She had pinpoint
central vision but her peripheral vision was almost gone. The state of
Tennessee was actually paying her tuition in order for her to learn a
trade... how to work with clay. She had to think about what she was
going to do for a career, and she decided she wanted to be a potter. I
loved talking to her and hanging out with her. I wish I knew how to get
in touch with her now. She was DRIVEN to learn all that she could, and
her skills began to really blossom during the course. I agree that clay
would be an excellent medium for your student to try to get used to
working with for obvious reasons...she can feel it when she can no
longer see it. Maybe she did not have a good teacher before for her
clay classes. There is so much to teach about clay! But then, there is
that Czech or Yugoslavian (?) blind artist, can't think of his name...he
paints realistic scenes and he is TOTALLY blind. It's amazing. You
can't know what she is going to do or want to do until you talk with
her. I would even call her now, before your class starts and tell her
how thrilled you are to be her teacher and ask if you could meet with
her before your class starts. Find out her background, what she can do
now. And DEFINITELY keep us informed of how it's going. I would be so
excited about sharing the experience with her. Challenging, to say the
least, but most likely a somewhat spiritual journey for her as she
realizes her sight is leaving her soon.
     Years ago I worked with a child in a 2nd grade class who physically
looked like a thalidomide child. Remember the arms and fingers of those
children from the 50's, I think, who were given or their moms were given
thalidomide, some drug for what, I don't know. Anyway, this child had
no legs, only feet that were rather ducklike, under her torso. She had
some artificial legs that she sometimes wore and sometimes didn't. She
was in a wheelchair cart that she could drive. Her hands were webbed
fingers with a thumb, and not even all of her fingers developed. Her
arms were deformed, barely any forearm, her hands were right below the
elbow. At first I was really panicky about teaching her. I had no idea
what to do for her. But right away, on day one, that fear or unease
dissolved. She told me how to help her. Most of the time I had to get
her paper set up, put out her paints or materials in front of her and
then just stand back and drop my jaw in awe of what she coud do. I grew
to love this little girl so much because she taught us so much. She had
a spirit that just wouldn't quit. The kids were just great about not
doing everything for her, but being there for her anytime she asked for
help. She could outsew and outpaint most kids in the class. I let her
tell me what direction she wanted to go in most of the time, and she
always had a plan. She completely redefined my previous image of what a
"handicapped" person was. The girl coming into your class must have a
"can do" philosophy to want to be taking your class. Most likely,
honesty and communication will be vital to your relationship, above all
else. Keep us informed! My student moved to Louisianna when she
entered 3rd grade. Our school felt a tremendous loss when she moved
away as she was loved so much and respected by all of us. I think you
are going to love this year!

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