Last week I volunteered to help with a program on disabilities at Powdersville Middle School. The purpose is to make students aware of what it is like to live with a disability. The focus was on four disability areas: learning, visual, hearing, and physical and there were 12 activity centers set up in the media center. All of the 7th graders were brought to the media center at different times with their teachers. Each student was assigned to go to 4 centers (one for each area) and there were about 4-5 students in each group. There were activities at each center that simulated what it is like to have that disability and the students stayed at each activity for 5 minutes. If you teach in SC and want to know more about this program, you can find information at the Family Connections web site.
I want to commend Barbara Dansby, the guidance counselor of Powdersville Middle School (left in picture), for organizing this event. It took a lot of time and energy to put this together and then find volunteers to help all day. There were a lot of supplies for most of the centers which are easily found but take some time to gather. I feel it also took time to convince the administration and teachers that this was a worthwhile program to invest instructional time in. Of course, I thought that since the school felt this program was important, it also shows how much the school community values all students including those with disabilities.
I was at the “Signing” table which involved talking to students about sign language. I had the group figure out a sentence that I spelled out to them. Then we tried to imagine what it would be like to sit in class the whole time not hearing and having to pay attention to someone signing the lesson. Next I taught them some signs for Thank You, Sorry, Water, Eat, Pizza, Study, No, Telephone which they seemed to enjoy. We talked about how hard it must be for a person with a hearing disability to succeed in school.
I spent the whole day there interacting with the students and was extremely pleased with how this turned out and how well behaved all of the students were. The students took this program very seriously and all of the students participated wholeheartedly during my activity. Someone in each group asked how a person who couldn’t hear could use a telephone so I explained about a TDD device which many had never heard of. All of the students were respectful and I never heard anyone make fun of any disability. In fact, I was thrilled when one group had lined up before their teacher as they prepared to leave the media center and called out to me. When I looked up at them, they all signed “Thank You!” to me. What a thrill it gave me!
I would highly recommend this program to schools to use in making their students aware of those who live with a disability. By involving students in these different simulations, they learn the difficulties that many face each day. Many students tease others because they don’t know or understand disabilities so this program takes away the unknown. It helps students learn and be tolerant of others who face these difficulties.
I think one of the reasons the students were so well behaved was that they didn’t have time to get bored or misbehaved. They were only at each table for 5 minutes and they were active participants in each activity. Since they were being asked to do something, they had to pay attention to what was being asked. I need to pattern my lessons in this way: short lessons with lots of active participation.
When the volunteers left, we were asked to evaluate the day which I thought was also important. Changes for the positive can be made in this way. At the time, I didn’t have any suggestions for the actual activities. But I think it would have been good for the students to write about their experiences and reflect upon what they did and how they felt. By doing this, I think it would help clarify their feelings and affect how they interact with others who have disabilities more. I think it would also help embed what they learned into their daily life. Maybe they did that in their classes when they returned but I forgot to ask.
Does your school or you do something like this? If so please share what you do and what activities it involves.
Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).
Original Photo “WHS volunteers set up and practice” by Pat Hensley
Original Photo “Barbara and some volunteers” by Pat Hensley
Original Photo “Writing without hands” by Pat Hensley