I’m one of the new students in your class this year. You probably received a copy of my SAP, 504, or IEP in advance, and likely have an idea of who I am based on it. However, there are ten things that I would like to request of you, to keep in mind as the school year progresses. I might admit these things to you, I might be scared to say anything, or I might not even realize I want you to do these things. Every student is unique, but these ten things will help me tremendously:
In high school, I have the option to drop out of school, something I never had in elementary or middle school. Please don’t make me feel like I am incapable of learning, or that people with low vision don’t deserve to be in school. I might take those things to heart.
Don’t make me sit away from all of the other students because I am different. Give me a partner in class that I can reach out to if I can’t see something, or that will help me with difficult assignments. Sometimes, you won’t have to choose a partner for me- one of my friends might already be in our class, and they understand my low vision.
I know it’s tempting to take away cell phones and other devices, but I use them for my learning. I wrote here about why I can see my phone, but not small print. I use my phone as a magnifying glass, my laptop for taking notes, my iPad for accessing online resources, and other devices. Technology is not a crutch for me, rather it enables me to succeed.
I can’t see small font or pencil, which is why I use large print and high contrast pens. Don’t assume I am cheating off of my sighted peers next to me, as I don’t have much peripheral vision and can’t read what they are writing. And don’t even consider that I cheated off of someone behind me.
I won’t be in high school forever, and it’s likely I will be moving on to post-secondary education. Teach me how I receive my accommodations and how to ask for them, so I am not left wondering these things after I graduate. Learn more about self-advocating here.
These high school hallways are confusing, and a lot of the classrooms look the same. If you see me wandering the halls or constantly getting lost, help me navigate to wherever I am going. If you aren’t sure if I need help, ask. I might not know to look for you.
I take it pretty hard at this age when I am told that my disability or accommodations are unfair to other students. A lot of teenagers go through a phase where they wish they could get rid of their SAP, 504, or IEP and be like a normal student. It’s because there are teachers that complain about giving students extra time or large print. If it’s such a problem, why not give the entire class these resources? My geography teacher did this, and noticed a lot of grades improved, and a few students even found out they needed glasses.
It’s easy to tell me I am doing good enough just by getting a C in your class, or to think I am doing good enough for a visually impaired student. Am I doing good enough as a student without a visual impairment? Would you be concerned if another student got a low grade or missed a question like I did on a test? Don’t lower your expectations just because I have lower vision. I can surprise you!
In high school, there is a high emphasis on sports and other activities I may be excluded from because of my low vision. Help me to develop my interests and find what I am passionate about. Maybe I love music and could join band, or am interested in technology and could take a computer class (maybe even getting a Microsoft certification). If it seems like no extracurricular activities exist for what I am interested in (this happened with assistive technology), ask me about them and let me talk to you about them. I’m always excited when someone asks me about low vision, assistive technology, or issues with disability life.
One of the best things that a teacher can tell me is that they are proud of me. When I have teachers that tell me how they wish they never had me as a student, that can be very discouraging. Tell me that you appreciate me as a member of your class, and that you are proud of me. You’ll be remembered as one of my favorite teachers.
I thank you in advance for the influence you will have on me. I hope that after I leave your class and graduate, I’ll be able to visit and show you all the cool things I have been up to. Maybe it will be a cool internship, an acceptance into a highly competitive program, or an awesome website about one of my passions. You’ll likely inspire me somehow.
Your new student with low vision
Dear Elementary School Teacher: Back to School Part 1
Dear Middle School Teacher: Back to School Part 2