There is an excellent article by Muriel Mooney that expresses the fact that a teacher's attitude toward a child who has a handicap is one of the most essential elements in the child's future success in that teacher's class. This particular article focuses on music education of blind students, but the ideas expressed should be noted by teachers of all subjects. Mooney says that a child's blindness leads people to pity or have sympathy for the child, causing a loss of positive communication. Even when teachers think they are being kind or encouraging, saying something like "That is very good for a person who can't see!" the opposite effect occurs. Blind students should never be singled out, even for praise; instead, teachers should make them feel like they are a part of the class. In addition, a teacher should never decide what their blind students can or cannot do. People with blindness are excellent problem solvers, and should be allowed to make those decisions for themselves.
It is important to understand that blind people center their lives around organization and excelling in their work. They strive for this personal discipline because it is something that can keep them grounded in a world that they feel unstable in. For this reason, it is important to allow blind students to be free to move around the room, and also allow them to learn to refine their skills. For instance, in music class, teachers should not hover over the blind student, not allowing him or her to move around the room learning how to play instruments on his or her own. Protecting a blind student will only hinder the learning process. What will help in the student's learning process in conversation; explaining details of how to syncopate rhythms on the trumpet, for example, is how a blind student will learn to play the trumpet.
This article makes clear the fact that there are many activities that blind students can now participate in that were not available for them in the past. Some examples are: sports, such as swimming, roller skating, dancing, bowling; ensembles, such as band, orchestra, choir; and clubs such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts. With teachers' extra support, resources, and help, blind students have the ability to do almost everything that seeing students can do. It might be interesting to look into some of the resources available to music teachers who have blind students. Some include: both literary braille and braille music, the Recorded Aid for braille music, the Slow Taping of Music, and Bold Notes Music.
Mooney's article about how music teachers should focus on instruction of their blind students rather than sympathy and pity echoes the need for teachers of other subjects to act in the same manner. Blind students neither need nor want the sympathy of their teachers. They want to learn, excel, and have fun just like their classmates. Music is such an incredibly creative and educational output for all students, and it is imperative that even students with visual impairments have the resources and the right to participate in music class to their fullest extent.
Mooney, Muriel K. Blind Children Need Training, Not Sympathy. Music Educators Journal. Music in Special Education, VO : 58. Apr., 1972. PP : 56-59. http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0027-4321%28197204%2958%3A8%3C56%3ABCNTNS%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Q.
Copyright 1972 MENC: The National Association for Music Education