Perhaps that title is a bit dramatic. I mentioned the other day that we’d be having two classes of blind students at SEV. To be honest, all week I dreaded today. I even went so far as to convince myself that there was no way I’d actually have to teach Police to blind students. Entirely positive I wouldn’t be teaching the damn class, I didn’t prepare a special lesson or bother to click the links our head teacher sent us about working with the blind (the only help we got from our supervisors at all).

So imagine my surprise at 1:20 this afternoon, when I walked into school and found out that I was, in fact, teaching Police to a class of blind students. I picked up the students and their aides in the lobby and we slowly walked up the ramp to the second floor classroom. June, who I mentioned in my last post about these classes, came into my class to assist in case I needed a translator or something. I started the class by introducing myself and asking each student his or her name. Turns out that these kids all had basic, if not intermediate-level, English skills. All of the aides spoke excellent English, one of them even living in America for several years. After introductions, I chatted with the kids about police uniforms and the sorts of crimes a criminal can commit. I passed around the (very realistic) toy gun and took the kids into the jail. (No joke, the Police classroom has a fake jail, bars and all.) We played a quick game of telephone using phrases from the regular class (example: “The criminal stole the money!”) and then the kids practiced their speaking skills by role-playing their way through a dialogue board. Before I knew it, 45 minutes had passed and the class was over.

I had the same group of seven kids for Grocery class an hour later. I knew Grocery would be a piece of cake because there are lots of props and fake food items for the kids to touch. I passed around different fruits and vegetables and had the kids describe the texture, shape and size of each one. After they familiarized themselves with the different foods, I played a game in which I’d call out some item and the students had to scramble through a shopping cart to find it.

It was sad to drop the kids off at their final class this afternoon. I was almost embarrassed by all of the kvetching and complaining I had done all week. To lack something as crucial as sight, something we take for granted, and to have the determination to learn a whole other language…I was simply blown away. I had one girl in my class who had some degree of sight. If she squinted her eyes and leaned in, she could read the dialogue board in front of her. This girl–who can hardly see, who looks at her friends and family and teachers and sees nothing but blurry blobs–had made the effort not only to learn how to speak English, but to learn how to read it.

After Grocery class, my cheeks hurt so badly. I don’t know if I had been smiling the entire time because the students were nothing like what I expected, or because they were an interested group of kids or because I was watching them squeal and shriek and laugh every other second. Each time I handed a student a classroom prop, I watched him explore it with his body. Some of the kids fiddled with the tiny pieces of the gun, stuck on there for aesthetic purposes. Other kids would take the plastic bakery items and twirl them around, figure out what they were and then come up with some other use for them. But most fascinating was watching a boy named Isaac acquaint himself with the plastic banana I handed him. He explored every inch of it, every crevice, indent and lump. He would rub each fruit on his arms and his head, taking in all of the different sensations.

After work, I met up with some coworkers for a drink. My friend Nicky brought up a critical thinking question from SEV’s Comprehensive Reading class: If you had to lose one of your sense, what would it be and why? I thought about it for awhile, briefly considered losing touch, but settled on smell. After an afternoon with the blind students, I better understood how they see and experience the world. The idea of losing one of my sense after using them all for 22 years is unfathomable. But could I get by knowing that I wouldn’t ever see my friends’ faces again? How would I last more than a week or two without the taste of of mac and cheese on my tongue? I couldn’t imagine not hearing my favorite music ever again, or feeling nothing when a loved one hugs me.

I’m going to end this post by asking you the same question we ask kids here: If you were to lose one of your five sense, which would you choose to lose?

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