Within Eyesight

Sight, seeing, view, watch, see, look, vision, stare, observe.

Lay eyes on, take a glimpse of, take notice, catch sight of, get an eyeful.

These are just a few words and phrases that I thought of in regard to sight. And these are words that are spoken so casually every day.

This semester I have had one of the most challenging but yet one of the most rewarding experiences as a Student Affairs professional.

And maybe as a person too.

It has been “eye” opening so to speak.

This entire semester, I attended a Math class with a student who is blind. I am this student’s class aid.

Basically, I have been the student’s eyes all semester.

Did I mention it is in a Math class?

Now I was never well-equipped myself in the math area. And here I found myself trying to explain geometry shapes from dot paper and the properties of an isosceles triangle. I would catch myself on more than one occasion talking with my hands in the air to describe a shape-dang hand motions.

Every day in class, as the professor explained problems and wrote out equations, I attempted to show this student via math manipulative kits what exactly was going on.

We used various tools such as these:

This Geoboard became my best friend when trying to explain graphs and shapes.

These came in handy when we had to do reflections of shapes, and where the student was requested to draw things.

We used so many of these things as hand “visuals.”

Even here, I am using a visual to explain my point…see where I am going with this?

Math is so difficult. (I wish I would have paid more attention to my best friend’s math songs.)

So many days I would come back to the office just stuck and frustrated.

Stuck because I had no idea how to explain math. (I went into Social Studies for a reason.) As a visual learner myself, I very often was stumped on how to translate the visual of shapes and volumes .

Imagine adding circles to the this, and each angle being labeled and having to explain corresponding angles….my worst educational nightmare.

I was frustrated by how quickly the student was left behind to our own devices. We were usually two or three steps behind the rest of the class because it would take me a second to collect the information and then get the manipulatives set quickly to explain things while regurgitating the lecture with the objects we are using. I was frustrated that I couldn’t go faster, and frustrated that the rest of the class just moved along without us. Most of all, I was frustrated because I could see the answer but I had to keep my mouth closed. It was their math lesson to learn, not mine.

I was also an aide for a different student in a biology lab. Due to mobility issues, they needed someone to be their hands for various lab practicals. Ha, watching me put knocked out flies on lab slides and draw blood from a student’s finger was a trip…

These two classroom experiences allowed me to witness the myriad of things that students with disabilities face. Since I was just an observer, I picked up on so many things that I missed while attending school.

  • On one hand, you have professors who have no clue how to provide accommodations to make the material accessible so they just don’t (even though they are supposed to). For the most part this professor put forth the effort to make the math available, but there were moments where they were just as stumped as I was–like how to evaluate the student’s shape drawing abilities.
  • You have other students who want to rush through group work and wont take time to include the student. They will just do the work for them. Or they will get mad and say “this isn’t fair” if they have to do more clean up or set up because the physical part of the lab isn’t accessible to the student. In some instances, group work was like getting picked last at recess for these students.
  • Comments degrading students restrictions and limitations-just creating more barriers. I was dumbfounded at some of the things that are being said at the college level…
  • You have instructors who will eliminate parts of assignments and just let the student “skip” that material.
  • People are nervous about disabilities. You have the range from staring stupidly to full out ignoring the student. This nervousness factor alone causes so many reactions across the board that I could not even begin to explain them all.

However, I did see some awesome moments throughout the semester. There were several students who would speak up to help slow down the class if they saw us struggling. Some would offer to help tutor after class and plan study sessions together before big tests. I also had the chance to get to know these two individuals really well, which was a bonus for me to hear about them personally and academically. I saw professors do their best to find techniques like hooking a computer up to a microscope or spending hours puffy painting worksheets and providing wiki sticks for class work.

I am not perfect. This semester was so difficult and challenged me more than I would like to admit. I was frustrated when I couldn’t get the message across and felt like I was at a dead end. There were times that I said, “Well just look at it this way.” I often tried to move faster than I should have. Sometimes, I was nervous to challenge the student and wanted to go the easy way out.

But it wasn’t my educational experience on the line, so I had to buck up and admit that I needed help. I often stayed after class to ask the professors for advice and voiced my concern. On more than one occasion, I met with these students one on one outside of class to adjust our strategies and ensure we were on the same page with communication and expectations. At least once a week, I sat in my boss’s office to brainstorm strategies specifically for these students or found myself digging through boxes to find other manipulatives that we could use. It was a huge reminder that it isn’t about me. I am not in this field to help me. So I had to put away my fear of math and science and just dive right in with the students.

Bring it on bugs and math charts!

For these students, we need to work to make educational readily available. If that means that we have to stay a little extra, do more research, change the format to create the same result (without making it a freebie), and acknowledging the skills they bring to the table, that is our responsibility as educators. What works for one person, doesn’t work for all. Just because you get it, doesn’t mean that everyone is on the same page. So regardless of whether the student has a disability or not, I feel that this was a huge lesson/reminder for me.

Just because we are at a college level, that doesn’t give us the right to just leave people behind. I understand that students have to step up their game once they hit college courses. But I think educators should do the same, and often they are standing behind the guise of this is college so deal with it. We have to give them an equal chance to put in the work. If the student isn’t willing to perform, that is obviously on them. I am more than happy to tell a student they need to do more. They have the responsibility to ensure they ask the questions and speak up for their education. And when they do, we need to be sure to provide them with adequate tools to play the game.

You wouldn’t give a football player a tennis racquet to head into the Super Bowl. Why would you expect a student who is blind to understand what you are writing on the whiteboard?

Not only was the experience a life line for me among all the administrative work I had found myself in, it was a life line for my educator sole.

  • It taught me to always be vigilant towards injustice, because in this era of “equal rights for all”, those with disabilities are often forgotten.
  • It reminded me to be aware of what I say and how words as simple as “look at this” and all those listed at the beginning of this post can have an affect on someone’s perception and participation.
  • It taught me to slow down because although it may not be my first rodeo, the person whom I am working with, it may be their very first time out of the gate.
  • It taught me that you need to understand each student’s strengths and barriers in order to encourage them the best way possible.
  • It taught me that sometimes you have to keep your mouth shut in order for the student to learn, even if that means watching them fail.
  • It taught me how to be a better advocate for my students.
  • It encouraged me to ask questions when I was uneasy about a situation.
  • It taught me a whole lot about communication-verbally and especially non-verbally.
  • It taught me all things are relative within eyesight…

(Additionally, I have learned a lot about math and biology. Apparently when I don’t have to take the test, it soaks in a lot more. Not that I would ever need to know how to tell the sex of a fruit fly, but I can.)

On an unrelated note, there are a lot of “That’s what she said” moments in a biology lab. The pipette day alone…oh goodness.

One Fine Day

Now I know that the Chiffons are dancing in your head right now as you hum the tune “One Fine Day.”

My post has nothing to do with that song.

It’s just that one fine day I decided to go without shoes.

Last Tuesday, I participated in an event sponsored by TOMS shoes. This was a day where people around the world decided to ditch their shoes so we could put ourselves in someone else’s “shoes.” It was an event to raise awareness for awareness about global children’s health and education.

There were several at ISU that participated with me in this challenge.

I will say, I am not sure how many I actually spread the word to throughout the day, but it was a simple step for me to take a look at this issue.

Here are some of my personal observations from the experience.

1. Not wearing shoes is not the norm. People stared and did those double take looks. At first, many people were squeamish about the idea of it it. I found myself often throughout the day hiding my feet so people wouldn’t stare. I felt a little naked…And I even chose to go shoeless.

2. I walked different than I do with shoes. I found myself walking on my toes instead of the whole foot. Which one is better I don’t know, but I did it because I felt like I needed less of my foot to hit the ground to protect it.

3. Because of my high arches and walking abnormally as said above, my feet and knees were in pain by the end of the day without my hand dandy arch supports I slip into every pair of shoes I own.

4. I did not fully participate in the challenge because I knew there were places that I could not go without shoes like restaurants. I also didn’t feel comfortable going barefoot when I was outside with Grace. Who knows what would have happened if she would have ran after a bunny or leaf blowing in the wind. So there were parts of the day that I did slip my shoes back on. I couldn’t bring myself to even really go the full day.

5. I did go to public restrooms without shoes. All I have to say is that I feel fortunate that I was going in women’s restrooms. But there were comments made by others who wouldn’t go because they couldn’t bring themselves to go barefoot in the lavatory.

6. I am disgusted by things sticking to my skin. I rarely ever go barefoot normally because I hate feeling things stick to my feet. So I was constantly checking my feet and rubbing them clean on the hem of my dress.

It was a great experience for me. I feel empowered by it. It made me think about the access and privilege that I have. If you know me, you know that I have a pair of shoes in pretty much every shade, and I am always matching my outfits with my footwear. Do I feel guilty that I have this many shoes? To be honest, I don’t. I did not choose to be born into the family I am in so I cannot feel guilty about my lot in life and the opportunities that have been put in front of me. And I worked hard to have money to be able to afford many pretty things. I don’t think we should feel guilty about where we came from and what we have. But just because I do not feel guilt, doesn’t mean I didn’t learn something that I can change to help reach out.

I am humbled by this experience. It made me think about what I have and appreciate that I can take care of myself. Yep, I do have privilege. I am able to afford shoes that help with my bad arches and support my bad knees. I have shoes that aren’t of convenience or comfort, but that make me happy inside. I am able to wear shoes that give me the pass to participate in school and social events. Even within this one fine day, I was able to have the freedom to wear shoes as I needed. Something to think about there.

It makes you take in what you have and appreciate it, but also realize that with your privilege you should pass it on. A pay it forward message so to speak. I have made some promises to myself to do things that will help in the cause whether that is donation or education.We all have a contribution to make, but we have to decide that for ourselves with what is within our means and abilities.

Do I think that I can change the world? Eh, maybe not.

Do I think that I completely understand these situations because I went part of a day without shoes? Well no.

But I am doing my best to change myself to be a better human being who is appreciative of the life I have and try to give back wherever and whenever I can. You just have to put your best foot forward everyday.

Here are some of my staff members and I going shoeless at the desk!


With that what can you do to make a simple step towards bettering either your life or someone else?

I don’t have a craft today. Eeeek I know! I have been working on a few things, and I really wanted to write this before I could complete anything.

So in a craft’s place I have a website that was shared with me for crocheting projects. I spent hours on it earlier today just perusing different patterns and making a wishlist of projects. And you can find a lot of free patterns!


I am excited to start some new projects, but I have two in the works right now that I need to finish first. So I will just make a long list in the meantime.