Should I Tell my Students? Let’s Ask Teddy.

Dear Teddy,

I lost some vision. Should I tell my students?

I find this really hard. I feel rather shy and I’m not sure what the standard approach is.

I’ve told my employer, and I’ve told colleagues – they need to know – but not students. I’ve been worrying a bit about whether I ought to.

At first I supposed there would be some standard advice I could follow but I don’t think there is much, and on reflection every case is different so probably it would be hard to write.

Because I don’t always meet students face to face – the OU is a distance learning university and we interact more online – students have no way to tell I have an impairment. It might not be that obvious anyway, even if we meet in person.

I haven’t said anything to students because I’m anxious in case they feel awkward, or wonder if they should present their work in some special way, or do something else differently. But there’s no need for anything like that.

On the other hand, saying a little about my condition could help people understand better how disabilities affect study. It could also encourage students to disclose disabilities.

Thanks Teddy! I did all the talking but you were a great listener.

Still not sure what to do though. I may have to ask the Rubber Duck.


About partialinsight

One evening I had a stroke. Half my sight vanished overnight. Adapting made me grasp how amazing the visual system and brain are. It also taught me to understand disability completely differently and I'm grateful for the lesson.
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9 Responses to Should I Tell my Students? Let’s Ask Teddy.

  1. Interesting question. When I first became VI I tended to tell everyone. Then I found some people interpreted this as a responsibility for them to make allowances for me. I know this is sometimes necessary but I found it disempowering. Now I have met more people with VI it seems to work better to tell people on an individual basis. Although if I go into a group I do ask people to identify themselves if the are addressing me directly and explain that I can see where they are but not their faces. For me its a question of being in control so I explain my situation as and when it affects me. I take your point that you don’t want your students to feel responsible for you so, if you tell them, you could point out that you will ask for help only when you need it. If you are teaching by distance learning what differences is your VI making? Good luck! It seems to be a matter of trial and error…no easy formula!

  2. You might like to read Touching the Rock by John Hull. It’s an interesting account of blindness by an academic.

  3. Thanks so much for your response, it’s extremely helpful to know how others deal with these things, it’s something I’ve been missing a bit.

    Thanks for pointing me to the John Hull book which looks quite marvellous and I shall enjoy reading it. I see it has a foreword by Oliver Sacks, who is a big hero of mine!

  4. I’m not very good at making links on WordPress but if you can find it Advenuresinlowvision writes an interesting blog about daily living and some dos and donts. Hope you enjoy John Hulls book. Shall be interested to hear what you think. There is quite a community out there so lots of help!

  5. Thanks for the blog lead, yes that’s interesting!

  6. I often wonder about this with dyslexia, indeed I struggled for a number of years about whether to even mention it on those forms you have to fill in every time you get a new job as most of the time it doesn’t make much difference. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it wasn’t about making allowances, and indeed most people ignore it when I do things normally, what I do find it makes for is the ability to appear more human without impacting my ability to appear as a valuable source of information. Experience has shown me that both overselling and underselling my experience puts students off, as does how I am dressed, but pointing out that I’m dyslexic as I struggle with writing something obvious on the whiteboard often breaks the ice – it also makes me feel more comfortable when I approach students with disabilities declared and undeclared. I’d perhaps share the experiment of the disappearing X with them.

  7. Stéphanie says:

    Hi, I’m an OU student (M250 & M269) and saw your blog on your profile. I’ve read a lot of your posts here and find them really interesting.

    I was teaching french to groups of all ages and had to stop when I got M.E. (also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) as even though like you they might not have noticed it too much, I felt I could not provide the same ‘service’ I used to, I was drained after 45min and had a hard time remembering students’ name or my lesson plan. Because of that, I stopped. This was before I had a diagnosis, so even if I had wanted to, I don’t think I could have told them why I was stopping as it was hard to formulate anyway, but if I had known what to say at the time, I’m not sure I would have shared it with them as I felt pretty sad about stopping and very ‘diminished’ as a person at the time.

    In your case, I think you did the right thing, I’m not directly your student, but don’t consider you any less than I would have, before knowing about your disability, and even have more ‘consideration’ (I’m not sure that the right word, but that’s the best I can find – I’m french, which is a bit of a disability in itself some times ahahaha) for you as a teacher and as a person. It’s good to see you can still do so much still. And this helps me to be more confident about being able to go back to work (also not as a teacher) in the future.

    I also read in another post how you felt this stroke ‘brought your feeling of wonderment back’ and how this has brought something very positive to you. That’s something I feel too now (even though it took me some time to get there !), and most people don’t understand that. Disability is not just negative changes. Yes it changes your life completely, but there is a lot of good in that as well, things you would not have realised otherwise.

    Thanks you very much for sharing it.

  8. Hi Stephanie, I’m so pleased you wrote in. We know one another from the forums on the courses you are studying but I had no idea about the ME. It’s a shame you needed to stop teaching and I do hope you can find work worthy of your talents.

    I was interested you feel the same as me about changes that happen to us. The stroke set me off in a new direction, and that became the path for me. I discovered so much by the roadside that now I would never want to go back.

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