Dear High School Teacher


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:

Follow my IEP

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.

Give me a partner

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.

Let me use technology in class

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.

Don’t assume I’m cheating

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.

Teach me to self-advocate

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.

Help me figure out where I’m going

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.

Don’t tell me how unfair my disability is

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.

Encourage me to challenge myself, and reach my potential

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!

Help me find what I’m passionate about

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.

Tell me how proud you are of me

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.

Sincerely,

Your new student with low vision

Why To Take Virtual Classes in College

Living with chronic illness, it can be very difficult to get out of bed, let alone get to class. While I am able to push myself to get to a majority of my classes, sometimes I just want to be able to do school work without having to move too much. Because of this, I have chosen to incorporate virtual classes into my college schedule, and it has helped me a lot in managing my time and improving my grades. Here are some of the reasons I appreciate virtual classes, and my tips for success. As of spring 2017, I have taken 13 virtual classes in four semesters of college.

Better scheduling

I’ve found that there were a few classes that either were held extremely early in the morning or late at night. Since my vision fluctuates throughout the day, these class times are not a good fit for me. With virtual classes, I can work on assignments while my vision is doing well.

Get ahead easily

Many of my professors post several weeks of class work in advance, so if I am feeling well, I will complete the assignments early,  in case I wind up feeling not-so-well later on. Professors also seem to be more flexible about students turning in late work if an emergency comes up- I was able to easily get extensions on assignments when needed.

Take classes from anywhere

The only reason I got credits my first semester was because of virtual classes. I had two separate medical emergencies happen in the span of November 2015 and spent over six weeks at home (several hours from school) recovering. Basically, I disappeared right after midterms and only came back to school because I had to take a final exam. While I was recovering at home, I was able to continue with my virtual classes and stay on track, and I didn’t even tell my virtual teachers how sick I was until after the class had ended. With the flexibility to take classes anywhere, I was able to do very well that semester.

Use your own assistive technologies

With virtual classes, I can use all of my own technology which is fine-tuned to my preferences. I also can learn which devices, applications, and extensions work best for certain classes and how to create accessible documents. Bonus- I don’t have to balance five devices on a small desk.

Less “fluff” work

One of my friends was often complaining about having to do group projects and other frustrating assignments in one of their classes. I took the same class virtually and only had to worry about reading material, answering three questions a week, and writing a total of two essays. That was it! I didn’t have to worry about investing a ton of energy into a general education class, and I could spend more time on my other classes.

Get used to working independently

One of the common complaints about virtual classes is that there is no one to reinforce deadlines and other materials. This is actually a good thing, as no one is going to be around to remind you of every little thing in the real world. Learning to budget time and research topics online are important skills to have.

You won’t be seen as a disability

While it is important to share your disability services file with your professor, you don’t have to worry about sticking out in class discussions because of your disability, if you are worried about that. In one of my classes (that I dropped immediately), lots of students and even the professor were staring at my blindness cane like it was some type of foreign object and asking a lot of strange questions. In virtual classes, no one can see you.

Take tests in your own environment

Not all virtual classes are like this, but being able to take tests and quizzes in your own testing environment is an awesome advantage to taking these types of classes. I always appreciate being able to take a quiz from the comfort of my own desk, or to take a test with one of my pain relief wraps on.

Adjunct professors

Professors can teach from anywhere in the world, and this is often beneficial as the student is able to learn information from someone in the field, or get a global perspective on a topic. For my global understanding requirement, I had a professor who had travelled to many different countries and was able to educate the class on many different topics related to global health and policy. Another one of my professors was popular at another university from halfway across the country, and we got to take a class with them. I’ve even had professors living in other countries.

Learn more about yourself

This may seem weird, but I have learned a lot about how I access materials and learn through taking virtual classes, probably because I rely on technology a lot. With the ability to take a variety of different classes, I have been able to learn how I process information best, and which technologies are most helpful. I know that virtual classes will help me a lot in the future as well, especially since I want to work with accessibility.

Virtual classes have been an amazing resource for me. I am grateful that my college has really embraced virtual education and that I have been able to take almost any class that I want.