Yesterday was our first skills test in Orientation and Mobility. Standing in my bedroom with my cane in hand, I studied hard all week, practicing and reviewing the skills: diagonal cane technique, ascending and descending stairs, opening doors, constant contact, trailing... We didn't know which technique until we were with our partner at the time of the test, one-on-one with the teacher, and she said, "Show me..." All I could think was that I hoped I didn't get stairs.
I didn't. My teacher asked me to show her diagonal cane technique, and even though I know that technique very well, my brain momentarily shut off. 'No,' I thought. 'Come on brain, you know this!' I looked at my blindfolded partner for a moment, took a deep breath, and started talking. Slowly the steps grew clearer through the fog of my test anxiety. Step by step I showed her what to do. I ran into one issue when I kept trying to have my student hold the cane with her hand upside down, but luckily I figured out the problem when I stood beside her and kinesthetically sorted out my mistake. No wonder she was looking confused. I got some of the steps out of order, but covered everything, which means I got an A. Whew!
Later that afternoon, my partner and I switched roles and she became the teacher while I went under blindfold. She guided me to another building on the SFSU campus and I got to experience traveling in an unfamiliar environment with a tactile map to guide me. Since I got my BA at SFSU, I wasn't completely unfamiliar with the building, but I haven't been there in 15 years. After the first trip around the hallways that encircle the gym, I began to experience the sensation of auditory space perception. I could sense when it was time to turn down the hallway simply by the sensation of an "opening" of the space. It's difficult to describe. My teacher/partner helped me trust the sensation, and I began to walk without needing to trail the wall to find my turn. I was under bindfold for an hour and found the experience fascinating, but exhausting. Every noise, scent, and feeling became overwhelming and I had a hard time filtering the onslaught of sensation. This gave me a glimpse into what the world must be like for Queen Teen and why sometimes she seems to shut down for brief periods of time.
Then it was my turn to be the teacher and surprise, the instructor was shadowing me for my evaluation. It was the end of the day. I'd just taken off the blindfold after an hour of intense concentration, and now I needed to be the teacher while my instructor watched my work. Lucky me. It turned out to be a great experience and having that one-on-one time with my instructor was really helpful. Our assignment was to prepare a lesson plan with a tactile map and then instruct our student/partner. Since my student is a proficient traveler who's spent a lot of time under blindfold, I planned to test her orientation and problem solving skills. My assigned building was Creative Arts, so I planned my lesson in the music section. Here my student traveled past practice rooms where people rehearsed with their instruments. I showed her the route and then helped her find clues from the surrounding music, especially when she passed intersecting hallways. It took one time around the route for her identify her hallways and keep herself oriented, so then I stepped back and let her do it independently. I was impressed with how well she did and she seemed to really enjoy the lesson. My instructor was pleased as well. She offered suggestions and pointed out a mistake I'd made, but overall she was impressed.
The evaluation makes me think that maybe I actually will be a good teacher when I'm finished with this year of training. I just need more practice with specific techniques.