This Mattered to Me
"Meeting the Unique Educational Needs of Visually Impaired Pupils through Appropriate Placement, " by Sandra Adams Curry and Philip H. Hatlen, published in the December 1988 issue of Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, Volume 82, Number 10, pp. 417-424.
Print edition page number(s) 237-238
The series editor of "This Mattered to Me" is Stuart H. Wittenstein, Ed.D., superintendent of the California School for the Blind.
When Stuart Wittenstein invited me to choose an article for the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB)series "This Mattered to Me," there was no hesitation on my part. I immediately knew the article I would choose. Although I could not remember the title or year of the article, I knew the content. "Meeting the Unique Educational Needs of Visually Impaired Pupils through Appropriate Placement," by Curry and Hatlen, had a profound impact on my teaching practices when I first read it in 1988, and it still influences my teaching now.
It is somewhat ironic to me after all these years, especially after rereading the article, that I still consider Curry and Hatlen's ideas as seminal to the formation of my teaching practices as an itinerant teacher. I say this because the primary intent of the article was to promote the concept of the "most appropriate placement" instead of the "least restrictive environment" in the decision-making process for developing an appropriate educational plan to meet the educational needs of students who are blind or visually impaired. Yet, as an itinerant teacher, the article challenged me to ensure that if I was teaching students in a setting that the law defined as a "least restrictive environment," and I agreed to that placement, I had better meet all the needs of students as identified in the "dual curriculum." Dual curriculum is the concept that the educational curriculum for students with visual impairments has two major components: instruction in traditional academic areas and instruction in disability-specific skills.
I am not sure that I truly assessed and identified the instructional needs of students or addressed all areas of the dual curriculum (the forerunner of today's expanded core curriculum) before I embraced the content in this article. I felt challenged by Curry and Hatlen to take the "long view," to look at the futures of my students as adults and question my service delivery model. It was difficult to consider whether the services I provided as an itinerant teacher would result in the desired outcomes for my students in all areas of their development.
The critical question this article taught me to ask myself was, How can I provide instruction and services to meet all the goals identified for my students? At a time when I saw myself as needing to be "all things to all students," and while struggling with how I could possibly manage my teaching responsibilities, Curry and Hatlen graphically presented the dual curriculum in a manner that clearly articulated an overall direction and context for curriculum. This lead to my epiphany: I was able to comprehend how I might manage the dual curriculum as an itinerant teacher. This article not only provided the foundation for how I provided teaching and learning activities to students, but, after a few years, it became the source of my own advocacy as I began to speak out on the importance of the dual curriculum when students were educated in local schools.
This article still resonates with me today. Over the last 20 years or so, I have continually questioned my model of service delivery, which has resulted in a constant evolution of teaching and learning practices. My current collaborative teaching practice and model of service delivery has strong roots in the ideas generated by Curry and Hatlen. An additional influence may be because of the ongoing professional dialogue and activities I have engaged in with both authors about effective educational practices. At the time I first read this article in the late 1980s, I only knew of Sandy and Phil through the literature and from my colleagues' experiences with them. Now they are my own valued and trusted friends and colleagues. What an awesome field we have, that an itinerant teacher in rural Minnesota could learn, grow, and change so dramatically from a chance meeting with an article in JVIB, and sustain and nurture that learning through collegial relationships with the authors for 20 years!
On the web
The article relating to this commentary is available free to subscribers at JVIB Online: <www.afb.org/afbpress/pubjvib.asp?DocID=jvib010408>. Nonsubscribers may purchase a copy of the article from the JVIB Classics area of AFB's ePublications web site: <www.afb.org/JVIBclassics/jvib821006.asp>.
Donna McNear, M.A., teacher of students who are blind and visually impaired, Rum River Special Education Cooperative, 140 Buchanan Street North, Suite 150, Cambridge, MN 55008; e-mail: <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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