A Day In The Life Of...

Anna Christal, 44, has worked at the Royal Blind School in Ed­in­burgh for seven years

No. 1 Magazine - - CONTENTS -

Is­tarted my ca­reer in agri­cul­tural re­search – I come from a fam­ily of teach­ers and was de­ter­mined not to fol­low the fam­ily tra­di­tion when I was younger – de­spite the fact I re­ally en­joyed teach­ing when­ever I had the op­por­tu­nity. But then, in 2000 I gave in and started work­ing as a teacher in main­stream schools. It wasn’t un­til 2008 that I started work­ing at the Royal Blind School. My grand­fa­ther was blinded in the Sec­ond World War and when I saw the job ad­ver­tised I felt as though the job de­scrip­tion was writ­ten for me!

Each day I get up at 6.30am and al­ways make sure I have a good break­fast. My part­ner and I take it in turns to make the packed lunches for our chil­dren who are aged 11 and 14. I get to work around 8am and classes start at 9am. I teach pupils between the age of 11-18 with chil­dren work­ing on science qual­i­fi­ca­tions from Na­tional 1 to Higher.

I love work­ing with the pupils and get­ting to know them, their in­ter­ests and mo­ti­va­tions. But it can be dif­fi­cult, es­pe­cially re­mem­ber­ing that ev­ery­thing has to be ex­plained. For ex­am­ple, I can re­mem­ber teach­ing a pupil who has been blind since birth about milk pro­duc­tion. This was an able pupil who could tell me that milk is made by cows and pro­duced in the ud­der. But they had no idea how big a cow was or where on a cow you’d find an ud­der. So you have to re­mem­ber these things, be­cause so much of our learn­ing is vis­ual and re­in­forced by what we see around us.

There have been many mo­ments work­ing in this school that have touched me. We all have such a fun­da­men­tal hu­man drive to com­mu­ni­cate and it is so im­por­tant and em­pow­er­ing to be able to do so. Although I don’t teach our pupils with sig­nif­i­cant ad­di­tional dis­abil­i­ties, I find it re­ally mov­ing to see pupils with lit­tle or no ver­bal com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­ing en­abled by skilled staff to make choices and ex­press their feel­ings. I re­cently saw a pupil who is blind, un­able to walk and has no spo­ken lan­guage, re­spond re­ally clearly to staff by us­ing a spe­cific body move­ment to ex­press that he wanted more bounc­ing on a tram­po­line. I had never be­fore heard him make a sound, but he was so happy and he made lots of dif­fer­ent sounds to com­mu­ni­cate his en­joy­ment.

Then there was the story our Deputy Head Teacher told me re­cently about a teenage boy who went with her to a large pub­lic science show. Dur­ing the show, the pre­sen­ter asked for a vol­un­teer and the boy’s hand shot up. His was the only hand, so he was cho­sen. My fave stay­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion is... We had a fan­tas­tic hol­i­day last au­tumn on the West Coast around Oban, cy­cling and walk­ing. My fave Scot­tish city is... Ed­in­burgh! I’ve lived here for the best part of 26 years! I would take new vis­i­tors in Scot­land to... Ed­in­burgh al­ways im­presses with a walk around Arthur’s Seat and the Crags. There are fan­tas­tic beaches in East Loth­ian too. Plus a trip through Glen­coe to the West Coast is al­ways mag­i­cal.

Af­ter­wards she praised him for be­ing so brave and told him he had been the only vol­un­teer. He replied that he al­ways said yes to any op­por­tu­nity be­cause he knew there were many which passed him by.

It’s a hugely re­ward­ing job. My pupils all have dif­fer­ent dreams and dif­fer­ent am­bi­tions. I am al­ways proud when they ful­fil any dream whether it is go­ing to the shops on their own; us­ing tech­nol­ogy to play an in­stru­ment; cook­ing for them­selves; go­ing to Uni­ver­sity; or even com­pet­ing in the Par­a­lympics.

I’m of­ten asked what makes work­ing in this school dif­fer­ent to work­ing in a main­stream school, but chil­dren are chil­dren... so in many ways it is not so dif­fer­ent! Their in­ter­ests, mo­ti­va­tions and dis­like of home­work are no dif­fer­ent from their sighted peers. How­ever, for me the most pro­found dif­fer­ence is that be­cause all our pupils have a sig­nif­i­cant vis­ual im­pair­ment, pupils are fully in­cluded in the life of the school from rep­re­sent­ing their class at pupil coun­cil, tak­ing part in the Christ­mas Show to man­ag­ing the school al­lot­ment. Over the years I have seen the ef­fect of this in­clu­sion on the growth of pupil self-con­fi­dence, self-be­lief and self-worth.

Each day I usually get home between 5.30pm and 6pm. There is not al­ways much time for re­lax­ation in the evening dur­ing the week. The chil­dren have home­work to do and af­ter school ac­tiv­i­ties. I of­ten need to pre­pare classes, think through what I’ll be do­ing the next day and make a note of any­thing I need to bring into work. How­ever I do like to sit down and watch a TV box set and I like to read a few pages from a novel be­fore I go to sleep.

The only thing I would have done dif­fer­ently in re­gard to my ca­reer is to have asked my grand­dad lots of ques­tions.

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