A Day In The Life Of...
Anna Christal, 44, has worked at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh for seven years
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.