(Photo caption: A copy of the note my daughter brought home. )
Well, I got the dreaded note—I was not selected as a chaperone for my daughter’s field trip. I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed. I know for sure that we were one of the first ones to complete the form and return it as I sent it back the very next day, but who knows. Maybe there were a lot of parents who also sent theirs back the very next day. But deep down, I’m really worried that I wasn’t selected because of my blindness. It didn’t help that most of the parents who were selected are the same ones who help with everything. Of course, I can’t ask if blindness was a factor, and will never know.
Initially, I was pretty upset and defensive upon learning this news. I stewed about it all afternoon after reading the note my daughter brought home. I was actually a little surprised at how hurt and upset it made me. But a few hours of stewing and a chance to calm down, not to mention some venting to my husband and another friend gave me a bit of perspective.
I remembered a similar occurrence a few years ago. A friend of mine nominated me for a spotlight on the Power of Moms website. One of their staff contacted me for an interview. At the time, I only had my daughter and she was about a year and a half. WE had also just moved to a new area and didn’t know too many people. I remember mentioning something about worrying if other moms would ask me to babysit for them now that I was in a suburb with more stay-at-home moms where moms do that kind of thing unlike where we had just moved from in the city where I didn’t have a lot of mom friends because most moms around us worked and their children were in daycare. Anyway, this comment was posted in the interview and it started a little bit of a fire storm in some of the comments after the post. A few individuals posted how they would never trust a blind person to babysit their child. “No offense”. Then, other moms said they would totally be willing to let a blind parent watch their children as long as they felt that the parent was competent. In any case, I remember how those comments really bothered me. I find it funny now as I constantly babysit for several friends and acquaintances around the neighborhood. But, I guess it took time to build up that rapport and I had to show people my capabilities. Anyway, thinking of this past experience just reminded me that I’ll have to try a little harder. I need to be more present in the school, volunteer in the classroom, etc. and show the teachers and administrators that I am capable. We have attended a number of school functions where we’ve been able to show our capacity a bit, how we get around, and how we keep track of our children, and I know that people know who we are, including the principle who knows us by name. But, I need to step it up a notch. I haven’t volunteered in the classroom or for school events much on account that I had such a young baby when my daughter started school. But now that he is a year and a half, it is a bit easier to leave him with a friend or babysitter, so it’s time to get more involved if I want to be a part of my children’s education in this way. So, the next week, I went to my first PTA meeting and threw my name in for a board position next year. Elections are in May. . Gotta start somewhere right? .
It’s not just about going on a silly field trip. It’s about setting the precedence that blind people are capable. Not only does it help curb any unspoken concerns or doubts the teachers may have, but the message goes on to the other students and their parents which will hopefully help my own children avoid dealing with harsh comments or discrimination on our account.
Since then, my daughter brought home another field trip permission form. I once again filled it out and checked the box that I’d be willing to chaperone. This time however, I sent an email to her teacher addressing the elephant in the room. Maybe I should have done this last time. It’s such a tricky thing though. It’s like the question of whether or not to disclose your disability on a job application. It can go either way. But, I felt like maybe it needed to be addressed. Here’s what I wrote:
Hi Ms. Smith,
I wanted to email you regarding my sign up for chaperoning the zoo field trip next month. It occurred to me that I may need to address the elephant in the room about chaperoning given my blindness. I wouldn’t have volunteered to do so if I personally didn’t feel comfortable doing so, but it occurred to me that you may have some legitimate concerns or questions about me helping with this, and I wanted to help ease those concerns or at least address them with you if you have such as I would very much like to help out with the field trip and be a part of something like this for my daughter.
As I mentioned, I do feel comfortable supervising children other than my own and have done so in a variety of professional and personal ways. Prior to having my own family in fact, I ran an after school program for several years, substitute taught, and worked for a nonprofit running year-round youth programs as their director of education. So I’ve had a variety of experiences supervising children of varying ages in a variety of settings—not to mention I get a lot of practice with my own three children daily. J I guess I’ve kind of developed my own alternative strategies for accommodating where my vision isn’t as reliable. I understand how stressful this can also be from the teachers’ perspective to make sure everyone is safe and accounted for. Anyway, sorry for sounding like I’m trying to sell my qualifications, but I guess in a way I am as I want to make sure you don’t have any worries if I am selected to be one of the volunteers for this trip.
I have explained to Kayla that there is a possibility that you and/or the school may have some concerns about this which we may have to address and which may mean that I have to sit this one out, but I’m hoping to nip any concerns in the bud beforehand. Please feel free to email or call me with any questions or if you feel like discussing this further.
Anyway, thank you for your consideration of this, and again, please feel free to speak to me directly of any concerns you may have about this. I hope there are none, but very much understand if there are. On a humorous note, I have mentioned to a couple of mom friends of mine with whom I often exchange babysitting and attend play groups my worries that I may not be allowed to help with things like this, and they have all volunteered to write reference letters of my capabilities or call the school in my behalf.
So, there you have it…the saga continues. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try, and try, again!