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Issue: 9 Term 4 2008
Hi Everyone and welcome to the last issue of IT’S Vision Time for 2008.
Not sure where the year has gone but it certainly has flashed by.
In this issue we welcome quite a number of TVI’s or Vision Teachers from Colorado and hope in the future we can feature a number of their teachers and students in this Newsletter.
In this issue:
"WE MUST BE THE CHANGE WE WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD" ~ Gandhi
Our Own recording artist: Krystel Keller….
1. Where did you go to school and what level of vision do you have? What year did you complete the HSC and at what school?
I completed my HSC at Kincumber High School in 2002.
My vision condition is called Retinoblastoma, (cancer of the eyes) I have no vision due to my eyes being removed at the age of 2 and a half.
2. What did you find the hardest thing to cope with at school?
It has now been 6 years since I finished School. I think one of the most difficult things to cope with at school would be accessing information and resources that other students take for granted. Even with the help of
fantastic Vision support teacher, and teachers aides I still feel that my learning experience wasn't as smooth as it should have been.
3. How did you find the socializing aspect of school life and what sorts of problems did you encounter. How did you work around any problems you encountered?
Socializing wasn't ever a real problem for me. That is if you don't consider neglecting your schoolwork because of social commitments to be a problem. I had a nice group of friends, and other friends outside of my core group also. My memories of high school in particular are happy ones when I remember my friends and all the fun we use to have. Primary school was much the same.
There were times where I felt my disability isolated me from some social interactions, and I experienced some blows to my ego and confidence as a result. Without writing a novel though it is hard to give specific examples.
Over all my social experience has been a good one and since living in the adult world I unfortunately can't say that socializing is as easy as it was when I was at school.
4. What technology did you find most useful at school?
Even with the invention of new computerized technology for blind and VI students. I still believe that Braille reading and writing is the most valuable tool for a blind student. It is a tangible resource that I personally believe is vital to the full academic development of a blind student.
I also wouldn't be without my laptop and jaws either. I think I've been very lucky to have had access to both, and have used them both equally. My HSC Exams and textbooks were in Braille and I typed my answers and essays on my laptop with jaws.
5. What were those essential skills that the vision service provided that you feel that were absolutely necessary?
Mobility training, a small amount of independent living training, I wouldn't be who I am without all the experiences and lessons I learnt at low vision
Camp taught me about relationships, pushing the self imposed boundaries, as well as the boundaries put on us as vision impaired people by others.
In regards to my education without the vision service I wouldn't have one, as it would be practically impossible for a blind or VI student to succeed in our mainstream education system alone. With the help of the vision support service I was able to keep up with my sighted peers, in the same time frame.
6. What do you feel could have been provided that was not?
I strongly believe that Students approaching the end of their school experience need more support not less. While it may be seen as a positive to get the student to stand on his or her own feet with as little intervention
from external sources as possible. This can cause unnecessary anxiety on top of what is undoubtedly the most difficult educational experience so far. I
also feel that more attention needs to be paid to teaching students appropriate advocacy and assertiveness skills. As well as information on what service providers are out there after school.
7. What did you do after school?
I took a year off from study and recorded an album called New Mountain to Climb. My hope was to get enough money together to go to England and study audio at a college for the blind over there, as there is no such course
available in Australia. Unfortunately I missed out on the scholarship I needed to meet the costs, and instead moved to Sydney and changed my study major from audio production to contemporary Performance. I completed my
diploma at the JMC academy in 2006. Since then I have been working on my business as an inspirational speaker, singer and songwriter. Currently I am touring around schools, hospitals and performing at corporate functions as part of the New Mountain to climb community and corporate initiative. This is a project developed by Full Circle Events, and myself and sponsored by the
Macquarie Group Foundation. I offer inspirational talks and musical performances on themes such as resilience goal setting and seeking support. Highlighting how common our fears are, how here in Australia we are
part of a caring and tolerant society, and how adopting positive values is worthwhile. Our tour supports the work of the children's cancer institute of Australia. Through my work for the CCIA I have been asked to be their young ambassador. I have also recently gone back to university part time at the Australian Institute of Music (AIM) TO complete my Bachelors of Music.
I work part time as a singing teacher, and I Recorded an EP last year called Wait another day.
8. What are your plans for the future?
I wish to finish my degree and obtain my masters in music Therapy. Continue building my business speaking and singing and to get married to my fiancé Malcolm next year.
9. What do you do in your leisure time?
In my spare time I like to read, cook; share a good bottle of wine with friends either at home or the pub. Spending time with Malcolm… Malcolm is from America and will be there till May next year when he graduates from
university with his degree in social work. We met on the Internet 4 years ago. So all of our communication is over the Internet via MSN Email, Skype, and the good old fashion phone. I spend a lot of time talking to him. He is also blind due to a retinal detachment when he was 18. And of course travel…. I've been to the UK and America and all over Australia.
I'm also the current vice president of Blind Citizens Australia Sydney branch, and am enjoying working on increasing BCA’s presents in the wider Sydney area.
10. What technology do you use now and hope to use in the future?
At the moment I am using a desktop computer with jaws, a Braille note MPower and a Nokia N95 with Talks. For mobility I use my guide dog Tegan who's been with me for 3 years now, she is a golden lab, and a minny guide.
11. Where would you like to see yourself in 10 years.
Married, Education completed, with a successful business doing what I love, and maybe if I am lucky enough some babies of my own.
Thanks Krystel for such an open and stimulating interview. You can view Krystel at her website:
** If you have an ex student that could be highlighted in this Spot please let me know. I would love to introduce them to our readers.
I have had so much positive feedback regarding this segment of the Newsletter I really would like as many students highlighted as possible. Teachers are giving it to parents and reading it to their students. Kym
What a bargain!!
Until 30th December ONLY $39.95 Dragon Naturally Speaking.
If you are not aware of this program it is voice recognition software and was demonstrated at the Port Vision Conference. Fabulous price as it is normally more than $200 plus. This program could be used for a student who has limited physical ability or who is slow to take down notes onto a laptop computer. Needs reasonably good speech.
If you would like a copy go to:
http://australia.nuance.com/naturallyspeaking/education/ answer a few simple questions and then you can purchase it online.
From Krystel…. Subject: a new computer guide for blind people
“I thought the following article might be of use to you and your colleagues in trying to get your VIP Students enjoying their PC and the on line world a bit more.
While I was at School I hated my computer, now I can't understand why I ever felt like that and if only I had embraced it the way I have since finishing high school who knows what I would have learnt.”
Michael Feir creates a free computer guide for blind people with a unique style and focus. He wants more to start using computers and the Internet for personal pursuits.
Many blind people have the mistaken impression that computers are strictly tools for work and education only. They needlessly miss out on opportunities for pleasure and personal growth which have made a profound difference in his life. After encountering countless blind people with expensive machines who only used them for basic reading and writing tasks, the creator of Audyssey Magazine began work on Personal Power. This free guide is the culmination of a two-year quest to rectify this situation. Written as more of a traveller's gazette than a manual, Personal Power offers a fun and easy entrance into digital life beyond education and work. Housed in a rich text file which can be opened on practically any modern computer, Personal Power makes for a small but informative portable partner in fun time. From the very basics of using Windows, Personal Power takes blind owners of accessible computers beyond their hard drives onto the information superhighway. Topics as diverse as online shopping, accessible computer games, computer defence and maintenance, blog's, email, instant messengers, and much more are discussed.
Comprising a total of around fifty thousand words, the guide strikes a balance of providing enough information to inspire the confidence to explore further without overloading newcomers to digital life with excessive techno speak. The focus is on making people aware of the many possibilities for leisure and personal growth through sharing many of my own experiences. Why not get your digital feet wet? Go to:
and pick up your free copy of Personal Power and the three fireside chat lectures today. Become alive in the digital world. Use your personal power! Contact: Michael Feir, author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check out my blog at: http://www.blindspots.net/blog.php?user=13
Bits and Pieces…
Ever wanted your own Snellen chart? Well there is an article at http://www.mdsupport.org/library/acuity.html which includes a Snellen/Metric chart.
Name: Megan McLean
Position: ISTV, South West Sydney Region
Family: Married with 3 goldfish.
Interests: Gardening, cooking, touring with my husband on our motorbikes.
Work: I trained as a primary teacher in Armidale and then took up casual work around my local area including Coonabarabran, Narrabri, Tooraweenah, and Binnaway. After approximately 12 months of casual work teaching everything from Kindergarten literacy to Year 10 Science I was appointment was to Binnaway Central School.
My first class was a 4/5/6 Composite (talk about sink or swim!). This was quite a challenge as a new teacher but I ended up absolutely loving it. I then moved to Dorrigo Public School. What a beautiful area to work in. I then moved to Sydney and taught at Llandilo Public School which is tucked away amongst market gardens out past Penrith…another beautiful spot.
I had completed my B.Ed. Sp. Ed. by correspondence during the first few years of teaching and felt a yearning to head more in this direction and so applied for retraining. I retrained in 2006/2007 and began as an ISTV in July of 2007. I am enjoying the change of direction and the challenge of working with a variety of students.
Favourite ISTV moments so far: Watching the students tackle the high ropes at Vision Camp last year. Watching a young student’s face light up when she used a monocular for the first time and exclaimed “that’s incredible!”
Ambition: to experience lots more “that’s incredible” moments with my students.
Thanks Megan and keep us up to date with those “incredible moments”
Question: How can a VIP access PowerPoint presentations?
Teaching Adventures in Gunbalanya
Oenpelli – Arnhem Land - Northern Territory
Opportunity on the horizon – had to jump – the prospect of great adventures stood before us.
Gunbalanya is a remote Indigenous Community in the Northern Territory (population approx. 1000). From the eastern boarder of Kakadu National Park you cross the crocodile infested East Alligator River into Arnhem Land. The community is then a 4WD trip through an enchanting landscape of escarpments, rock formations, billabongs and wildlife. You cannot enter into this land without a permit. Gunbalanya is the aboriginal name but it is often marked on maps as Oenpelli. It has the largest concentration of Aboriginal rock art anywhere in Australia, many dating as far back as 20 000 to 40 000 years.
There are two main seasons in Arnhem Land – the Wet and the Dry. During the Wet, the whole area is flooded and the community is only accessible by light plane. Groceries have to be flown in weekly from Darwin. We are here in the build up to the Wet season, and it is extremely hot. The clouds build daily, the thunder booms and the lightning ruptures. We are all praying for rain.
Within the first few days we both realised how utterly privileged we were to be here. The indigenous community at first were reserved but polite – another few ‘balanda’ (foreigners) come to town. What were they to expect?
For us – we were here employed as teachers by the Gunbalanya Community Education Centre, which has an enrolment of around 300 students with varying attendance due to walkabout. The school is separated into three sections: Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary. There are also three Outstations that teachers service by air. As teachers here, our day starts at 7:30am and finishes at 2:30pm. The children arrive at school barefoot, energetic and happy, ready for their breakfast, along with the camp dogs. The sun is already up and the heat is on. Lessons begin at 8:00am.
ESL is the main focus of the curriculum (4 hours a day). The children are multi-lingual, with the dominant Aboriginal language of Kunwinjku spoken. The school has a wonderful music program, which the children love, and embrace. It is a very big part of school life here. From our perspective, the children display a natural talent for movement, rhythm and song - they are also highly artistic. We have learnt many beautiful songs relevant to the area in both English and Kunwinjku and are now learning a repertoire of Christmas carols in both languages. Let’s turn the cards here – what a challenge for us!
The challenges became quickly apparent on entering into our different roles. One of us became the teacher of a Year 5/6 class with additional opportunities supporting other classes from Kindergarten to High School. From a personal perspective; “It has been a very rewarding experience because it has given me the opportunity and time to work with a diverse age range of students, and also to get to know a home group.”
The other worked as a Special Needs teacher. This involved working with students ranging from Pre-school to Secondary with physical, behavioural, intellectual, hearing and visual needs. “My primary focus in the visual context has been a pre-school student with visual impairment (ROP). The challenges here are great. This student does not speak the indigenous language of this region. Furthermore, she does not speak English. A Perkins Brailler has been supplied, however, a question that has arisen is, how is a student to learn Braille when they have no English or local language skills at this stage? This most definitely highlights the diverse challenges set for the Vision Teachers of today in a culturally mobile and changing world.”
Collaboratively, our thoughts are that we have had to pull from the depths of our knowledge, both learned and imagined, to utilize effective learning and behavioural strategies in order to relevantly address the individual needs of all our students.
We have learnt so much during our short nine week stay in this culturally rich environment. For us – things that we will never forget are: watching women with children in tow, walking daily past our fence to the floodplains - crowbars in hand to hunt turtles. Turtles cooking on coals nearby. Dogs. Deadly snake on the veranda – strike! Kids throwing sticks with stunning precision to fell bush apples, mangoes and limes. Eminen (LOUD). De-lousing hair (as we sit here itching). Happy, cheeky, testing, quick children without maliciousness. Graffiti. Children chasing bulls on the floodplain – incredible freedom. Hard play and hair pulling. Skilful somersaults in backyard. Camp dogs - too many vicious dogs – no free passage. Humbugging. Card games under street lights late at night. Beds in front yards, washing on the fences, children walking in the heat of night, gatherings under the banyan tree. Funerals, ceremonies, and nature at its best!
In our very short time here, we feel we have much to learn from this Indigenous Community. It is a culture of great gifts and knowledge that should be embraced. At Gunbalanya CEC we often sing a song about ‘Working together’ which has turned out to be one of the true themes of our whole experience here. Thank you Gunbalanya for such a privileged and wonderful experience.
Petra Bradley & Debbie Webb
Vision Support Teachers- Lake Macquarie -2008
“Bo Bo” – Goodbye in Kunwinjku!
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