Can they see?

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Eyesight caused me a fair amount of trouble last year. My usual strategy has been to put those kids up front who could not see the Promethean board well. Last year, that strategy failed me because so many students could not make out the words on the screen. I really struggled to get everyone up front who needed that front or second row placement and, when the dust settled, I had to place a few in the third row. I ended up crowding myself as I kept bringing desks forward.

For newbies making seating charts: Before you commit to any seating structure, test your students vision. The nurse should have the information you want, but eyesight can change quickly and that information does not always percolate down into the classroom in a timely fashion. One of my daughters went from functional to pretty near bat-blind in fourth grade. She wore glasses until middle school when she switched to contacts. I’ve had students say they are willing to wear contacts, but glasses are too ugly. Girls especially tend to break, lose or hide those glasses.

By middle school, eyesight issues dog educators everywhere. In financially-disadvantaged areas, students are entitled to one free pair of glasses annually, but some students are more concerned with how they look than whether or not they can see the board. These students will not necessarily flag the teacher to their poor vision.

Eduhonesty: A vision check can be quick. Give the kids an activity to keep them busy. At this time of year, you might want to use a diagnostic math or vocabulary pretest. If you have a smart board or projection capabilities, prepare sentences to read. Throwing in a joke or two helps, as do pictures. Keep the print reasonably small. You are checking to see if they can read smaller sentences from the back of the room. It’s important to vary the script so that each student sees different words. The voluntarily-fuzzy-sighted frequently fake their way through eye checks. I shudder to think how many are driving the roads right now.

The kids who can’t see well obviously go up front. A phone call home should follow. I’ve had multiple parents say, “She is not wearing her glasses? She had them on this morning.” Sometimes, calls home can solve the fuzzy-vision problem. Sometimes they can’t.

I’ll end this post with a sad, odd anecdote. A few years back, I had a student who could not see the board from the front row. He copied furiously from his seat partner. I called home. I did not connect but got a curious message instead: “This phone does not accept incoming calls.” Dad remained inaccessible. Sometimes, mom could be reached. I called. The nurse called. We both called. The nurse sent letters. Months went by. The kid in question disappeared for two months, then returned. He had not been in school. This bright, entertaining kid spent almost the whole year copying from the kid next to him. Sometimes you can only do so much.