I finished my undergraduate degree in education and special education. As I prepared for graduate school, I seriously considered where I might fit in the world. I had been blessed with a fine mind, but as a blind person, a woman and a member of a minority, I knew it might be difficult to find just the right job in which I could excel. And, as a petite woman, would I be taken seriously?
I’m a people-person and I love teaching and helping others. Because I’ve been blind most of my life, I’ve had many teachers of the blind; teachers who were excellent and teachers who were ineffective. Because of my personal traits and this experience, I decided to train to be a Rehabilitation Teacher. I completed my Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Teaching.
Some traits I’ve found helpful in my career are compassion, patience, creativity and thinking outside the box. What works with one client may not work with another. I can’t always just go by the book.
I’m very honest and direct with my clients. I build trust by listening. I learn the problems they are having, how they feel about them and the solutions they would like to see.
A Rehabilitation Teacher must wear many hats and provide many kinds of support for their clients. At times, I’m called to be a friend, a parent, a psychologist or a social worker. By listening to my clients and treating them as individuals, I learn when to hold their hands, when to push and when to stand my ground.
A Rehabilitation Teacher must always be professional. We deal with individuals who are facing problems they may not have had before or problems they have dealt with their entire lives. We must understand the difficulties they face and their feelings about them. Because clients ask for help and give us their trust, we have a special responsibility to them. We help them find the resources and training they need to live their lives as they desire, we help them accept their situation and give them hope to improve it. For example, individuals who are applying for services may require a piece of equipment to keep their current job, or they may need to learn other skills like braille or computer skills to return to the workforce. Also, management of personal needs is crucial to developing independence. For example, being able to take your own medication, telling time and preparing meals safely are very important to independence. We provide skill-based training to older individuals who are losing their vision due to eye diseases and would like to stay in their own homes as long as possible.
On a regular day, I prioritize my activities by what will help my clients most. I focus on the benefits I can provide. I return calls, make appointments, visit clients, determine needs and goals, and provide training and counseling. I do my best to work with my clients as a team. They need to be involved in decisions that affect them. I help my clients manage their expectations and be realistic about their situation. Other activities I fit in as I can. I do paperwork, research products, recommend and order products and write narratives of what I do each day for my clients. I report monthly on my activities. Time-management is key. I have found Rehabilitation Teaching a wonderful career. I have flexibility in planning my day, my work is never boring and I feel good knowing that I help people.