Making or breaking the learner

Let me start by saying that teachers are ‘powerful’ beings. Depending on the learner’s personality, a teacher can make a learner feel great or horrible about him/herself. Now, let me tell you a story, but before I tell you a story, let’s talk about medicine.

I am partially color blind. This does not mean that I cannot see colours, it just means that I do not see colours the same way as colourseeing people can. I can see that there is a colour, I just sometimes mix these colours up. Having said that, let’s go back to the “making or breaking” sweep statement at the beginning of this post.

As I said in an earlier post, I took up drawing and…… painting. When I started the classes, I told my trainer that I can’t tell the difference between colours and that I would need help.  Today, I finished the drawing and moved on to the painting. When I said, ” I am color blind remember?” She looked at me and said, “I don’t understand that. So, you can’t see colours? You can’t see that this is red? What do you see it as?” and then after a few seconds. “So, you really can’t see colours” I snapped. I said, ” Well, if I am colour blind, that means that no, I don’t see colours. Or actually, I do see that these (pointing to different colours) are different, I just don’t know what exactly they are” I think my face and my tone shocked her a bit.

So, me talking to my sarcastic self. If someone says, I am deaf” would you say, ” So, you can’t hear?” If someone said, “I am blind” would you say “So, you can’t see?” (you wouldn’t, you shouldn’t)

Back to class

Then, she said, “OK, I will help you with the colours then” and she did. She was very helpful. Extremely helpful. And I really liked painting.

But, what if I was a more sensitive person? What if I was not 39, had faced these kind of questions all my life, and wasn’t thick skinned? Would I really want to continue classes? When it comes to disabilities/impairments or whatever you want to call them, things we don’t know and don’t understand, what’s the right answer/reaction? I think that people in general need to be  a bit more careful. Is it a matter of training, pedagogy or just… being polite and not asking? Actually, no, scratch that, ask, but ask about how you can help. I think in this case the best thing to say would be, ” So, what can I do to make this easier for you? How can I help you?” You may also ask, ” So, if you can’t see colours, why do you want to paint?” Just cause I can’t see colours, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate art. I am colour blind but I still wanna learn. The painting teacher’s role in this case would be to help me find ways around it, like take the time to sit me with me, tag the tubes and write the colours, or make the colours for me, with me (as she eventually did).

And that’s that. Vented. Done.

My 1st painting will be finished next week.

2015-03-12 13.34.23

Till next time……


6 thoughts on “Making or breaking the learner

  1. Hi Marjorie,
    I think that teachers/educators need to take into account that not everyone can do everything and when the problem is a deficiency, a learning difficulty or any sort of impairment, it is necessary that we try to help the learner anyway we can. Whilst I really enjoyed painting, having the painting teacher say, ” I don’t understand this. What do you mean?” in front of others was unacceptable! If I was 9, I may have just wanted to stop altogether. In the end, my teacher was very helpful and that’s why my colours turned out nice (that’s what others are telling me)


  2. As MarjorIe said, real food for thought. I guess, we should avoid being judgmental as much as possible when it comes to teacher talk, but I guess sometimes you don’t even realise… Thanks for sharing


    • Hi Nati,
      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I think that was the main point. She didn’t realize ( you were spot on). I think she should have been trained to realize though. If someone wants to educate, when it comes to ‘physical’ disabilities, they need to be a bit more sensitive!
      Thanks again,
      Joanna 🙂


  3. Hi Joanna,
    Thanks for sharing this story.
    When you mentioned being colour-blind in a previous post I wanted to ask if it’s affected your teaching in any way, and I think (in part) it might be one of the little triggers that prompted this post I wrote the other day, even though it’s on a seemingly completely different subject: (combined with a CELTA trainee telling me the previous day that they have ADD, half-way through the course!)
    “So, what can I do to make this easier for you? How can I help you?” are key questions, and as Marjorie said, they should be in all teachers’ repertoires. The more we know about how to help our students, whatever obstacles they may face, the better teachers we become.


    • Hi Sandy,
      Thanks for reading and sharing this post. When I wrote it I wanted to raise awareness. I hope I did. Being color blind does affect my teaching a bit. You gave me an idea for a blog post. It’s coming up!! 🙂 I really enjoyed the post you wrote btw!!


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