How life is in someone else's shoes

28th September 2007 at 01:00

I went to a great in-service training event the other day. Yet all I did was sit in a room with a bag on my head! Well, OK, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration. It was a blindfold rather than a bag and for some of the time, at least, those in charge let me take it off.

Lecturers tend to moan a lot about the in-service training they receive. Lecturers tend to moan a lot about everything these days, but still, on this they have a point, especially when the session is labelled "compulsory". This means that someone else has chosen it for you because they think it will do you or at least them some good.

Sadly, "compulsory" training days often turn out to be not what you want at all. You end up sitting looking at the ceiling and thinking of all the other, more useful things you could be doing instead. Some canny lecturers have even been known to fake a doctor's appointment before popping in at the end of the session to pick up any handouts.

My session wasn't like that. Apart from anything else, we had all chosen to be there. When we learnt we have a blind student in our class this year, we were all keen to find out how best to handle it.

The blindfolds came out right from the start. It would be good for us, our leaders said, to experience what it really felt like to come into a room with no idea of who or what was in there. And it was. Even sitting on a chair was an act of faith.

Later we took it in turns to lead a blindfolded colleague around the college. I thought I was doing pretty well when I managed to get out of the room in the approved manner, that is without letting the door slam back into the face of my charge.

"We're approaching the stairs," I said with growing confidence. "Now you can take the first step." My charge put out her foot and nearly fell down a full flight. Luckily one of the minders was on hand to catch her.

My error? Thinking I knew it all, I had made one vital omission: I had forgotten to tell her whether the steps went up or down.

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