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What I Learned from Blind Children at Age 50

Updated on December 16, 2017
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle worked for 20 years in elementary schools as a sub teacher, eventually presenting teacher training workshops in Orange County, CA.

I say--- not nearly enough candles!

You really can't get 50 candles on one of these . . . it would melt the birthday cake and perhaps several of the celebrants.
You really can't get 50 candles on one of these . . . it would melt the birthday cake and perhaps several of the celebrants. | Source

I have reached the age where it doesn't matter. What age ? Frankly, it's none of your business, but I learned something about age and first impressions when I was a sub teacher in a classroom of young blind children.

First some background: My birth order gave me an advantage, as the baby of a bunch of girl cousins. Some years ago, at a family wedding, one of my "elderly" 40-ish cousins asked me how it felt to always be the "baby."

I said with a hint of "last laughter", "Sometimes it wasn't so great. But now . . . It's All Right!"

I learned: When you are the youngest of your middle-aged cousins, they all want to be you.

My mom and dad always looked younger than their contemporaries, so I never thought about aging much until I hit 50. Fifty is a "fat" number, and though I was still doing the same things I did at 49, it seemed, for the first time -- different.

I learned: People will tell you, "Age is how you feel." Yeah, right. People will say, "Age is a state of mind." Yeah, right. I didn't feel different. I didn't think differently.

I learned: Age is age: an objective chronological, factual statistic.

Reaching the half-century...

Shortly after that anniversary, which is disfigured by the phrases "half century," "golden anniversary" and the ever popular "over the hill," I was working as a substitute teacher in a special-education class.

Teaching in the blind class opened my eyes to the idea of using all of the senses for instruction.

Blind students tend to be very perceptive and responsive to sounds, rhythm, touch, texture, fragrance, odor, and all of the other physical sensations that we some times take for granted.

They tend to sense changes in the weather by the "smell of rain" or the change in the direction of the wind. They also seem to get a sense about people by the tone and cadence of their voice and other auditory clues.

Teaching Blind Students

Not My First Time

I had been in the blind class a few times before and was acquainted with the kids in the group.

It was an easy substitute assignment because these classes always had capable assistants and often a few volunteers. I was mostly there to fulfill a legal requirement (I had a credential). I certainly had no specialized training in teaching the blind.

I was glad, however, that I had been requested to return. It at least indicated that I had not been deemed a liability to the normal functioning of the class.

I was also given some simple things to do, that I could handle, to make me feel useful.

On this particular day I sat on the floor in a circle of children, while sharing jokes and riddles (technically -- an orderly, educational, verbal, cooperative communication exercise.) One of them suddenly asked me how old I was.

In a moment of vulnerability I blurted "Fifty."

They immediately laughed and rocked back and forth as if I were continuing the jokes and riddles. Though greatly flattered and encouraged, somehow I felt obliged to insist on the facts.

"I'm Fifty," I repeated somewhat desperately, though I could hardly believe it myself.

They remained unconvinced so I asked them how old they thought I was (expecting, maybe, 90).

The general consensus was "about thirty-five," which I accepted with glee, laughter and my own rocking back and forth.


Who Would Believe?

When I related this story to acquaintances they regarded it with some suspicion until I revealed that this was the visually impaired class.

Most of them were very bright, but legally or totally blind children.

It certainly would have been a major compliment to have been judged 15 years younger by a sighted class (no way!), but pondering the experience, I realized that it was even more of a compliment to have been judged not by my appearance, but by my attitude and interaction.

I could sit on the floor and laugh at silly jokes with them and it made me younger.

Perhaps we all taught each other something about perception on that day.

Yes, we do make judgements about people on our visual perceptions. We may also make assumptions based on their words and attitude.

I once had someone tell me that I probably got along well with young children because I never really grew up.

At the time, I don't think it was meant as a compliment, but I have learned to take it as such, because it is partly true.

I hope it always will be.

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    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      5 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you for reading, RTalloni. I got into teaching by "accident", thinking that I never wanted to be a teacher. It proved to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. In the blind class, I was really impressed with how they were taught to be as independent as possible. It was not a matter of helping them, as much as it was teaching them to help themselves.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      5 years ago from the short journey

      Aren't kids great?! :) And your hub has generated an interesting conversation. Thanks for the smile and the practical thinking.!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Lita. We have choices about some things. About others, we do not. Keep up the good work.

    • Lita C. Malicdem profile image

      Lita C. Malicdem 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      "Age is a state of the mind." Absolutely true! When I turned 60, I called myself a "senior debutante" not a senior citizen. Since then I searched for day to day challenges (to prevent my mind from disintegrating, I hate those senior moments to overcome me). I was ushered into a new challenging world, the first of which was my plunge into the internet that gave rise to 3 of my websites.

      I meet friends online and I'm glad I have found you, Rochelle, a "baby" in your family.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      It is a great age, and a great decade. I think we are much better off than previous generations of the same age, with more opportunities, more access to information, more 'variety' and generally better health than many who came before.

      Thanks for commenting, CMHypno.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 

      7 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Hey Rochelle, thanks for the great hub. I turned 50 last year, and have decided that this will be the best decade of my life so far.

      In the immortal words of Shakespeare:

      'Age cannot wither her nor custom stale her infinite variety'

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Sorry Uninvited Writer, I made you UV instead of UW-- must have been out in the sun too long today.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you, UV. Seems like a lot of people are turning 50. I appreciate the share.

    • Uninvited Writer profile image

      Susan Keeping 

      7 years ago from Kitchener, Ontario

      Very nice. I shared this on our Facebook group, Not So Old Broads :)

      https://www.facebook.com/notsooldbroads

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      I know what you mean about the "kids"-- but you are right, it look a whole lot different from the other side.

      More people should be blind . . . well, I mean in relation to what they might see at first glance.

      I thank you for commenting-- as this is one of my favorite teaching (and learning) experiences.

    • onegoodwoman profile image

      onegoodwoman 

      7 years ago from A small southern town

      This one rings a bit closer to home.

      It is not MY age that marks time, it is the AGES of my children. Man, are they getting up there!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you for commenting, samboiam. Forgive my late response.

    • samboiam profile image

      samboiam 

      8 years ago from Texas

      That was enjoyable. Thanks for sharing.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Hi Dineane-- Where y'all been? (Is that correct grammar?) I am very pleased you read this. I loved working with the blind kids. It was very educational. I wrote another hub on the subject. I think it was "Out of my Elephant" or something similar.

      Hope you and your mom are well. I owe a lot to her (DonnaCSmith) for introducing me to HubPages.

    • dineane profile image

      dineane 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      I'm glad this hub popped back up - great story!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Marissa, Your dancing probably was a big factor in keeping you young.

      I never figured out how to judge people as a certain age. I don't think of over 50's as seniors-- I'm, closing in on 70. I wear mostly blue jeans and tee-shirts, and have my own teeth.

      I think I am in better physical shape than I was ten years ago so I am still pretty comfortable, but I take nothing for granted. It can all change in an instant.

      I'm always inspired by your hubs, and deeply appreciate your response.

      ( I also have one on being 60-- but I can't remember what I wrote thre at this moment. ...Age?, probably not.)

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      8 years ago from Sydney

      Rochelle, I honestly think NO ONE "looks their age" these days. Most people think of over-50's as "seniors", and picture us wearing a cardigan and forgetting our dentures. In reality, few of us look like that any more.

      I felt very smug at 50, because I was still looking good and my figure was still in good shape. I'm now halfway to 60 and it's all fallen apart. So don't get too comfortable!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Perfect advice. I agree with all three. Being the youngest of a bunch of cousins, I was always the "baby". It was tough for awhile, but it got better and better each year.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      8 years ago from south Florida

      Hello, Rochelle. Thanks for a fun hub.

      Whenever I am asked the secret to looking young I recite the following:

      1 - Exercise every day.

      2 - Eat healthy food.

      3 - Hang around with older people. Works for me.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      I think it's a bit silly to worry about things you can't control--like the number. Keep yourself healthy, and laugh.

    • Jen's Solitude profile image

      Jen's Solitude 

      8 years ago from Delaware

      Hi Rochelle, I am turning 50 very soon and found your hub both humorous and educational at the same time. Since I have never "looked" my age, I have never worried about it, but now that I will soon be able to say, "I have lived half a century!" my age has taken on new relevance. (smile) Thanks for helping me keep the number in its place.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      8 years ago from California Gold Country

      Yes, I feel the same way . . . and this incident happened a loooong time ago. Thanks for your comment. "Piece and quite"-- that's cute.

    • profile image

      helena fernandes 

      8 years ago

      i´m 50 and feel so fine sometimes i think you're all joking... what's about being 50? much better than been 20 or 30: no kids, much more dignity than vanity, more piece and quite than before, more experience. is there anybody feeling the way i do?

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, MM. It greatly encouraged me. (I'll have to say that those kids were very perceptive.)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 

      9 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      This is a gem, Rochelle! I totally agree with you. Fifty is a very round number. And it is very different from 49 (or 40 "something" which covers a whole lot of territory). there is no 50 "something" counterpart, is there?

      Loved the surprise that your class was judging you by your actions and attitude rather than your appearance. That is LOVELY!

    • MissJamieD profile image

      MissJamieD 

      9 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      lol...I wanted to read some of your stuff, it's on your profile page:) Nice to see you again!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      MissJamieD. I don't know how you found this, it has been buried for a long time. Thanks for digging it up again.

    • MissJamieD profile image

      MissJamieD 

      9 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      Cute hub Rochelle:) I (three years ago) hit the big 3-0 and thought my life was over. Not literally..lol..but then I had another baby at 32, that really made me feel old. But truthfully, starting at age 28 I began to set myself on "crisis mode" and never got out of it until 32...I did that to myself mostly, but aging can be difficult. Especially at the decade milestones, for some reason we negate the years in between and focus on what we'll do in the next decade. But that does seem to work for most of us, doesn't it? lol..Some may struggle for a bit around the decade turn, but I think each time we hit one, we grow.

      Great hub:)

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Ah Pam, Grandparenthood is the best! Congratulations! Lots of good things are still to come for you.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 

      10 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      As one who passed this milestone a couple of years ago, and can TOTALLY relate, I tend to believe those fitness commercials that I've heard: "70 is the new 50, and 50 is the new 30!"

      To add insult to injury, my oldest daughter had the audacity to recently make me a grandma!

      Seriously, if I knew then what I know now.....;)

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      I actually agree with that.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 

      10 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      Every "zero" birthday is the BIG ONE, then the next morning you wake up and all your parts still work, and you aren't in a Home, so you get dressed and go off to work as usual, amazed that nobody says "Gawwwwd, you look ancient!", and life goes on.

      People I know far younger than myself who just creak around like they're 90 infuriate me. Refuse to DO anything. "Why bother?" they say. "Won't be around much longer anyway". Then there's my 80-something cousin who's always going places and still doing most of the things he did in his 40's. So age IS a state of mind.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Me too-- I didn't say when these things happened did I ? (I know I am at least five years older than you.)

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      10 years ago from Central North Carolina

      Fifty seems young to me;o)

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