Today I went back to school. It was my first day as a junior in the 2022-2023 school year at Salem High School. Exciting, right? Yeah, no. Not even close.
Not to sound negative, but I despise high school as a whole for countless reasons. Mostly, I find it hard to coexist with other people-social anxiety. Especially when those other people are high schoolers. Add to that my low vision and I have the perfect storm for what is guaranteed to be the worst day of the year.
There are tons of situations and circumstances that complicate my first day of school because of my low vision. They all played a part in making today especially difficult and stressful.
Figuring out where all my classes are and maneuvering through the halls on the first day is possibly the hardest part of starting any school year with low vision.
This is the most concerning when going to a new school. I’ve had it easier the past few years since I have been in the same building since seventh grade. I truly sympathize with anyone who has low vision and is starting at a new school building this year. It’s beyond stressful and there’s not much to be done to counteract that.
I remember my first day at SHS, and it was much worse than what I dealt with today. Everything was new and scary. The hallways were crowded and I couldn’t tell where I was, let alone where I needed to go. The only reason I made it through the day was the orientation all seventh graders had to go to before school started. This gave me a chance to see how the building was laid out and where some of my classes were. Of course, it was much harder on my first day without my parents. Plus there were hundreds of kids pushing and shoving in the hallways.
The orientation still helped to some degree. Without it, I probably would have been late to every class that day. If you have issues with navigating because of low vision, I highly recommend finding a way to preview a new school building before the first dau. Even if your school doesn’t offer an orientation of some sort, I would guess that most school systems would let you walk the halls before school starts anyways.
Even though my school building didn’t change this year, my classes did. Finding my new classes presented a challenge of its own, despite my being familiar with my school. It helped that the building isn’t too big so I pretty much knew the general area of all my new classes
I only had a couple of classes today that were in rooms I wasn’t familiar with. I wasn’t exactly sure where they were, but I had at least memorized the room numbers. You would think it would be easy, or at least doable, to find a classroom once you know the room number. It’s not, at least not for me.
The room numbers are on the tops of the door frames and are insanely small. I am short and have an eye disease. The numbers and I don’t get along all that well. It takes more than a brief glance for me to read them and others aren’t exactly polite enough the walk around me as I squint upwards in the hallway. I was pushed around more than once in the crowded hallways of SHS today. I found all my classes eventually, and everything turned out fine.
New classes still aren’t nearly as terrifying as a new school, but they’re nothing to laugh at, either.
It’s hard to tell anyone about my low vision, but teachers are the worst. My biggest worry when telling someone about my situation is how they’ll react or if they’ll understand. When telling teachers it’s even worse because I need them to understand, or I’ll have a long school year ahead of me.
It would probably be best if I had this discussion in person, face-to-face. Maybe find time on the first day to pull my teachers aside and explain my situation. This way we could get a better sense of each other and what will work best for dealing with problems throughout the year. I am way too scared to do that, so I just send them all emails. I make sure to be extra polite, formal, and detailed about my situation. So far, I have always received positive responses. This may change when I go to college in a couple of years, but I hope not.
For any other visually impaired teens who are as socially stunted as I am, I want to share a general draft of my emails. You can feel free to use it as a guide to write your own back to school teacher emails. It is a tested and fool-proof resource. You can find the draft here.
Overall, the first day of school is hard, especially for kids with low vision, or any type of disability. No matter how much you prepare, it’s an unpredictable mess of a day. I would love to say that after the first day, things start to calm down, and life is easy. That’s kind of true, but also not. It may get a little easier to navigate my days, but other problems will always pop up, big and small. The best thing that I or anyone else can do is take it one day at a time.
For another school related story about my struggles with low vision, check out my previous blog post My Mini Success Story.