Teachers are bombarded with communications from administrators, parents and fellow teachers. So how do we break through the clutter and communicate a surprising reason why their students may be struggling? Check out our strategy, and let us know if you think it will work.
I’m married to a teacher. If I had a penny for every email she received during the course of the day, then I don’t think we’d be griping about her lousy teacher’s salary any more.
Don’t get me wrong -- I think our entire society sends waaay too many emails. It’s so easy to send a message these days that whenever a thought pops into our heads, we send it out and expect a response. Everyone is feeling the crush of excessive communication.
But teachers are particularly hit hard. They are overwhelmed with communications from administration about curriculum changes and new policies. They get constant emails and texts from concerned parents. They also receive shared info from their colleagues, who in the spirit of collaboration and information-sharing are adding to the clutter.
My question is not how to stop this information glut. No, my questions is how can we break through the clutter, and reach teachers who don’t understand the impact vision problems have on learning. We’ve thought about this for a long time, and we may have a solution.
Reaching the Unaware and the Skeptical
The link between vision and learning is well-documented. According to the American Optometric Association, 1 in 4 children has a vision problem that affects their ability to learn.
One of the main culprits are functional vision problems. Many teachers aren’t aware of what functional vision is, and how it differs from eyesight.
* Functional vision involves your ability to see an object in space, and includes visual skills such as eye movements, eye teaming, eye focusing and depth perception.
* Eyesight involves your ability to see an object clearly from a certain distance. Testing eyesight requires a Snellen eye chart, and results in an eyesight measurements such as “20/20 eyesight.”
Most vision screenings only test eyesight, which means a student with 20/20 eyesight may still have a functional vision problem. If left undetected, the functional vision problem can affect a child’s ability to follow a line of text on a page, or copy words from the board (there are a host of other ways learning is affected - read about them here.)
How do we get the message across to teachers that functional vision problems are hindering a student’s ability to learn - especially when many educators are unaware of the problem?
A Theory on When to Reach a Teacher
Teachers have to deal with a myriad of emotional and learning challenges. That’s why they’re constantly receiving communications about new educational techniques and issues. So when is the best time to catch their attention?
We have a theory, and we’d like a teacher's opinion on if it’s the right tactic to take.
We think the best time to reach a teacher unfamiliar with a vision problem is when a student has been diagnosed.
We’ve tried many outreach programs, communications, and other methods to explain functional vision problems in a proactive manner. But it seems to us that the key is timing. Teachers are constantly putting out fires, so the best time to really deliver the message is when they actually have a student who has an issue.
But don’t we want teachers on the lookout for vision problems? Sure. Once a teacher understands the issue, they become very good at spotting typical functional vision symptoms.
However, if the teacher is unfamiliar with the issue, then it’s typically the parent who does the legwork and discovers that their struggling child has a functional vision problem. They bring the child to us, we perform a Functional Vision Exam, and then begin vision therapy.
We think it’s at this point - when the child is about to begin vision therapy - that it’s best to tell a child’s teacher about the specifics of the vision problem and the classroom accommodations that should be made. For a time-constrained teacher, this is the need-to-know moment.
Our strategy for reaching teachers is going to change. We’re going to redeploy our resources to being extremely thorough and helpful at the moment teachers need us most. We will do everything we can to help the teacher understand and aid in the child’s functional vision problem treatment.
Then, months later when the child has improved, we’ll reach out to the teacher and show the progress the student has made. Perhaps then we’ll net another advocate -- another teacher who truly understands how functional vision problems affect a child, and will be able to spot the next issue when it comes along.
What do you think about this strategy? We’d love to hear some responses from teachers: Should we focus more on being proactive and trying to organize more outreach to schools, or should we get granular and communicate one-on-one when teachers need us most?
We’d love to hear your feedback!