Monday, 28 June 2010

An inspiring lady

Last weekend we welcomed a candidate to take her Cambridge ESOL CAE examination at Luna. She had travelled up from Tokyo specially, the culmination of six months preparation for Yuki. We'd been waiting for this day nervously for some time.

Usually CAE takes place on a Wednesday, but we were unable to manage the special arrangements necessary to accommodate this candidate on the same day, as she was blind. That required us to source braille editions of the exam materials and to provide separate seating, as she needed to have her answers recorded by her amanuensis (very fancy word for 'note-taker'). She also needed extra time - an obvious necessity even if she could 'read' with both hands - questions on the one, text on the other. It was obvious to me that she needed a very good memory, to be able to remember no just the information she was taking in - but where it was located. Quite a different way of processing language I am sure, and an exhausting one.

CAE is of itself a very challenging level to aspire to, and I am forever disappointed we do not generate more candidates here at Luna - by the time our students are good enough or mature enough they are moving on to something else eg university or studying abroad. We know this examination is intense, and that taking all the papers in one day is draining. I personally would find managing a life sightless inordinately challenging, and something I think would be beyond my mental & emotional capacity. I think I would be frustrated/angry/lost/bruised all the time.

I was proud that we could arrange this exam to be held in special arrangements for this candidate. She did not need any 'help', just the right environment to have a fair chance. I spent the day invigilating/acting as her amanuensis (that is a very tough job for a teacher to do - mark down answers or spell things that I might not necessarily agree with). It was a day I will not forget in a hurry: it was boring watching a blind person take a test in Braille, but it was also a sobering experience to watch a person go for it and not take the easy way out or just give up because it was too hard or she was no longer motivated.


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