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Special Sense of Sight


This article appeared in the Journal Herald on July 22, 1964

Special Sense of Sight
Adroit, Adept Dr. Brown Kept Students In Line


By William Bennington
Journal Herald Staff Writer

     The youthful looking freshman boy walked into a sixth-period English class at Wilbur Wright high school, took a seat near the rear of the room in the last row by the windows and casually opened a package of Spearmint chewing gum.

     Minutes later, the teacher said. “The boy with the red sweater in the last row sitting in the fifth seat had better swallow that Spearmint gum he is chewing.”

     The class turned to look and the now crimson student swallowed hard and slid a bit lower in his seat.

     The same sequence of events in any other class hardly would have drawn a second thought, but that class was being taught by Dr. Eleanor Brown – the only blind teacher in the Dayton school system.

     I will always wonder how Dr. Brown pegged me so accurately that first day in her class, and how, in later instances involving classmates she handled the situations as she did.

     Where blindness would have been a handicap to almost anyone else in this type of work, it seemed an asset to Dr. Brown.

     She was quicker than many of the sighted teachers to detect gum chewing or candy eating and she had a sense that made it practically impossible to pass a note in class.

     And with Dr. Brown, it was worse to be on the “captured end” of the note-passing mischief because the offender was often made to read the note to the class.

     One could never be sure in which class Dr. Brown would show up as a substitute teacher during her later years in the system.

     She was equally adept at teaching algebra, English and at times she was even called upon to conduct shop classes.

     With her noticeable fondness for the boys -  and the more devlish ones at that – Dr. Brown often ran into situations that took an extra special sense of sight.

     “I ‘see’ the boy by the window and he had better sit down,” she said one day in class.

     The teenager, thinking she was making a stab in the dark just stood silently, flattened against the wall in an attempt to foil the blind teacher.

     Dr. Brown walked from her desk without her guide dog as she almost always did inside the classroom, went surely to the spot where the boy stood and walked him by the arm to the office of Thomas Herman, assistant principal, for disciplining.

     She had a knack for walking the halls at Wilbur Wright with the aid of her guide dog Miss Effie and often went from classroom to classroom alone. The newer students would watch in awe and many speculated she really could see.

     There were always those who thought they were getting away with something in Dr. Brown’s classroom – and though many were successful – often the culprits found themselves on the short end of the stick.

     During one math class, a senior student at the conclusion of roll taking, “silently” inched toward the door in an attempt to sneak out.

     The class looked on, wondering if he would get caught.

     Just as the youth was in the doorway ready to make his break, Dr. Brown gave a lengthy assignment to be handed in the following day. The senior paused just long enough to hear the assignment and then was gone.

     Dr. Brown sat quietly as the class murmured with the displeasure at the difficult assignment, then after a few moments she said, “That lesson is for the boy who just left the class. The rest of us will have no assignment.”

     She paused again, then in her smiling manner said, “Now don’t you boys and girls dare tell him.”

     Even the youth’s best buddies did not betray her.

     There is no doubt Dr. Eleanor Brown was blind and by the same token there is nothing but certainty that she could “see” – to carry on the duties of a teacher, to act as a guide to students and to conduct herself as an inspiration to anyone she came into contact with.