Friday, December 3, 2010

Memories of School

When I was in elementary school (it was fittingly named after Helen Keller, but it was a typical public school), I and several other children from my school would visit an audiologist twice a year. Looking back at it, I'm not sure if we were all visiting the audiologist, or if there were other therapies or assessments being done of other conditions in the same building. I don't think the other children I went with were deaf.
Me as a child

My favorite part of these school trips was the ride there. The car we rode in was large, at least to my mind, and the back seat faced backwards. Even as a kid I enjoyed other perspectives; I would hang upside down off the jungle gym to see what everything looked like upside down, and purposefully choose other seats on the opposite side of my classroom every once in awhile to see what small things were different over there. So, riding backwards in a car going forwards was absolutely fascinating to me.

It must have been so interesting it blocked out my memories of the actual visit. I remember little except for a table with toys stacked on it in a waiting room filled with children. I do remember my first audiologist visit, which was actually to the audiology department of Arizona State University. I remember a big black and white (well, greenish) computer screen, a stuffed bear, and a stuffed monkey with cymbals that would clash whenever I reacted to a sound during the test.

I've mentioned it before, but I was always enrolled in public school, from kindergarten all the way through high school. As I was entering middle school (grades 6-8), we decided to move, and my parents looked into a local charter school with a program for deaf children, but ultimately decided to send me to the middle school in the town we moved to because the charter school was too far away and not yet accredited.

I never had speech therapy. If I had needed it, I know I would have gotten it. It was pretty entertaining in high school when I was doing a few things with the Vocational Rehabilitation program and they needed to bring in a speech therapist to assess my speech. At this time, I was making almost straight As (except for math) and only a relatively small circle of students at school knew I even had a hearing loss. It felt ridiculous, especially since the speech therapist used assessments that seemed like they were designed more for 8-year-olds than a 17-year-old. I think she felt it was as silly as I did.

I did have some issues in school. Rather than being one building with several stories, my high school was composed of many buildings, spread out over a wide campus. It was very difficult for me to hear announcements over the loudspeaker. I almost missed several important college exams, and I had to stop and listen very closely for announcements each time. By my senior year we had some luck getting the office to send a runner to me with any important announcements, but it was very hit-or-miss. I still remember that feeling of inadeqacy, of being unable to hear something that few others seemed to have trouble with, and I hate it.

I also had problems with substitute teachers a time or two. Once a substitute was taking attendance, and I missed my name being called. I approached her after she was finished and told her I must have missed my name, but I was present. She insisted on marking me as late to class even though the door never opened after the bell rang. In the end, luckily, we got it straightened out. I didn't want any black marks on my record in school.

I had a few moments of bullying in school but learned to deal with it in my own way most of the time. I knew I had a strong support network in my family and teachers. Once a couple of students wanted to see if I could read lips and they followed me around mouthing gibberish. I had to get the teacher to ask them to stop. Most other times, I could simply ignore taunts and pretend I hadn't heard them. Half the time I could only catch a few words anyway. Bullies aren't the best at enunciating what they say, and when they're not given anything in response they often give up and move on.

My high school had a Vocational Rehabilitation program that helped me get my first job. It was for the restaurant in an elderly care facility, and I worked there once a week. We talked pretty often about my goals for the future in Voc Rehab. It was suggested that I could go to Gallaudet, but I didn't want to go so far away from my family. It was also suggested that I might like to work in a library. I made fun of the idea at the time, which is funny, considering I do now work in a library, and I love it.

I think, overall, I had a positive school experience. There were tough moments, and like many teenagers I never felt like I really belonged, but ultimately I can look back at school and say I enjoyed it.

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad school was such a positive experience. that picture of you as a child is adorable!


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