Seen but not heard


That’s how the saying goes, only it’s talking about children while I’m talking about me.  Welcome to my journey in a deaf and hard-of-hearing classroom.  I always like to joke about how I am monolingual, speak only one language, but even with others from another country, when I talk to them they can usually understand me at least a little.  The problem with subbing in this sort of classroom, I know extremely little sign language.  At least in Spanish, I can tell them I don’t speak Spanish in, er, Spanish (“No hablo español).  Without a translator I am hopeless in a deaf classroom.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in one of these rooms.  In fact, I subbed for this same teacher once last year so I knew what to expect.  I arrived there and first thing I noticed was there were no plans.  Sub plans that is- she did have the plans she expected to teach herself.  For the most part, these plans worked out fine.  For two hours in the morning the kids worked on packets called “News-2-You.”  Another teacher in the room for the morning actually taught that.  What did I do in the meantime?  I cut out word cards and laminated book pages, and put together number cards.  They would have had me make copies too, but the machine was taken over by the PTA for the morning.  I did get to teach one lesson though, aided in part by an assistant who was none too happy about being sucked into a translator role.  She was replaced by one much less cold to me about 10-minutes into the lesson (she had to be somewhere else).  I taught the math lesson.  It was an… interesting… experience.  The students were at a lower level than I expected them to be, and I had to skip parts of the lesson and adjust.  Yes, be a real teacher for the hour. 8)

The afternoon was far different from the morning, but I was about as useful.  For most of the afternoon I was in other classrooms acting as the third wheel a teaching assistant for the classes.  I couldn’t help the deaf students mainstreamed in the classes- that was left to an assistant who could sign.  I just walked around, made sure students were working, and in rare instances helped a student or two.  There was a small portion of the afternoon where I was scheduled to teach.  However, when the time rolled around it was myself and the two 6th grade kids (there were two each of 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade kids in her room).  No translator.  Well, scratch teaching.  The cold assistant came in and set them to read for the half hour and then left again.  About 5-minutes later a translator came in, sent by one of the assistants or a teacher as she said she normally wasn’t in the room.  Lesson time?  Nope.  I didn’t have the materials for the lesson, so they continued reading before going off to speech at 2:30, leaving me to act as an assistant again in the 4th grade room where the two 4th-graders were mainstreamed for the afternoon.

All-in-all it was an easy, unexciting day.  Compared to my time in this room last year, it went great.  I remember some dramatic moments, one where a student swore at me in sign language- not that effective since I didn’t understand and he was seen by the teaching assistant, but strange just the same.  I also saw one of my weekend kids in the hall.  When I call him up this week- I’m calling all of my two small groups to remind them of rewards week- I’m sure he’ll want to talk about it.

3 thoughts on “Seen but not heard”

  1. Verbally I think, because you can hear the emotion in the voice. Signers can sign rapidly and pointedly, but it doesn’t really make clear the reasoning behind it. Though I suppose had the deaf student cruelly laughed afterward, it would have made his point clear. As it was, I had to ask what he said and was told he swore at me, and since I had to be told his point was lost on me.

  2. If you understand the language or inflection involved in the language, being cursed in any language is just as bad.

    I understand a very little bit of sign language. I grew to understand that large signs could be construed as yelling. I was told that cursing and other ‘bad’ language was signed ‘small’ to prevent interpretation, but I learned a lot of sign language at a church. I imagine in public, this may not be the case.

    My lovely wife tried for years to teach me to sign. Her hearing loss made this important to her. I’m glad to say I was able to learn the ‘important’ things. I knew 3 ways to say “I love you!”.

    In the past 5 years, I forgot most of the sign language I knew. I miss the beauty of fluid signing. I miss being able to communicate across a crowded room.

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