As many of you who regularly visit my blog know, I’ve been recuperating from surgery. It was much more difficult than I had imagined, but the “down time” has brought me to a point of much needed reflection.
I’ve been fortunate this past decade to have some amazing life changes. It’s interesting how things have come along in my life when I’m not looking for them. When I was in elementary school, I wanted to grow up to be an English teacher. I started college with this same dream, but as my hearing progressively got worse, I worried about not being able to hear the children in the classroom setting.
There were no resources available to me at the time (ASL interpreters or CART weren’t offered). The third time I attended college, I changed my major from education to Human Services in the counseling field in hopes of helping others learn the issues and coping skills of living with hearing loss and deafness. I lost more hearing the last year I attended college, so much so, I did not return. It was a dark time, and that’s all I have to say about that.
I had made friends with a couple of people in our local Deaf community and joined an advocacy group, B.A.R.D. (Bay Area Resources for the Disabled). When B.A.R.D. ran out of funds to continue its mission, I volunteered at my daughter’s school. They set me up with a computer in my home so I could help with the spring history and English projects each year.
Then I became isolated, and didn’t socialize very much.
That was about 20 years ago.
These last few years have been wonderful. I met and married a FABULOUS man who is a wonderful role model for the little boy I adopted. My life is filled with friends who are encouraging me to continue to advocate for the silent voices in our society, to advocate for “awareness” to bring changes that will provide inclusion for those of us overlooked society; the deaf, hard of hearing and those who are losing their hearing through the various causes of hearing impairments. I did not go looking to do this. It simply fell into my lap.
I did not go looking to teach Sign Language. It was not something I even thought of. It, too, simply fell into my lap. Four years ago, my son’s Kindergarten teacher asked if I would be willing to come to class one day and show the students a few signs. I was hesitant at first. My old thought patterns cropped up, and I worried about not functioning in the classroom. I told the teacher I would have to think about it, but in my mind, I was set to say, “No.” I knew I couldn’t function in the classroom or distinguish what the children’s voices were saying to me.
After a couple of weeks, I talked with the Kindergarten teacher and explained that classroom situations were difficult, and even more difficult to decipher were the words and voices of young children. I told her if I did this, I would need her nearby to help me “hear”. She helped me by sitting close enough so I could read her lips as she repeated the children’s questions and comments. I loved it!
When I started teaching the Kindergarten Class, the First Grade teacher saw what we were doing, and she asked if I would come teach her class as well. After explaining I would need her help communicating with the children, I had another class.
I didn’t realize right away that my childhood dream had come to pass in such an unexpected way. Though I started out thinking I wanted to be an English teacher, I had no idea I would be teaching another language, an American language. American Sign Language. ASL.
Later this spring, I will be teaching Baby Signing Time. Though this conjurs up images of me sitting and teaching babies how to sign, I will actually be teaching parents how to teach their children to sign. Parents are the most important communicators in a child’s life. As the parents come to class each week, the children will simply see me reinforcing the signs their parents have been modeling all week.
It’s exciting for me to see parents wanting to communicate with their children so much that they are willing to take the time to come and learn a new language, an American language. The basic root words of American Sign Language.