One of the nice things about being a teacher is that you are always learning. Last quarter I had two deaf students in my math and reading classes. They were amazing men with lots of interesting stories in their lives. They also had a wonderful attitude and huge motivation.
At some point in the quarter, we were discussing the differences between their, there, and they’re, and their interpreter pointed out that if you’re deaf, those words aren’t a problem because they each have their own sign. I had never thought about that, of course. It was nice to know that some things are easier for these guys. But it also got me thinking about a world without sound.
Patsy, their interpreter, was wonderful about interpreting for them what the class was saying and interpreting for me what these two men were saying. But I realized we hadn’t really involved them – really involved them – in the class. So I asked if they would explain the signs for their, there, and they’re and such a simple request changed everything.
Their explanation was great! They were born teachers. And the class’s response was unanimously enthusiastic. They started asking other questions: How do you say well done? What’s the sign for applause? They also asked a lot of questions about what it’s like to be deaf.
For the rest of the quarter, these guys got the last 10-15 minutes of class to teach us something. And from that day on, every student made sure to say hello to these guys. All of a sudden, they really were part of the class and we were all a part of their world. It was a very happy community.