And in the naked light I saw ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.
These lyrics are part of Simon and Garfunkel’s hit songHave you ever wished for silence? Unfortunately, there are individuals who were born into the world of silence.
At the beginning of the school year, I was informed that one of my students was hearing-impaired. With not much time to prepare, I met with the hearing specialist for a brief lesson on how to wear a microphone that would transmit my voice to the student’s cochlear implant. I was also cautioned by the hearing specialist that I needed to turn off the mike when discussing confidential matters or the student would be able to hear my conversations. In addition, the student would require a signing interpreter to be present in the classroom. Upon meeting with the interpreter, he informed me that his duty was to sign what I said and what he heard students say. In other words, if he heard it, he signed it to the student. Also, the interpreter stated that if he was doing his job correctly he would blend into the class as if he was one of the students. Initially, as I began my lessons, I was nervous seeing the interpreter and the student signing back and forth. However, as the year progressed, the three of us have established a form of communication where we automatically know what the other is thinking– People talking without speaking.
I said, “Please listen carefully!” The second after I said these words I thought to myself, “How can she listen?” I expected her to sign to the interpreter that she misunderstood my directions. She kept looking in my direction as if to say continue with your lesson and I did. After speaking with her later in the day, she informed me that she could read my lips and understand what I was saying. It was after this conversation that I thought she doesn’t have a disability she has a gift–To talk without speaking and listening without hearing.
It has been a humbling experience for me having a hearing-impaired student in my classroom, and it has forced me to revisit the way I deliver my instructions. For example, I have decreased my rate of speech when giving instructions, which has benefitted my whole class. No longer do I have to repeat instructions since reducing my rate of speech. In addition, I have been made aware of the discrimination that affects both children and adults who are hearing-impaired. My lesson learned from this experience; we should learn to “
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