It’s been almost a full year since I’ve written, and I’ve decided to give it the old college try once again.
So, on this Thanksgiving weekend (we Canadians know when to celebrate the Turkey holiday!) I thought this would be the perfect time for a relaunch of ‘Underheard in Room 200′.
There have been some changes in my class this year….a couple of students have left, and new ones have arrived. So, let’s do role call:
Russ, Peter and Ivy (all in Grade 6)
Tyler and Mira (in Grade 5 – new to our school)
Bernadette moved to another school part way through last school year, and Kenny is attending a signing program, which is a great move for him.
Other people you may meet in the blog:
ArtGoddess (the art teacher)
CyberSwami (formerly known as CyberGuy – a teacher and computer expert)
FitDude (phys ed teacher)
Ms. Rabies (the other teacher of the Deaf in my school)
Coordinator Man (the coordinator of the D/HH program)
Scientifico (the science teacher)
Ms. Veep (the vice principal)
PrincipalWoman (replacing last year’s admin., PrincipalMan)
and me, Ms. Education.
So….sit back, relax and join me as I travel through this year, my 7th as a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
So right before we go on the blessed and long awaited Christmas/Winter/Kwanzaa/Winter Solstice break, I’m back blogging again. It’s been awhile. Things have been busy, and I’ve felt really overwhelmed with school and theatre obligations. I’m trying again!
The latest fun was an incident with Kenny and Bobby, who’s in the class next door. The boys are friends, but do have conflicts, which are usually soon mended. On this day, Kenny returned from lunch VERY upset, and sat down to write the following letter, addressed to myself and Ms. Rabies: (spelling and grammatical errors are faithful to the original letter.)
Please note today in morning when we went to hoiday concert. Bobby and Steven telled bad things and words to kenny. Bobby and Steven telled “Fuck you Bobby” And one more thing Bobby & Steven will tell everybody to not be bobby’s friend. I said “WHY”? Both of them are laughed aloud. Then I am upset. Bobby & Steven laughed with me. I do not like bad things and words. Bobby say “Kenny is a poo”. Please you tell everybody do not be Bobby’s friend. even I am not bobby’s friend. please you tell everybody with Kenny’s friend.
All in all, a really well written letter, complete with punctuation, and quotation marks (us teachers of the deaf will take anything we can get). And, just in case you’re worried, all is now well in the complicated friendship of Kenny and Bobby.
Today one of the older HH students came into my room with his clipboard. They’re doing ‘data management’ as their math unit right now, and the final project is to take a survey and then graph it. This boy came in and went to Ivy. He asked his question. “What is your favourite season: winter, spring, summer or fall?” Ivy thought and thought….and then answered, “Soccer!”
There can be a real mix up when you have one person with unclear speech talking to another person with a hearing loss. Happens every day in my world!
My colleague, Ms. Rabies, didn’t get any sleep last night, because she received an email from Principal Man telling her that one of her student’s bus drivers has been accused of falling asleep on the bus. She spent the night worrying that something horrible would happen in the morning on the way to school.
She asked Bobby what happens on the bus, and he was no help. “I sit in the back and sleep,” he said. Great. Now what? It came to her attention that Kenny is also on that bus, but asking Kenny questions and getting coherent responses is no easy feat.
She came in and I was trying to figure out how to word the question without ‘leading’ his answer. Ms. Rabies had a great idea. She sat in a chair, as if she was the driver, and Kenny understood that this was a ‘bus’. She gave herself a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ — Kenny gave a non-committal nod of the head, and gave a thumbs up. He indicated that the ride was bumpy, by leaping up and down on his chair. “MMNNUUUBBMMMPYY” he said.
Then, to the matter at hand. Ms. Rabies pretended to smoke. Is the driver a smoker? Kenny said ‘no’. She pretended to drink. Is she a drunk? Or does she drink coffee while driving? Nope. She turned around to the back of the bus and laughed and talked. Does she take her eyes off the road? Uh-uh. She pretended to sleep. Does she fall asleep at the wheel? No. Ms. Rabies performance as the wonky bus driver was HILARIOUS and kept me in stitches for the rest of the morning. I insisted on a repeat performance at lunch for our co-workers. Never a dull moment around our school.
Does the driver fall asleep? I don’t think we have a definitive answer. Bobby falls asleep during the ride, and Kenny probably isn’t watching the driver too closely. Let’s hope all goes well on future bus rides.
Mind you, if we have to ask the children more questions about the bus, I’m getting Ms. Rabies to do it!
Today during math, Russ suddenly said, “Ms. Education, when you were a little girl, were you deaf?” I hadn’t had this question from a student in a long time, but it’s not uncommon in deaf education.
Some D/HH children never see deaf adults. The only deaf people they see are kids like them. It makes sense, therefore, that they might think that children are born deaf, but then grow out of it as adults. I told Russ that no, I have never been deaf. I’ve always been a hearing person. I told him that he was deaf, and that he would always be deaf. Deafness isn’t something you outgrow, like old shoes. These conversations are never easy, but are so important for my kids. They don’t know some of the most fundamental things about themselves. Part of my job is to teach them about their hearing loss and how to manage it.
I did tell Russ that when I become a little old lady, maybe then I’d wear hearing aids too, because my hearing would decrease as I get older. Apparently, the mental image of Ms. Education as a little old lady with hearing aids was too funny for words. They all giggled uncontrollably for a couple of minutes and then we went back to our math.
Today was hilarious. In the afternoon, I read the kids “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, which is the story of a kid who has everything go wrong. He has gum in his hair. He gets his sweater wet. He has no toy in the cereal, when his 2 brothers do. You get the picture. Alexander keeps talking about going to Australia, and at the end, his mother says that everyone has a bad day once in awhile, even in Australia.
I asked the children if these ‘bad things’ could happen to Alexander, even in Australia. The question seemed to perplex them. “Oh, no, Ms Education. It’s peaceful in Australia”. After much explanation, they realized that one could get gum stuck in their hair, or trip over their skateboard, even down under.
We did lots of ‘tableaux’ of the scenes in the story. The favourite was when they were in the car, during the ‘car pool’ scene (they thought that a ‘car pool’ was a car wash…nothing is simple in my room!) They took turns ‘driving’ the car, and being Alexander, squished in the middle of the car, with no window to call his own. These kids can’t drive. They kept having accidents, and looking at the chaos behind them. I told Peter that he ran over a squirrel, which induced more hysterics in all 6 of them. Keep your eyes on the road, Peter!
This is the first group I’ve had who have really good imaginations. I asked Bernadette what she saw when she looked out the window, and she said ‘A man and his dog’ ‘A famous singer’ ‘my mom’. In years past, kids would have said ‘I don’t know’ or ‘nothing’.
This morning, we did ‘perimeter’ in math. One of the questions was about measuring the deck of a house. That became a huge issue, as no one knew what a ‘deck’ was. ‘Desk?’ asked Ivy. ‘Nope, DECK’, I replied. I can’t draw, but tried to explain with my sad stick-house drawing of a deck. I hope they got it. Not sure.
One thing about teaching Deaf kids….ASSUME NOTHING!! Words or concepts that you think they’ll understand, they don’t. ‘Desk’ for ‘deck’ was only one example from today. ‘Carpool’, which you’d think kids would understand, or have some experience with, they thought was a ‘car wash’. Everything takes much longer than with hearing kids. After our long drama session today, we were all so exhausted, that we took out some ‘fun’ worksheets (crosswords, colouring pages) so the kids could just rest.
Listening all day is hard work.
After an orgy of food yesterday, it was another day of school today. It’ll be a nice short week for me, as I’m off later this week for a dr. appointment.
Today was a good day. It made me realize how different the children are in their abilities to do different things. It’s fascinating. Kenny, who’s new to the country and can barely talk, is right up there in terms of math and understanding some basic questions. Ivy and Peter, on the other hand (Russ was away today) had lots of difficulty with simple things. We were discussing measurement today, and how to choose the correct ‘unit’ of measure (metres, centimetres, etc). They had an amazingly difficult time with this…suggesting ‘kilometres’ for measuring the length of the school, and things like that. We went on a little walk around the school and I picked out a bunch of things for them to tell me the appropriate unit of measurement. I think it helped…we’ll see how the homework goes tonight!
This afternoon, our Itinerant Speech Teacher came in. We’re going to do some work on formulating questions, and the kids will be able to interview each other. Forming questions is a skill that they all have trouble with. Some more than others, however. Peter and Ivy didn’t know their own addresses, and we went over that for awhile. After they went off to gym, we had Kenny, Bernadette, and Michaela in class. They know their addresses, phone numbers, various cities around our city, and have an idea of the cardinal directions.
The differences keep us busy, that’s for sure! Tomorrow, we’re going to do some work on the writing that we’ve been doing — they’ll have to choose one piece they’ve read to polish.
I’ve got to get better at blogging regularly, but my big excuse this week is that I suddenly got sick, and missed a day and a half of school. It was very strange….a massive, blinding headache on Tuesday, after a nice lunch out with a friend. I had to go home…migraine territory. The next morning, I felt fine, but on the way to school, suddenly started feeling really sick. Sweaty and nauseous. Arranged for a supply teacher and went home to sleep the day away. Blah. I’m mostly back to normal now!
Thursday afternoon was fun — we baked pumpkin pie in honour of Canadian Thanksgiving, which is this weekend! I had never made it before, but found a super easy recipe online, and we headed off to the family studies room to bake. The kids loved it! A very sensory experience, with everyone smelling all ingredients. They especially loved the ‘cimmanon’ and all wanted to smell it again and again. After the baking, we enjoyed slightly warm pumpkin pie, which the class declared ‘delicious’.
On Friday, it was our annual D/HH picnic. This is an event which the children eagerly anticipate every year, as they see old friends and teachers, and basically have lots of free time to roam around and play together. It was a crazy hot day, and the bus/subway/bus/walk travel was fine on the way there, but brutally sweaty on the way back with tired kids. They had a great time playing with everyone, and posing in our favourite tree for our annual class picture in the park. We had some new friends come from the Catholic board of education. We’ve been invited to their picnic in June, which I hear is quite the affair. Clowns, RCMP horses, police cars and sirens, bouncy castles. Our picnic is nothing like that. We just all meet up in a park and hang out. I think that we could do a lot to improve this picnic, and get more people to attend. ALL the D/HH kids should come – not just those in the self-contained classes. The ‘mainstreamed’ kids actually need this event more than our kids do, as they are often the only deaf child in their school. They have no community and the picnic could help them connect with others. Maybe next year.
A LONG, LONG staff meeting today, which started off with a nicely catered breakfast. Thank you Mr. Principal Man! The meeting seemed endless, and it wasn’t helped by the fire alarms going off in the middle of it. We all evacuated the building, and then were told by Mr. Principal Man to go back in. Then we were told by Ms. Veep to go back out. Much confusion ensued. This rigmarole added at least 30 minutes to our already long staff meeting.
When we were all assembled again in the library, a former parent, and personal trainer, came and did a workshop on doing exercises with our students. It’s the mandate that we do “DPA” (Daily Physical Activity) with our kids for 20 minutes a day, but that’s difficult in a classroom situation. She brought her assistant with her, a very fit enthusiastic young woman, who had us all up and dancing. Mr. Principal Man decided this would be the best time to get the camera, so he could post the pics on our school website, which is his pet project. The exercises that were recommended were generally good, but FitDude, our awesome Phys.Ed guy, brought up a couple of potential safety issues with some of them. The presenter seemed a bit miffed by these ideas, and seemed to think that we were being unruly (she didn’t say this, but her attitude said lots) but I think that FitDude made some good points. Safety first.
At noon, I had to leave, as I was on my way to another meeting at a different school. This was a meeting put on by the Deaf Ed. department with my board, and was to deal with assessments and IEPs. It was a good meeting and nice to see some colleagues that we don’t usually see. We talked about our dept. getting together socially more often, and providing opportunities for the kids to get together, as they’re pretty isolated. This Friday will be our D/HH picnic, which is always a hit with the kids, so that should be fun.
It’s been a super busy week, and I didn’t blog in a timely fashion. This is being posted on Sunday, but I’m blogging about the mid-week nuttiness.
The end of the week was crazy. Mrs. K was sick, and my job is MUCH harder without an EA. The kids are so needy, and really do need tons of help throughout the day. So…I did my best, and it was fine, but tiring.
We talked about Canadian Thanksgiving, which is next week, and discussed the foods that one eats during that time. When we got to pumpkin pie, they all looked at me like I had 3 heads. They know about pumpkins, but it never occurred to them that you could eat it in pie form. This was big news.
We’re going to bake this week.