Alone in the
Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School
The best experience I ever had with a teacher was with my speech team coach in high school. He was always very supportive and encouraging and never told me he thought I couldn't do something. Even when I wanted to try out debate (which many teachers might discourage for a deaf child), he let me do it. He never tried to protect me from failure and always reminded me of my strengths. F 93Another participant mentioned a debate team coach as well. The coach worked with her diligently, helping her to prepare for an upcoming event. As time drew near, she became more and more nervous about speaking in front of an audience and hearing the questions and comments made by other students. She begged the coach to excuse her from the event. He gave her a final boost of confidence when he looked her straight in the eye and said, "I see the person you really are. You are smarter than anyone in this school. I see past your hearing problems. I SEE YOU. Show people who you are, past your ears. Believe in yourself!"
It is obvious that this coach was creative as well as encouraging. He was willing to make allowances for the student's hearing loss. This represents an absence of the rigidity or ignorance that caused other teachers to go into the annals of "worst teachers," as will be shown later in this chapter. He gave the student an effective example of "reasonable accommodations," thus providing a very important lesson for her life. The student took her teacher's advice to heart, with the following results:
I found it interesting that when describing their best teachers, participants often mentioned what these teachers did not do. They would also often say that their best teacher was "the only teacher" who did such and such. This suggests that these teachers were an exception rather than the rule; they stood out from the norm. Consider the following description of a favorite teacher:
Several participants spoke positively of teachers who encouraged them to teach their classmates about their hearing loss. They also recommended that children being mainstreamed as solitaries today do this as well. From the excerpts below, we can see that discussing one's hearing loss with classmates enhanced the self-esteem of the deaf or hard of hearing children and educated the teachers and students involved.