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American Annals of the Deaf

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Alone in the Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School

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Probably one of the most painful of my experiences was taking a major spelling test and flunking because I could not lipread single words out of context. After I tried to tell the teacher of my predicament, she scolded me in front of the entire class and then picked a peer to read the words to me in the back of the room during a retake. Because the class was still in session, she whispered the words to me. Needless to say, I flunked the spelling test even though I knew how to spell every single word. F 66
I had a fifth grade teacher who really didn't care if I didn't understand what she was teaching. She always moved around the classroom or faced the blackboard when she spoke. I remember reminding her to turn around to face me when she spoke. She responded, "If you didn't hear what I said ... Tough!" F 83
One time in high school, my teacher had to leave unexpectedly, so he tape-recorded his lecture for our class later that day. I felt frustrated sitting through the playing of that tape and not hearing a word. I felt quite annoyed with the teacher, as it was a complete waste of my time to be stuck in that room for an hour and a half, understanding nothing on the tape. And the other kids knew it too. F 83
Some teachers would become angry if the children did not hear their names being called or if they missed some important information during a lecture. Or, they would conduct themselves in a blatantly unprofessional and unkind manner.

In the fourth grade, I gave a report on Wrigley Field but made the mistake of pronouncing Wrigley Field with a W sound. The teacher kept correcting me with an R sound, which I could not hear. Wrigley kept coming out with a W sound as the kids laughed and laughed. (I can still see their faces laughing.) That episode just decimated my self-esteem. M 65

Once, I was working on a homework assignment in class, concentrating hard and oblivious to all sounds. Later, other students told me that my teacher had called my name several times, and when I did not respond, he lost patience and pretended to throw his stapler at me to get my attention. I was mortified to learn about this and imagined the other students seeing him do that. F 80
This teacher would stand up and start speaking, and then all of a sudden, she would look at me and ask, "Can you hear me over there?" I remember wishing the ground would just open up and swallow me. I found this really embarrassing. While she may have been concerned about me, I felt she was drawing too much attention to it in front of my classmates. I was always nervous about when she would do it again. F 91
Some teachers adopted a stance that since the deaf child would need to contend with unacceptable treatment in the "real world," she ought to learn to fend for herself.

I was beaten up in this gym class three times. Kids laughed and called me "freak." This went on for months. I was deathly afraid of gym and found myself keeping close to any adult to ward off those bad kids. I asked the teacher to keep an eye on me, and that was met with rolled eyes. No help, no protection. The teacher just told me I had to get tough and deal with the "real world." F 84

The worst teachers demonstrated their disdain, impatience, and inflexibility on a daily basis. As might be expected, such negative experiences had a lasting impact on the young people who bore the brunt of their ignorance.
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