Alone in the
Mainstream: A Deaf Woman Remembers Public School
My best friend would always stand up for me. He would tell me what everyone else was talking about if I missed something (which was often) in conversations among hearing peers. He encouraged me to be involved with the band and sports. He helped to make my mainstreaming experience a positive one. M 93In my own mid-elementary summer months, I would often ride my bike over to a nearby neighborhood playground. This was ideal for me because maybe six to ten kids would be there each day. Most of the time, we would be outside. The smaller number of kids meant that they could get to know my skills more easily. And it was quieter, so I could more easily follow any one-on-one conversations.
We usually played physical games, and I was good at all of them. I have very positive memories of those times. Once, when choosing sides for baseball, a particular boy was a little reluctant to accept me on his team. Then I hit a home run my first time up to bat. From that point on, he would call me "the girl slugger" with obvious admiration. (I could see the admiration on his face.) After those few summers, I never saw him again until we were both adults in our thirties. He still remembered me, as I did him! This one boy's positive remark was an internalized source of support for me during all my solitary years and beyond as well.
The participants talked about classmates who were particularly supportive with academic experiences as well. These friends repeated the words during spelling tests, shared notes, or helped out during group discussion situations.
Lastly, several participants described situations where friends stood up for them when they were being teased or bullied.
This friend and I did homework together from third to fifth grade. He saw me as equal and treated me kindly. He defended me and told the class bully to leave me alone. M 88Many participants believed that having at least one good friend was a critical factor in surviving those school days. As I read through the many e-mails I received, I thought of my own classmates in my K-12 and college years--those who made my life easier. My friends at elementary school were Mary Ellen and Bettina. We lived very near each other and had become friends as soon as we were old enough to play outside unsupervised, which was pretty young in Cos Cob in the 1950s. In the elementary years, they were "it," so to speak. In junior high, senior high, and at Washington College, I did manage to have one or two close friends. If not for these women, life would have indeed been terribly lonely.