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of Lotus Flowers: Self-Education by Deaf Children in Thai Boarding Schools|
Children who were deemed smart because of their sign mastery were rarely top students. Teachers often perceived these students as frivolous or immature. Winai was a skilled satirist and popular among children of all ages. Yet, he was uninspired by the drudgery of the classroom and mocked the inarticulate signing of his teachers. Consequently, they held him back for two years in the upper grades. Most pupils were held back for one or two years in their first years in school; this slow start was the norm. But those who failed an upper grade were singled out by teachers and peers.
So the boys in the graduating class teased Winai about being left behind. He did not mind at all because he was a respected creative leader who reveled in his ability to make people laugh. He fretted that the outside world held no opportunities for his talents. Winai told us that he did not look forward to leaving the school. He wondered where he could find another meaningful situation in which he could understand and be understood.
His peers, however, hankered to join the larger world. Their anxiety was centered on finding a job or further education. Jum echoed this sentiment, “By the time I was in secondary school, I was bored with school. My friends and I really wanted to broaden our horizons. We wanted to get out and see what was happening in different places.” Nowhere was the difference between the fulfillment provided by student life in the residential school and the communicative void in the mainstream more starkly delineated than in the dilemma of the smart deaf child.