kids signing from Sign2me

Third Grade Kids are Deaf Defying!

Third Grade Class Visit

Last year around this time I visited a third grade classroom because the kids wanted to meet a deaf person and demonstrate their new-learned American Sign Language (ASL) skills.  The experience was remarkable. I savored the story as one of my first posts on this-here web site. And guess what?  I was invited back again this year!

The teacher implored me convincingly that her newest third-grade-tribe would equally get quite the kick out of meeting a deaf person.  The scenario was similar: Since the beginning of the school year the teacher weaves a little sign language into each class day. The 8-year-olds, in turn, took to ASL with considerable enthusiasm.  And now the children yearned to show off their new found skills to a person who would surely appreciate it. Enter me.

They looked mesmerized. I hadn’t even said anything yet!  Kids are easy that way. Awesome too.

I walk into the classroom.  Twenty-nine 3rd graders look up excitingly. They “salute” me in unison (that’s the “hello” greeting in ASL) and I sign “hi” back.  My mood is buoyed immediately.   The teacher directs me front and center where I assume the “reading chair.” The children are eagerly gathered all around on the floor.

I felt like a celebrity. Fifty-eight little eyes were gazing at me with childish wonder, staring as if in awe—Wow, a real live deaf guy! They looked mesmerized. And I hadn’t even said anything yet!  Kids are easy that way. Awesome too.

Q and A

I give this teacher a lot of credit. The children had obviously practiced using ASL to introduce themselves (including finger-spelling their name).  Each child prepared in advance to ask me a specific question.  They were good questions too:

Q: How do I know someone is at the door? A: A light flashes when people knock.

Q: How long have I been deaf? A: One year, 5 months. 

Q: How did I go deaf? A: My ears got sick, then went kaput.

Q: How do I watch TV A: Closed caption.

Q: Can I hear my own voice? A: No and it feels weird.

Q: Can I read lips? A: No. But if I anticipate what you may say, then you say it, I can.

And so it went. Many questions were about my favorite things—What is my favorite food?, sports?, animals?, that type of thing. All signed to me in ASL.  I understood nearly all of it too, which was better than my ASL “listening” abilities last year.

One Little Girl

One precious little girl was unforgettable.  She has Down Syndrome and she spends a portion of her day supported within the regular education classroom. Eager to participate, she raised her hand wildly. When I called on her, she stood proudly and mustered her considerable energy to sign the word “How” all by herself.  All the kids burst into applause at her ASL-savvy!

She beamed proud. I smiled too and assured her that she did a great job. Not that she needed the feedback—it was clear from her broad smile and sparkling eyes that she already knew her performance was top notch! The ovation from her third-grade peers cinched it.

I thought to myself, “Talk about ‘Be Inspired!”

It was a touching moment. This exceptional child looked overjoyed in those precious seconds when she offered her best-ASL as her class cheered her on.  It was a small but profound demonstration of the goodness in the hearts of children. I thought to myself, “Talk about ‘Be Inspired!”

Hard of Hearing Technology Tour

CAPTEL DISPLAY PHONE

Then a student asked me how I use a telephone.  I was ready for that one.  I opened my backpack and pulled out my Captel Phone and Laptop computer.  Then I asked for two volunteers.  One little girl pretended to call me as I feigned to answer the Captel Phone. A boy stood between us as if typing on my laptop.

I explained that the boy in the middle was called a “Captionist” who listens in on the call and types what the other party was saying to me.  Then the words appear on my phone display. The children thought it was pretty neat.  Yes it is!

You would have thought the class witnessed an epiphany miracle! They marked it awesome. Me too!

But my next demonstration really blew them away. The question was, “How do I understand people in face-to-face conversation who don’t know ASL?”

I reached for my iPhone and evoked my Dragon Dictation application.  Then I spoke into the mic and, within seconds, my words appeared on the iPhone screen exactly as stated.  Even the teacher was impressed with that!

I asked for a volunteer and every hand went up.  A boy—apparently with the reputation for having the loudest voice in the class—gave it a go.  When his spoken words appeared on the iPhone screen, you would have thought the class witnessed an epiphany miracle! They marked it awesome. Me too!

Dear Children

My visit ended with the children waving goodbye and signing “thank you” to me in ASL. What a terrific experience!  A few days later I received a bulky package in the mail. Inside was a stack of amazing “Thank You” cards created from scratch by each child. I can’t do the children justice in a blog post, but here’s a sampling of their eight-year-old insights:

Dear Brian, This is the first time I met someone who was deaf.  It sure looks hard. But at least there are ways you can communicate with other people. ASL Rocks!

Dear Brian: Thank you for visiting and I hope you had fun. I really liked your phone. It’s really cool. You will get better at sign. Keep trying!

Thank you for coming Mr. Jensen.  I am sorry you are deaf. I am so happy you can talk! Have a nice week.

Hi Mr. Brian Jensen. I hope you liked coming to our class. You did wonderful!

Dear Children:

.Thank you for having me in your classroom.  I had a blast! I really appreciate how hard you worked to make my visit special.  I feel like I made 29 new friends who understand me better than most other people.  You each took the time to learn how to use ASL to communicate with me.

That makes me very happy. I felt like I belonged there with you. You knew how to connect with me as few others do.  You did wonderful too!  I’ll never forget my visit.  It was the best Thanksgiving present I could ever imagine!

Love, Brian

PS: Thank you for the cards too.  They were great.  I read them all the time and I show them to my friends and family. Everyone says you are a very special group of children.  I couldn’t agree more! Thanks again!

.

8 replies
  1. Linda Marie says:

    Brian, as usual, I enjoy reading your posts. They are so positive and upbeat. WTG my friend.

    Trusting you had a Merry Christmas and here’s wishing you a very wonderful 2012.

    Reply
  2. Rob Sim says:

    Brian, thanks for sharing this with us. What a blessing that you were able to go back to a group of kids and share with them your hope and your story of perserverance. I can see that you inspired those kids as you do us with what you shared here. Things like this give me hope about the good that is out there and that we can all be part of making our lives and the lives of those around us better. Thanks again, Brian!!!

    Reply
  3. Cynthia Amerman says:

    Brian, what a heartwarming story! I’m sure that your presence contributed to their knowledge and motivation in many ways. Two years ago, I went to my granddaughter’s kindergarten class once a week for a month to teach a little sign language to them. They were so responsive, and wanted to know about my deafness. It takes some preparation on the part of the class teacher, not just in terms of knowledge, but in terms of their learning empathy for people with disabilities. Teachers set the tone for the kids but, as you say, in general, children seem more accepting than many adults. These kids were awesome! When others who are deaf read what you have written, they can be inspired by this experience! Cynthia

    Reply
  4. Carolyn C. says:

    A story that touches the heart and makes it sing. Two years in a row…..I hope it becomes a tradition. What you offer and what you receive makes the time spent together so very memorable for all of you. It’s obvious that the teacher knows how special this event is. If it does become a tradition near the holidays is perfect…..sharing yourself is definitely a way of giving!

    Reply
  5. David Mitchell says:

    What a great story. We should all be as curious, energetic and inquisitive as 3rd graders. They clearly touched your heart, and mine even though I wasn’t there. This story is a gift to us all.

    Reply
  6. Karen says:

    Dear Brian,

    A repeat performance? I am so happy that you were invited back to third grade. Being among children is such a rewarding experience and last time I know it was a highlight of your year. Children have the ability to be openhearted more so than adults. This should be a lesson to all of us. Practicing acceptance. This of course is all about patience. I think this is one of the most common challenging qualities that we struggle with in life. Some of my favorite people have mastered it and they are wonderful examples for the rest of us. It makes you a better person. It makes a person nice to know. Because of your visit these young people have a personal connection to someone who is real and normal and just happens to be deaf. These kids are growning up in a world where technology plays a big part in thier lives. You showed them that the world is bigger than video games and cell phones. You have enhanced your life by being resourceful and using the tools you need to make your daily life run more smoothly. I know you made an impression that they will carry with them. A lesson in patience. In this season of gratitude, I wish all of us that very same thing.

    Namaste,
    Karen

    Reply
  7. Janet B says:

    Brian – I have to give you lots of credit – not just for learning ASL, but for continuing to share your experiences with others so that we all can learn more about the deaf. Until I took the ASL class I had thought of signing as a another language but it’s so much more. It’s life altering. If you don’t speak German , Spanish or French you can get along but if you can’t hear and can’t sign you are truly lost. Kudos to you for sharing.

    Reply

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