On Monday, my deaf student will board a school bus as he has done every school day this year. Only this time, the bus won't take him to the school he has attended for all of his educational life. It will take him to his new school. It is a new school where he will attend our school district's hearing-impaired class.
I can only imagine how confused he will be. And how fearful. Since he lacks receptive language, and has limited expressive language, I can only imagine what he will feel when he arrives at his new school. I am not sure my attempts to explain it to him were understood. I can only gesture so much. And there really is no gesture for "you will not be in my class anymore."
He will step off the bus on Monday and enter a new world. Hopefully, he will recognize the smiling face of his new teacher. He met her once in my classroom, and again when he visited his new school with his mother. But did he understand that he would be entering a new world in this new place?
No one can know for sure what Monday will be like for him. But I know that he will adjust to the new routine in a few days. Perhaps sooner; maybe a little longer. And that confusion will be replaced with understanding...and relief.
What I know, for certain, is that he is about to have his world rocked. He will learn sign language and continue his oral speech therapy in the
skilled care of our hearing-impaired/deaf education specialists. He will learn to communicate with his friends and teachers and parents.
Knowing that I was instrumental in making this happen for him is more than satisfying. His mother's tears and words of gratitude permeated deep. And her hug will last me a lifetime. The interpreter was moved to tears as she told me the mother couldn't even find the words to thank me for what I had done for her son.
"I was doing what teachers are supposed to do," I thought. "Know their students."
My only regret is for my profession -- for the teachers and specialists who worked with this little boy for two and a half years before me -- those who didn't know this student as they should have. They didn't recognize his difficulties or they rationalized them away by saying, "He doesn't understand English" or "He passed his hearing screening". Were they too busy? Were they too complacent? Were they overwhelmed with over-sized classes? Were they burdened with discipline matters or mandates or paperwork? It really doesn't matter. A little boy was lost for two and a half years in a system rigged against him. And no one had stepped up to help him. Until he found me.
How could they not know? I ask myself often when thinking about what seemed so obvious to me. That will bother me for the rest of my life.