The Little Deaf Girl

Earlier this week I was teaching a typical high school Senior 1 class. We were learning how to give directions, and I gave them a map activity to do in pairs. While I wandered through the desks observing the students, I happened to notice that two girls weren’t doing the activity. I walked over to see if they needed some help or encouragement, and gently pointed to the map.

“Okay, so we’re at Parkville High School, where do we want to go?”

No response.

“So.. how about we go to the Museum. How do we get there from here?”

No response.

“So we walk out onto….”, and I pointed to ‘2nd street’ on the map.

No response. She wouldn’t even look at me.

“What street is this??”, I said, pointing to 2nd street.

The girl turned, and looked at me with a blank expression. I pointed to the map again, “What street is this?”, I asked.

No response.

“Can you say second street?”

No response.

“This is oral English class. We have to speak in oral English class. Can you say second street?”

“She can’t hear you”, piped another boy at the table.

“What do you mean she can’t hear me?”, I asked.

“She can’t hear. You have to speak really loud”

I had noticed the girl’s hearing aid, but I didn’t think anything of it.

I leaned in close and spoke louder. “Can you hear me?” I asked loudly.

No response. The girl stared at me with a blank expression on her face. She didn’t look at me in frustration or confusion, just a complete blank expression.

The bell rang, and I dismissed the class. I gathered my things and walked out of the classroom confused. If the girl is really deaf, then why is she here? She can’t actually be deaf…

I walked to the office, where I found the head English teacher. I explained to her what had happened, and asked if she knew anything about it.

“Oh yes”, she responded “one of the other teachers told me about this issue. But she can’t be deaf, otherwise why would she be here? She probably was nervous and didn’t want to speak in class.”

I agreed, and asked if she knew who taught 110. “Oh, that is Ms. Xiong. She isn’t here right now, but I’ll ask her to speak with you.”

The next day I found Ms. Xiong at her desk and asked her about the girl.

“Her written English is okay, but I have never heard her speak English”, she replied. “Every time I try to get her to speak, she refuses.”

“So… Can she hear anything?”, I asked.

“I don’t think so”, Ms. Xiong replied. “She learns through reading”

“So… she can’t hear at all? Not even her Chinese teachers?”

“No.” Ms. Xiong replied, “But she can read the board and her books.”

“Are there schools for deaf people in China??”, I asked.

“Yes, we have those.”

“Are they free?”, I asked, thinking that maybe her parents couldn’t afford it.

“Yes, they are free.”

“So… why isn’t she at a deaf school.”

“I don’t know”, Ms. Xiong replied. “Her parents chose to send her here. Maybe they think she will get a better education here.”

“Has anyone talked to her parents? We just had parent-teacher conferences a month ago.”

“Oh yes, well the head teacher spoke for so long that we didn’t get to talk to any of the parents.”

“What do you mean? Isn’t that the point of parent-teacher conferences?”

“Well the head teacher of class 110 had a very long speech, so we didn’t get any time to speak with the parents.”

What???

“You said she can read and write in English, but does she know what it sounds like? Can she speak it?”

“I don’t know, Maybe. She is very self-pitying so maybe she can but she won’t try”.

“How am I supposed to give her an oral English final if she can’t speak English?”

“Maybe she can have a written final?”

Eventually, I got Ms. Xiong to agree to talk to the girl and see if she would be able to write a paragraph about herself in English, memorize it, and say it to me individually.

The next day Ms. Xiong told me that the girl could say a few sentences in English, but that I may not be able to understand it. I told her that as long as the girl actually did the assignment, I would give her an A in the class.

Overall, I’m just shocked. I’m stunned that I had a deaf girl in my class and A) no one told me, B) It took me three months to notice because I have 900 students, and C) no one seems to care. If I were her English teacher, I would have sought out those parents or sent a letter home asking them to meet with me. There’s just this pervasive mentality that it’s not up to us to make decisions for the child or take action, the parents chose to send her here, therefore, it’s up to us to educate her the best we can.

I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole situation. Are deaf schools really that bad that her parents would want to send her to a normal public school, or do they just want to give her a normal childhood? Feel free to comment below, I’d love to hear what you think.

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About Richelle

Expat, traveler, and spicy food lover, I currently live in China where I'm studying for my master's degree!
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3 Responses to The Little Deaf Girl

  1. I have heard somewhere that the schools for deaf (and other special needs children) are not as good as the mainstream schools, so I can understand why the parents would prefer their child attend classes in a regular school.

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  2. In the US, Deaf high school,students are also mainstreamed rather than segregated in schools for the Deaf. The Washington State School for the Deaf changed its name 10 years ago and has closed its residences. Deaf students attend public schools throughout North America and in most countries these days. However, few Catholic schools accept them, perhaps because the school needs to provide interpreter services, which are expensive. Deaf students who have good interpreter services can thrive in mainstreamed educations, even earning advanced degrees.
    Perhaps it is helpful to turn this issue around: what! You don’t speak Chinese Sign Language? It’s similarities to American Sign Language ( both derived from the French system). Perhaps you can find out about accessing interpreters for her. Also, suppose you met with her parents and they were also Deaf? Deafness is often hereditary. Further, if she is really” little”, as you describe her, she may have a syndrome that entails short stature, deafness and other disabilities.

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  3. Jared Nielsen says:

    Well, My best suggestion to you is to teach the voice out of throat and read the english and and if feel the viberation on the throat you speak and then she will copy you and she will understand the sound with viberation and and you have other choice if she does like talking then use ASL to help her understand sooo strong and be involve with activitties. Because of her visualize the image is sooo powerful that you can’t express the words. Picture to see the image in her eye is more increase understanding is more 3x or 4x then the words you speak. Visiualize has talent to improve is body language, facial expression, poker face, and your action movement. all of this will greater improve for all deaf people to understand and enjoy and fun. That’s what deaf people loves the most by USING their EYE to SEE understand the Language itself if you know how to Sign ASL. For Hearing people is understand by listen the words is like emotion tones and background sound that deaf people don’t understand. That’s it. DEAF people is like what monkey see and monkey do. Same thing what animals are doing. Deaf people are wonderful and talents they can learn by using the hand and the face looking eachother. like the way you look at your mother you love the way mother look at you as love one another as i say i love you in signing ASL “ILY”. Deaf People loves it. Deaf People loves number one soical with deaf peoples, talking about cultures and tradition, and Sports. That’s what Deaf People intend to do is to communicate eacother by hands and face.

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