Sunday, June 5, 2011

My New Not so Quiet Silent World

As I have already said...
I have been very busy these past two weeks getting into the groove, quickly polishing my American Sign Language skills, and getting acquainted with the students.

Even though I had previously worked here (same position) 25 years ago, things have changed a bit.

First, previously I had 1st to 4th graders.. Now I have Kindergarten to 12th grade.  The school has closed the Elementary Dorm and moved these itty bitties over to the Middle School & High School Dorms. So.. now those Dorms are Boys Dorm/ Girls Dorm but Grades Kindergarten to 12th Grade. The Dorms are connected with shared common areas in the center. (Candy Store, Media Room, Work Out room, Dean's offices).

Second, these dorms are so much better with individual rooms for the students, opposed to big rooms where 10-20 kids share a sleeping dorm. They are divided by age/grades. Elementary, Middle School, and High School floors.

This time around I am one of very few hearing staff.  Most everyone is Deaf. It's interesting being a minority. I am often isolated and trying to catch up on conversations (that are most often too quick for me to follow.. I get bits & pieces of the conversations and have to concentrate hard to follow). Therefore, I am picking up my signing skills quickly or left behind. I have had a couple of miscommunication, but, makes me pay better attention!

Many of my new Deaf friends. co-workers, and students, have some hearing and use their voices while signing, some are easy to understand, but others not so much. Many can lip read.

ALL are patient with my learning. Willing to help and teach me. Eager for me to fully join this new world of communication.

Although not all can hear, they can all feel vibrations. It is interesting how other senses are enhanced when one of our senses are not strong. We rely on other senses to pick up and carry through.
One evening we watched a movie. "I am Number Four". Pretty good flick. But I saw it different than any movie I have seen before.  The students wanted to turn the volume (Vibration) up. WAY UP.  A Deaf Supervisor stopped the student reminding him that our new Supervisor, Janis, was Hearing, and it would be difficult for me to tolerate the sound. All heads turned to me... I said, No, that's fine, turn it up".. So they did... then turned to me again waiting for me to approve it higher.. I did... two more times. It was as high as it could go.  Talk about feeling the vibrations! The kids all quickly appreciated my tolerance. I guess that upped my cool factor.
I also watched/listened/felt "Gnomeo & Juliet" with the younger kids.
Mega Audio Headache/Hangover following these evenings. But I survived. (I need to remember to pack earplugs in my bag).

It's also an interesting adjustment to the noise factor with the sounds that some deaf people make. There are many high pitched shrieks, moans and clickings.  When things are moved, unlike hearing people, Deaf do not mind sounds like a chalkboard scratch or dragging sounds. Door slams, bangs, and crashes are common place.  I am learning to block out these distracting sounds. But, it isn't easy.

My World of silence is by far, not a very quiet world at all. I love every single sound of it.


Scott said...

Janis, thanks for sharing this. My contact with the deaf community has been very limited - just a couple of clients and lots of note paper. You've opened my eyes (and ears) to aspects of their lives I had not before considered. Thanks.

Reality Jayne said...

this new job of yours sounds like a place where you were meant to be. You are going to thrive.

Mark Pressley said...

Cool job!

Judy Miller said...

How great. I too have limited experience with the deaf. Several customers at the greenhouse where I worked were deaf and we did a lot of hand signals and pointing and lots of note paper. But I tried to help them and we usually got it figured out. I have often wished I knew American sign language.

Mimi Sue said...

So interesting! Glad you love your job. It makes it easier to go to work everyday! Those flowers in my post are called calla lilies. Mostly you see them in white but these were yellow and so pretty don't you think? Mimi

Linda said...

This is wonderful and fascinating! I'm so proud of you. ♥

Love, Linda