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Image Credits: QuotesGram.com

Hey guys! Merry Christmas Eve Eve! Today is a really special day for me because it’s the 1 year anniversary of being activated on my right ear. Hurrah!

I apologize for the lack of updates. I know I promised you guys back in like August that I’d post on what it’s like to teach with cochlear implants…and now it’s the end of December…sorry! Between working full time at Penn Medicine, teaching 3 times a week at Rowan, and taking two graduate courses towards my MA in Writing, I haven’t had much time for blogging. But the good news is that winter break is finally here giving me a little bit of free time to give you all an update!

Before I begin I just want to apologize ahead of time for any major typos in this post. My laptop is currently on life support and the R, Y, 7, and perhaps some other keys I’ve yet to discover are currently broken. I’m actually using an external keyboard to type most of this. I know I should be less stubborn and give in and buy a new laptop (my current one is about 7 years old, after all) but I just love this one so much I’m not quite ready to part with it (and to be honest I’m waiting to be able to use my leftover loan money for the Spring semester so I can purchase one from the bookstore with boro bucks…).

Well anyway where was I? Oh that’s right…teaching. What it’s like to teach with cochlear implants. As I mentioned in the past, this past fall semester was my first time EVER teaching. I taught a class of 18 (well, it was originally 18, turned into 17 when one of my students withdrew from the class) three times a week…Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. All of my students were freshman taking Intensive College Composition at Rowan University. This was a first-year writing class for Freshman with lower test scores on their SATS that needed an additional day of class each week for extra support.

I am currently in the process of earning my MA in Writing and I have no prior teaching experience. I am able to teach as part of my MA in Writing program through acceptance into the Teaching Experience Program (TEP) at Rowan University. When I first started teaching I was honestly terrified. I think I practiced my first-day lesson about 20,000 times before teaching my first class on Friday, September 2nd.

I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous about how my students would react to my cochlear implants at first. Being silver and blue, they definitely stand out and are kind of hard to miss…something I’m proud of. I never wanted to hide my cochlear implants from the world and never tried to hide them on anything. However, I assumed most of my students had never seen cochlear implants, wouldn’t know what they were, and never been around a deaf individual. I felt kind of vulnerable on my first day of class. I wasn’t sure if my students would take me seriously if they knew I was deaf, but at the same time my deafness was something I was proud of and wanted to make known to my class.

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Here is a screenshot from my “First Day of Class” PowerPoint. I probably spent a little too much time talking about myself, but I was so nervous and they were so quiet!

While I did have a mini-lesson on rhetorical analysis for my first class, a majority of the first day was spent introducing myself to my class and going over the syllabus. I used this time to explain to my students about my deafness. It honestly felt kind of awkward. My students were SO QUIET on the first day. It felt a lot like “Bueller…Bueller…Bueller”. They just kind of starred blankly at me. I couldn’t get a feel for their reaction at all. Did they like me? Hate me? Find me and my deafness strange? I couldn’t tell at all. I felt strange talking about it though. I almost felt like I had to apologize for it like “Hey guys, sorry but you ended up with a graduate student who doesn’t really know what she’s doing right now and just so happens is also deaf.” I remember actually telling my students, “FYI…I CAN hear now so don’t think you can whisper and get away with because I will know!”I immediately regretted saying that…

My students probably forgot that I said that last statement immediately after I said it, but for some reason it really stuck with me. I felt like after I said it I HAD to hear my students and that asking them to repeat themselves would be like I was lying on contradicting myself and that it would cause my students to lose trust in me. Unfortunately, my students tend to mumble and speak softly on occasion, and this was especially true on the first day when all of my students were still really shy and fearful and not at all familiar with the college experience (they were freshman, after all). I found myself using coping strategies I used back when I was a camp counselor and couldn’t hear what kids were saying to me…I just smiled and said “Yeah” or something of that sort and moved on. Fortunately, this only happened once or twice on the first day.

As the semester went on my students and I quickly came to know each other and built up a strong sense of trust in each other. I would often tell my students they were like my children and I always meant that. I can’t begin to tell you what these kids meant to me. I wanted nothing more to see them succeed and nothing in the world was more heartbreaking to me than seeing a student who was not living up to their potential. By the third day of class I knew everyone’s names. By the 2nd full week I could give a little bit of biography or backstory on each of my students. I knew I was going to like teaching, but never expected to love it as much as I really did. I realized teaching was one of my biggest passions in life.

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As the semester progressed, I became so comfortable with my students and my deafness in the classroom that I even willingly shared this embarrassing photo with all of my students…

I became more comfortable with my deafness in the classroom as well as time went on. My students never questioned my cochlear implants or my deafness. They seemed intrigued by it, but they were very respectful of me and they didn’t seem to mind having a deaf professor at all. They were very accepting. I tried to use my deafness in my lesson plans wherever appropriate. For example, when introducing my students to the concept of Grit for their second project in which they had to join the conversation of Grit and connect it with their own personal lives, I shared my story of overcoming challenges as a deaf student prior to getting a cochlear implant. I explained how statistically most deaf children can’t read or write and how my initial elementary school tried to label me as being special needs even though I was very intelligent simply because I was deaf. I even shared with my students about how I challenged my senior seminar professor and filed a report against him for discrimination my last semester of undergrad. I used these experiences to show how I had grit – the passion and perseverance to overcome great challenges to succeed. This was one of my favorite lesson plans to teach. I don’t think I’ve ever seen my students more focused or attentive than they were that day. While my students didn’t question anything I told them about my personal story that day, it was clear that I had their full and undivided attention. They were hooked.

I want to use my deafness to inspire my students in my classroom. I want them to see that they can do anything they set their minds to, no matter how difficult it may seem. Whenever someone tells them they can’t do something, I want them to work twice as hard to prove that individual wrong.

I also want to teach my students to be loving and accepting of others and their differences. I want them to see my deafness not as a DIS-ability meaning “not abled”, but rather as meaning “differently abled”. I want them to realize that the deaf can do anything the hearing can do except hear. They can still succeed and have the same opportunities for success in life.

Lastly, as a professor I want to make sure I am giving my students every opportunity I can to see them succeed. I know what challenges I faced as a student not being able to hear in class (I didn’t get my cochlear implants until after I already graduated from undergrad). One way that I do this is by making sure I always air closed captioning on any video I play in class (I use videos when I teach a lot in class). I know it sounds like such a small gesture, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to learning. Remember, just because a student doesn’t come to you and tell you they have a hearing impairment doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Also, reading the captioning in addition to listening to the audio of videos can further help students to retain the information presented in the video and further enhance learning.

My first semester teaching Intensive College Composition I has definitely been a challenge, but it has been such a blessing. I had an amazing class of students who always kept me on my toes and I learned so much from each and every one of my students and I hope that they learned equally as much from me. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to teach them, something that prior to receiving my cochlear implants I never thought would’ve been a possibility. I am so excited to teach again in the spring and to see what my next class has in store for me!

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Celebrate-the-Small-Victories

Image Credits: Dumb Little Man

Hey everyone! I know I’m a bit late on this, but Happy New Year! Hope everyone had a good time celebrating! Mine was good but I was slightly disappointed by how quiet it was. I was hoping to hear a lot of noise and new sounds but it seems like people in Washington Township, NJ aren’t much for holidays anymore (we didn’t get a single trick or treater this year either. :(). I had a nice time celebrating with my family making our traditional midnight 7 fishes seafood fest, making predictions for the new year and reflecting back on the past year. Sadly my boyfriend Larry was on vacation with his family in Florida so we’ll have to wait until next year to celebrate our first New Year’s together. But hey, it just gives us something to look forward to in the new year, right?

I started program 3 on my cochlear implant on Wednesday. For those of you who may not be familiar with the process, my cochlear implant has 4 different programs in it now. Every Wednesday I go to a new one. On the 21st I’ll go back to Jefferson and meet with my audiologist for a new mapping where I’ll get another 4 programs.

Program 3 was a bit of a challenge at first. Not as hard as program 1 (that I think will always be the hardest because it’s when I was first activated — lots of new sounds and a whole new world to get used to!), but harder than program 2. Program 2 was a breeze to get used to! On the first day of program 3 it was a bit weird. I wasn’t sure what was different at first but I kept hearing a musical/whistling sound in the background. Not quite the same as the “baby crying in the background” sound from program 1, but still a bit weird and sometimes annoying.

On the 2nd day of program 3 the whistling/musical background noise lessened a bit but some voices sounded a bit cartoonish or off. I was watching How I Met Your Mother. It sounded much better than it did in week 1. In week one all of the characters voices sounded horrible especially Barney and Ted’s. Now their voices sounded normal but I struggled a bit with Lily’s. She sounded kind of like Minnie Mouse.

I was beginning to get disappointed with program 3 and a tad bit discouraged because I was having some difficulties adjusting to it and wasn’t seeing any improvements, but I had my first small victory on day 3 (Friday).

On Friday night I went to the Cheesecake Factory in Cherry Hill with my family to celebrate my recent promotion to Assistant Project Manager. It was PACKED and SUPER LOUD! We had to wait about an hour to get a table that’s how many people there were. Normally I’d never be able to hear in such an environment, let alone carry on a conversation. I changed the setting on my one remaining hearing aid to block out some of the background noise and I did fine hearing both my parents and the waiter. My parents said I did very well and that they were amazed. They also said I was “glowing” and just so happy. I was. It’s amazing being able to do something as small as hold a conversation in a crowded, noisy restaurant. I could never do this before. This was small victory #1 with program #3.

Small victory #2 and #3 took place on Saturday night. First I went grocery shopping at Shoprite with my dad. I wasn’t paying too much attention, but all of a sudden I realized I was listening to “I Want Candy” by Bow Wow Wow. I could hear pretty much every word of it. It was playing from the store’s radio! I haven’t been able to hear a store radio and pick out the words and actually recognize what they were playing in at least 15 years! I was so excited! I stopped what I was doing and texted my boyfriend, Larry, to share the news. He said “Me too, I’ll take a Snickers.” lol. It’s little things like that that make me love him. The ironic part was I was actually in the candy aisle when it was playing. I began to think how the store might’ve been playing that to get people to buy candy. I didn’t buy any candy, but I have to admit I was tempted.

Shortly after getting home I played one of my favorite radio stations, K-Love. The music sounded great, but the thing that amazed me the most was the fact that I could hear the radio hosts talking in between songs and I could pick up every word they were saying. This is another thing I’ve never been able to do previously. This was small victory #3.

Small victory #4 was perhaps the biggest victory yet and took place just last night. I was bored so I decided to tackle some tasks for work and get a head start on my week. I had to upload and optimize my client’s videos on YouTube. I sometimes struggle with these tasks due to my hearing and will frequently ask my dad to watch them with me and tell me what’s being said. This time I decided to try them on my own. I had headphones which helped, but they weren’t my $300 superior sound quality beats. I had to charge my Beats, so I borrowed my dad’s $20 basic sony head phones. But I could actually hear every single word on my own! I was so happy and excited! YouTube videos have always been one of my biggest struggles with my hearing. I could never hear or understand them unless they had caption (which none of these did) and even then it didn’t come in clearly. These sounded beautiful. I could even hear the wind in the background! My mind was blown!

I’m hoping to see small victory #5 today as I may have to take a client phone call at work. The project manager is out on vacation so I’m taking his place. I will probably ask someone to help me take the call, but I’m curious to see how I do. I might surprise myself! Wish me luck!