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Friday, May 8, 2009

Children Are The Future

My favorite part of life is being with children. I love to visit schools to read to kids and discuss deaf-blindness. Awareness is the key to understanding. By visiting elementary classrooms, I can make a greater impact on future generations.
It's also rewarding for me. Children have such a special way of viewing the world. Every thing is so simple and bright to children. It doesn't matter that I can't see and I can't hear. I'm JD's mom. I'm always around. They know and accept me without question. It's a trait you don't see much in adults.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting JD's second grade classroom. Earlier this year, I joined the class to read a story about a woman and her guide dog. I answered the children's questions and taught them some signs. It was such a success that JD's teacher invited me back for another visit.
I sat on a stool while the children found places on the floor around me. JD's teacher surprised me by using fingerspelling to say hello. She had never done that before. I'm always happy when people make an effort to talk to me directly.
A little boy named Corey decided he wanted to fingerspell his name, too. The teacher modeled the letters for Corey as he formed them into my hand. Then another boy had to say hello... and another and another. It was such a beautiful moment for me as each child signed his or her name into my hand. I greeted each and every one... "Hi Sam... Hi Vince... Hello Miranda... Hi Abigail." Those children raised my spirits and gave me such a feeling of strength. As those little fingers formed each letter, I knew we were beginning something that these children would take with them into the future.
Corey came back three times to fingerspell his name. I said, "Hi again, Corey." He laughed gleefully at the praise and attention.
I read a story called "Keep Your Ear on the Ball." This is a cute and engaging book about a new student in the class who happens to be blind. I love the way the story is written. "Is everybody staring?," the boy asks. "I'm blind. I'm not an alien."
The books I read to children are called braille/print picture books. They have words, pictures and braille, all on the same page. It's a wonderful way to teach children about braille.
When finished, I asked the children if they had any comments about the book. They had many questions about the boy and his fiercely independent attitude. They were amazed that he could find ways to do things like art projects and play kick ball. They also asked me questions about blindness and how I read braille.
I asked the students if they knew who Louis Braille is and what he invented. They were able to guess that Louis Braille invented braille. So I told them about the 200th anniversary of his birthday. I had a special poster honoring Louis Braille to give to the teacher. I also loaned her a braille/print book about his life. I thought she could read it to the class later or the students could use it to research the topic during their independent reading time.
JD,s teacher is wonderful. She always has a "gift" for people who visit her classroom. The students all stood up and sang "The Star Spangled Banner" just for me. How does a person who is deaf-blind enjoy a song? While the children sang, I held my hand over JD's neck. I could feel the vibrations of his voice to enjoy the song in a different way. It was a moving experience for me.
While the children returned to their seats, JD took the opportunity to show me the salt dough map he recently made. I was all smiles as he showed me his creation. Using my hand, he tapped each part. "This is a stream... and this is a river... and this is an island... and this is a beaver dam... and these are mountains." I love anything tactile. It makes his art real to me.
The fun wasn't over. The children were simply not ready to let me go. I gave each one a braille alphabet card and took them through several letters. They were all so eager as they tried to feel the braille dots. They asked very smart questions, like how to write braille numbers or what the capital sign is for.
Finally, the teacher asked me to show them new signs. She wanted to know how to sign "please." Students asked how to sign words like play, sit down, star, baseball and I love you, Mom. The teacher asked me how to sign "I've got my eye on you." I taught her how to do that with a really scary face so the children know she means business. That got a lot of laughs.
I'm always a little nervous when doing this kind of activity. I'm still so new at sign language. I'm afraid someone will ask me a sign I don't know. It was going so well until my dear little JD raised his hand and asked, "How do you sign psycho maniac?" I had to admit I didn't know that one. Thanks a lot kid!
It was a wonderful experience that reminds me of one of my favorite songs. This reflects both my feelings about children and my general philosophy in life
"Greatest Love Of All"
by Whitney Houston
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up to
I never found anyone to fulfill my needs
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me

[Chorus:]
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead the way
Show them all the beauty they possess inside
Give them a sense of pride to make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind us how we used to be
[Chorus]
I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all

And if by chance, that special place
That you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place
Find your strength in love

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