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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Deaf Education in American Public Schools

Deaf Education in American Public Schools

I. Portrait of a Stupid Deaf Boy

Longcoy Elementary School, 1981

Wild wavy blond hair. Thick black framed glasses. Hearing aids
declare this boy as different. Two years older, but stuffed into
my math class. No interpreter. He has no idea what is going on.
Attention seeker. If they laugh at him, he thinks they accept
him. Points to me and says, "She just picked her nose." Stupid
deaf boy.

II. Portrait of a Grunting Girl

Longcoy Elementary School, 1983

Oh, she's the perfect deaf girl. Teacher tells her to talk. She
talks. Grunt, grunt. Is there a pig loose in school? No,
that's just the deaf girl. She wears a hearing aid harness. Can
she even hear her voice? Kids laugh. Teacher praises her
wonderful speech. Grunt Grunt.

III. Portrait of Dumbo the Flying Elephant
Longcoy Elementary School, 1984

What are those things on her head? Giant weights make her ears
stick out. She looks like Dumbo the flying elephant. Her
parents make her wear those hearing aids. Do they hurt her ears?
They must be heavy. She wears her hearing aids but she won't
talk. Naughty deaf girl. She needs an interpreter. Shame on

IV. Portrait of a Witch
Longcoy Elementary School, 1984

The deaf girl came into class each day with her interpreter. I
never spoke to the deaf girl. We pretended like she wasn't
there. Interpreter was a witch. Yell and bitch about
everything. I'm not even deaf. You can't make me do anything.
Interpreter tells me to do one thing. Teacher tells me to do the
opposite. That interpreter was a witch.

V. Portrait of a Butt Squeezer
Davey Junior High School, 1986

Obnoxious. Loud. Rude. Disgusting. She played saxophone with
me in the band. Why bother? She couldn't hear for shit. "Where
we at?" My morning nightmare. I wouldn't share a music stand
with her. She ran around grabbing people's butts. "Gotcha!"
Is that what it means to be deaf? Glad I'm not deaf.

VI. Portrait of a Deaf Girl, me.
Roosevelt High School, 1989

What did the teacher say? What page are we on? Musn't show
uncertainty. Pretend I know the answer. Never raise my hand.
Never ask for help. Don't let them know I'm deaf. Refuse to
believe I'm deaf. I wasn't deaf before but now I am. School
sucks. I'm lost. Confused. Hide. Cry.

Angela C. Orlando
October 2010

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