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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Still in Second Grade

My son is in fourth grade at the elementary school located right
near our house. He's in the intermediate wing now. He's one of
the true big kids... The cool kids. He's old enough now to know
that he's supposed to hate school. So why am I still in second

For the third year in a row, I was invited to visit Mrs. McCombs
second grade classroom. She is an awesome teacher. JD says she
is the best teacher he ever had. She's one of the few who was
able to challenge him on his own level - which is difficult
because he's an exceptionally advanced learner.

Part of what makes Mrs. McCombs so good is that she encourages
parents to get involved and volunteer in the classroom. She uses
all resources available to best enrich her students and engage
their minds. Anyone who has a special story to tell is invited
to visit her class.

The second graders are now doing a unit in Science about light
and sounds. My task was to show these kids how someone can exist
without vision and hearing. It's something that most people can
not even begin to fathom. But by meeting me, these children
learn that anything is possible.

I began by reading a story called "Keep Your Ear On the Ball."
This is a print/braille book available from National Braille
Press ( The book has braille, print and pictures.
There is even braille descriptions of the pictures. I told the
second graders to watch how I read. My right hand does the
reading while my left hand keeps track of what line I'm on.

"Keep Your Ear on the Ball" is a cute story about David, a new
boy in the class who is blind. He does everything the other
children do - when they read, he reads his braille books. When
they write, he writes on his braille writer. He sings in music
class and makes pictures in Art. Everyone wants to help him but
he doesn't need help. "Thanks but no thanks," he says about 100
times a day.

The problem is out on the kick ball field. David can't see the
ball or the bases and he won't let anyone help him. Finally the
students realize he wants to be able to do things for himself.
They develop a method using sound and touch so David can play
kick ball, too.

When I finished reading, the students had many questions.
Mostly they wanted to know about me. How did you become blind
and how did you become deaf and how do you do all the things you
manage to do?

To help them understand more about me, I brought some of my
favorite things to share with the class. I wore my little lady
bug necklace that JD gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I
demonstrated how I can feel the dots and features on the lady
bug, which is why I like it so much. Through touch, I am able to
"see" the necklace.

I told them how I held the necklace the wrong way when I first
took it out of the box. I thought it was a tiny seashell. JD
had to say, "No, Mom. Turn it over." The kids all laughed.

Then I started taking items out of a bag. I showed them an
origami omega star that JD bought at an art fair for me. I like
it because I can feel all the points and imagine the star shining
brightly in the night sky.

Before I took out the next item, I warned the students not to
laugh. Then I pulled out a Strawberry Short Cake doll that I got
from a mcDonalds Happy Meal. Of course, they laughed. I
explained how I like the doll because she smells so yummy.

Then I took out a $1 bill. They laughed again. I asked the
students if they could figure out how someone who is blind can
identify different types of bills. They weren't so sure. I
showed them the bill folding method. As I held up the shape for
a $20 bill, I said I wish this was a $20 but unfortunately, it's
only $1. More laughter.

I passed the dollar to my mother to hold for me while I moved on
to the next subject. Then I paused and look at her. I said,
"Just hold it, you can't keep it."

What I didn't know was that she was being silly, too. She was
putting the money in her pocket when I spoke. The kids were
cracking up about that one. I guess we are a good comedy

Finally I asked the students how a blind person can identify the
color of clothing. I was wearing brown slacks, a white shirt and
red sweater. But how did I know that?

I showed them my safety pin organization system. Each pin has a
little plastic shape on it that represents different colors.
Blue is a star. Pink is a triangle. White is a circle. Black is
a square. yellow feels like a little sun. Green makes me think
of a three leaf clover. The students were fascinated by this. I
don't think they ever thought about how a blind person picks out

At this point, I answered many more questions. These kids are
so smart and it shows in what they ask. How do you cook? How
do you know where you are going? How can you tell the time?

JD was there too and the kids asked him some questions. He
demonstrated how he talks to me using fingerspelling. I told the
kids I can tell the difference between JD and my mother because
he signs so fast and she's really slow. That made them laugh.

Mrs. McCombs ask JD, "What is the best thing about your mom?"

He is so shy and didn't know what to say. My mother said
it's because I'm silly. Mrs. McCombs asked if that was true. He
said, "I guess."

Before leaving, the students ask me to show them some signs. I
taught them a bunch of signs and explained how to use emphasis to
show emotion - such as the difference between stop and STOP!! I
could hear the smack of hands and knew the kids were imitating my

Some of the students wanted to introduce themselves. Mrs.
McCombs showed them each letter and they signed right into my
hand. That was my favorite part. I love that they are brave
enough to try something so different. I could feel the
enthusiasm on those small hands. That little bit of human
contact makes the world a brighter place. All the hurt and
darkness fades away and I realize that this is the way I can make
a difference... This is the kind of thing I'm best at. Maybe
this is the reason why I was put on the earth and made to be
deaf-blind. Who knows what these children will grow up to do and
become? One thing is for certain, they will always remember that
moment when we met and the joy they experienced in talking to a
person who is deaf-blind.

In second grade, the students work on writing friendly letters.
Mrs. McCombs had each student write a friendly letter to thank me
for coming to their classroom. She sent them via email so I
would be able to read them myself. I will always cherish these
special letters and the memories of connecting with a new group
of kids. I have a feeling I'll be back in second grade again
next year. That would be just fine with me.

Thank you for coming to our class. I think that it is really
cool that you have to feel stuff to know what it is. I liked
that you read us a story that is in Braille. Thank you for
teaching us some sign language.

You are very, very interesting. You are amazing. I liked the
book you read to me. David was very cool. At first he didn't
want anybody to help him.. Then he wanted to hold the whistle
when playing "kick ball." Thanks for coming to my class.

Thank you for coming to our classroom. I liked when you talked
to us about stuff you liked. I think it would be hard to be
blind and being deaf. I also liked when you taught us about sign

Thank you for coming. How can you do all that? When did you
learn sign language? Is it easy to do things? It was cool that
you cam in.

I am really glad you came Wednesday. I'm sorry you are blind and
deaf. I'm glad that when you were born you could see. I'm glad.

Thank you for coming to my class. How do you read Braille? It
is amazing. I liked your story today. You are blind and deaf.
It is amazing that you can go around without seeing and it is
like you "can" see. Thanks for coming.

Thank you for reading to us and teaching us sign language.

Thank you for coming and showing us sign language. My mom knows
the sign language alphabet and some words.

Thank you for coming into our class. I did not know that you
could balance that well. It looks like you can see. It is
amazing how you can read braille that well.

Thank you for coming. I am sorry that you are deaf and blind. I
am sorry that it happened when you were about 16. I had a good
time learning about you. It was interesting learning about you.

Thank you for coming to my school. Thank you for teaching us
about sign language. I really enjoyed the lesson. Thank you for
sharing the book with us and getting to know you.

Thank you for coming and reading that story. It was fun spelling
my name in your hand. That story you read was long and funny.
Thank you for coming.. I had fun.

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