As a sub, you go into a classroom not knowing what to expect from that morning’s group of kids. They don’t know you and you don’t know them.
It is only a small minority that stands out and then it’s usually for the wrong reasons. I know from my brief experience that the kids’ names I get to know quickly are those that give me the hardest time.
A smaller minority of kids stand out for the opposite reason. These are the kids that are the helpful, enthusiastic, active (in a good way) and are fun to have in class.
For the most part, the majority of the kids don’t particularly stand out because they don’t act out; they do their work quietly and fly mostly under my substitute teacher radar.
Today’s 5th grade class, as a whole, was great. No trouble makers. The lesson plan and materials were exactly right. No “stand outs” for the wrong reasons.
But there was this one kid....
She was smiley, bright eyed, quietly responsive, and was doing all the work. Bright-eyes was just like the rest of the “not standing out” kids.
The only thing I DID notice about her was a slightly odd speech “quality”. Not exactly a speech impediment or lisp, but something just vaguely off. It was certainly not odd enough to divert my attention in a school district where accents and native foreign languages are the norm more than the exception.
At the 5th grade P.E. period, I was exchanging pleasantries with one of the other 5th grade teachers, when Bright-Eyes walked by with a small group of friends. The teacher asked me how she was doing in my class. I responded that she and all the rest of the kids were doing great.
He then told me, “I’ll bet you didn’t notice that she is deaf.”
I must admit that I was kind of stunned speechless at that statement. The teacher told me that when her family emigrated to the U.S., the kids had received a slew of immunization shots before their visa could be approved. A reaction to the immunizations left both her and her brother deaf. The prognosis they were given is that it might be up to 5-10 years if and when they might regain their hearing.
I tried to remember how many times I had called on Bright-Eyes to answer some question or read a passage from a book assignment without noticing anything even hinting that she couldn’t hear me. She just didn’t stand out.
The only clue I had that I missed was her speech pattern that the non-signing, hearing impaired sometimes have.
When I asked how she manages in class, the teacher explained that she can read lips, and watches for visual cues from the kids around her to figure out which books and the pages she needs to be on to do her work.
After P.E., and for the rest of the day, I couldn’t help but be amazed how this girl functioned in class. I now noticed that she was constantly in tune with the other girls at her desk. Quick glances at what papers and books she needed were very subtle. During reading when Bright-Eyes was called on, the girl next to her gave her elbow a nudge and pointed in the book the passage she was supposed to read and off she went without a hitch.
After the kids have left for the day, I had to correct a “capitalization exam” the kids had taken earlier that morning. Twenty-five mal-formed sentences in all lower case. Of the 23 exams I corrected, only one near the bottom of the pile, had no errors.
It was Bright-Eyes, the most “Out Standing” kid I have met so far.