Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Miss Vermin

When I first entered seventh grade in a junior high school, as it was called then instead of middle school, I was put in a "hearing-impaired" class for only one period although I was completely mainstreamed in all other classes.

This "hearing-impaired" classroom was quite small, fitting about 3-4 students and two teachers. Deaf students had different class periods, so they would come into this classroom in various periods during the day. That way, everyone would have the benefit of using this classroom.

The purpose of this classroom, at least it was explained to ME, was so I could ask for help, if I needed, on my other classes' assignments. For most of other students, I believe, it was mostly remedial tutoring in various subjects.

One teacher's name was Miss Urban. She was of average height, had a boyish brunette cut, and had a lopsided mouth. Although she signed a bit, she mostly used Cued Speech as a method of communication with me and perhaps one another student. And the other teacher used sign language to communicate with the other students.

(Cued Speech is not a language as most people assume. Instead, it is a simply a supplemental method to lipreading skills, using hand movements to indicate phonetic sounds in the English language. Unlike Sign Language, it can be learned within 48 hours, though can become fluent within 6 months or so.)

Miss Urban had such domineering personality that most students felt quite intimidated of her, including me. Due to her lopsided mouth, it made a bit difficult for me to lipread her although she used Cued Speech.

Every time I said, "Huh? Please repeat", Miss Urban would often shout, "PAY attention!!" How could I tell her that her "twisted" mouth was giving me such distraction?

Almost daily, she would often find something to criticize the students. For me, it was often my clothes. "Your top doesn't match your pants", she would comment. Or, "Didn't you HEAR me calling your name from behind?? ARE YOUR HEARING AIDS ON???"

Sure, I heard some sounds, but how the heck would I KNOW to recognize sounds when I am simply profoundly deaf?!

(Hearing aids simply magnify, NOT simplify the sounds; they tend to distort them. People who lose their hearing later in life can make it with hearing aids simply because they already recognized the sounds from their previous hearing).

Anyway, there was another student, Jeannie, who was overweight, deaf, and mildly mentally retarded.

One day, it was one of the student's birthday. A cake was provided for all of us. After the cake-cutting, plates were distributed to the students.

When Jeannie leaned forward to receive a second helping of plate, Miss Urban quickly grabbed the plate from her hand, signing, "You're too fat! You don't need this!"

Quite conveniently, as Miss Urban said this to her, the other teacher was busy bending down, doing something. I don't know if she used her voice when signing to Jeannie, but I doubt she did. None of the students dared to speak up.

I was so appalled and humiliated for Jeannie. Due to her mental limitations, she simply resigned to sitting at her desk with head down.

Of course, not knowing all this, my parents thought Miss Urban was really wonderful teacher who simply knew the basics of education and teaching, not to mention the fact that she knew Cued Speech well. (Cued Speech was in its infancy that time, hence it was hard finding educators who knew how to use it).

By the end of the school year, Miss Urban unexpectedly announced to us that she would not be coming back. She continued saying that she would miss us and had enjoyed "working" with us.

Years later, I brought up the subject of "Miss Vermin" to a former student who is still my friend. She said that because mother worked for the county school system, she got wind of that vermin's performances that subsequently got her fired.