I went in to Hubba's 2nd grade classroom last week to teach them some American Sign Language. I always like to start out these kind of presentations with showing the kids that Deaf people aren't scary - in fact, they're just like everyone else, the only difference is that they can't hear.
I usually bring in a picture of my family, and I thought it would be fun to bring in this picture:
because I was about Hubba's age when it was taken.
When it came time for me to teach, I showed the class the picture and told them that this was my family. I asked, "Does anything about this picture seem weird to you?" Now, let me add here that every time I've asked this question in the past, the response has been 'no'. Maybe it was the age of the picture, maybe it was the class, but immediately almost everyone said, "YES!" and raised their hands to tell me what was so weird about it.
"Wow, this will be fun," I said. "This isn't exactly where I was going with this, but why don't you guys go ahead and tell me what's weird about this picture."
"Everyone's hair is brown, but yours is blonde!" one girl pointed out.
"Some people's hair is curly but only two people's hair is straight," another kid answered.
"Okay, but isn't it like that in all of your families?" I asked. "Doesn't everyone have something different about them?"
They all nodded in agreement.
"Good. So, besides the hair, we all look like a normal family, right?"
"Your clothes are weird!" a little girl in the back yelled out.
"True enough," I agreed. "That's because I'm old and this is how we used to dress back when I was your age."
"Boys don't wear shirts like that," one student said, pointing at my Dad.
"Okay, you all got me. We are a little weird. But, besides that, we're just a normal family, right?"
They slowly nodded their heads.
"Great. Now look at my mom and dad. You can't tell by looking at this picture that they're Deaf, can you? Because they look like pretty much any mom and dad. That's because Deaf people are just like any of us, the only difference is that they can't hear."
"Thank the heavens you're not death!" one girl commented. I really wanted to say, "Now, THAT would be scary, wouldn't it! To have Death in your classroom!" but I knew they wouldn't get it and I'd have to backtrack and explain myself and point out the huge difference between Deaf and death, so I just pretended not to hear her and went on with my presentation.
I told the class what my typical morning was like at home, showing them signs along the way for words like breakfast, car, school, class, sit, teacher, flag, etc. Then I got to the point where I asked if they had any signs they would like to learn. We went through a few signs before someone got them started on animals. They were crazy for these! They learned dog, cat, penguin, turtle, snake, zebra, wolf... and then Hubba's hand shot up.
"What sign do you want to learn, Hubba?" I asked.
"Nothing," he answered, obviously excited. "But do you want me to let everyone hear how I can howl like a real wolf?"
I declined, as I have heard his wolf-howl and it is not a particularly quiet, inside-voices kind of sound. But I did invite anyone who would like to hear it to find him on the playground at recess where he could howl to his heart's content.
Before I knew it, my time was over. As I walked to the car with a smile on my face, I concluded that second graders are a pretty awesome group of kids to be around.
I hope I get the chance to go back again.