Friday, October 9, 2009

ears to hear, a heart to listen.

one of my students is deaf. he was born without any ability to hear whatsoever. this was discovered as he approached one year of age and was unable to make any coherent sounds and had issues with sleeping and other milestones. but at age two, he was set up with special hearing aids that allowed him to hear to some degree, and a couple years later received a cochlear implant. this is basically a bionic ear. he can hear and converse to a significant degree like a normal hearing person can, but there is evidence in his tonality and pronunciation that he isn't hearing things as clearly, and he can't always pick up on subtleties of speech in regards to tone or nuances as others might. still, its remarkable to think that without this technology he would be living a very different life. he participates in a regular classroom and has never had to learn sign language.

on the first day we worked together the topic of ancient sparta came up. it was related to what we were talking about in the novel "The Giver". he said he had recently learned that in sparta babies or toddlers who weren't functioning normally, who seemed weak or sickly or had developmental issues, were left to die in the wilderness or thrown off cliffs. we marveled for a silent moment and how outrageous that was. then he said, very matter-of-fact, "i suppose that i wouldn't have made it in sparta, i would have been a throwaway baby." i was startled by his thirteen year old insight, and easy observance of a heartbreaking realization. he was right, and tears stung my eyes. i hid them well, and responded back to him about how incredible it was that he was born in this time and place, where he has the opportunity to actually stay alive and thrive and hear and speak. as we got back into our work, i said to him, "keep proving the spartans wrong."

he had a latin test today and so yesterday as a study method he taught me all the vocab and lessons that he needed to know for the test. he made jokes about romulus and remus, mimicked a professor that paces back and forth in front of the class, and just generally blew me away.

i love my job.

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