Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My mother probably should have named me Helen

We (and by we I mean me and anyone who has decided to tell me that I can't hear because that won't happen twice, eh?) have known about my hearing issues since I was about two years old. Apparently, my mother had the wherewithal to realize that my chimpanzee-like speech was not going to be acceptable in society although people should be more understanding since we likely descended from apes. Back in the day, my hearing aid consisted of a box strapped to my chest with delightful wires running up to the earpieces wedged into my ears. According to my mother, I frequently pulled the plug on this sound enhancing contraption.

In first grade, I got my first behind-the-ear hearing aids and started regular sessions with a speech therapist. And for the record it is EASY to get words such as kitchen and chicken confused. But I get it now. One you eat and one you eat in. I was well on my way to becoming a normal little girl. Well, normal as it applies to me.

If only the kids hadn't noticed the ear accessories that sometimes squealed maniacally. I hated standing out. I hated not being able to hear well. I hated that my mother always insisted I sit on the front row in the classroom. I hated that my teachers couldn't remember to face the class when they taught because while they may have had eyes in the back of their head, they did NOT have lips there causing me great difficulty in reading their lips.

Enter Mrs. L, my 5th grade teacher. After breaking my leg, I was moved to the far right front row seat. There, I began to struggle to read the squiggles on the board. Surely the teacher was not using the appropriate amount of pressure on the chalk while writing on the board. I squinted and squirmed and tried to read her hieroglyphics. Mrs. L called my mother in for a meeting. Within days, I was fitted with a pair of glasses that would have made John Denver proud.

I hated my glasses. I hated having to work the stems around my hearing aids in order to find to right place for my ears to be able to support all my correction devices. Again, I stood out only now I stood out as the poor girl who couldn't hear or see.

Time passed. I learned to wear contacts. I learned to pronounce most words if only all words followed the sensible rules that make phonics work. And I learned to stand up for myself.

Truthfully, I still hate not being able to hear or see well. But I do love having the gift that this struggle has brought me. When I was teaching middle school kids with behavior disorders, they appreciated that I clearly had faults. My elementary students and parents like knowing that I was once a struggling student. I think it gives them hope "See, Ms. Beth couldn't hear a jackhammer in the next room and here she is a principal! Who would have thunk that? So, now you know you have what it takes to pull your act together.".

Still, I need someone to explain to me why it is fair that I may soon need some freaking bifocals (contacts).

33 comments:

Mrs. K said...

this was so heartwarming for me to read- and i'm so glad you shared this about yourself! i was so worried when my kid had to wear glasses but she is a geek and proud of it! she stands out but most of the girls love her cool glasses and want to try them on all the time. so i think times have changed...thank goodness. And by the way- I hear ya on the John Denver- why did mothers love those flipping things anyways? Mine picked the same exact pair for me- i chose not to wear them anyways and suffer.

Brian Miller said...

kids can be pretty ruthless when there are differences. i have found that some of my greatest struggles have provided the greatest victories. thanks for sharing yours.

carma said...

My hearing sucks as well. You may have read the story on my blog from a month or so ago where I mistook the word "nuts" for "pots" which caused all sorts of problems for me at work!

I do a lot of smiling and pretending I hear at parties...this is not always the best approach :D

A Free Man said...

I never had hearing problems. Yet. But I did have horrible glasses until I was about 15 and got contacts. I haven't gotten past it though as I still wear contacts almost exclusively.

Kulio said...

What a gift! Of course...easy for me to say...but from here, it's obvious to see how God prepared you to be the perfect advocate for kids with challenges.

Cool.

Crazy Charm said...

I've always been grateful I didn't inherit my dad's bad eyesight...Until school started this year and I realized I couldn't see the board from across the room without squinting.

Oh and he has trifocals...

darsden said...

Wow can't imagine how hard it was for you. But I do agree with Kulio what a difference you can make for kids now. Just with this post alone you may help somebody! Great Post Girl!

Mango Girl said...

What obstacles you have overcome!

Bi-focals, schmi-focals. We all need them eventually.

xo, Mango

Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Ah Beth this was so sweet and so honest. My hearing is going... My eyes too... Overuse and age...

Chief said...

This post has special meaning to us over at my bloghouse. I call my kids Helen every time they are dumbasses and don't listen. My mother thinks I am cruel

Knucklehead said...

Very touching, Beth, thanks for sharing. I'm sure it's made you a much better educator.

sun lover said...

Did you forget the number one rule of life? Sometimes it just isn't fair...

That being said. Your past is what has molded you into who you are now. And this my friend, is why you were such a great teacher and now an amazing administrator. Experience is often a hard but good teacher.

I should know. I may have not needed hearing aids or glasses, but I sure needed help in school. I was the poor teachers kid who was "in the gray". I didn't quilify until it was almost to late.

I believe I read something a long time ago about gaining strength, courage and confidence from every experience of your life. It really is true. I am where I am today because of the struggles in my youth.

Thanks so much for sharing a piece of your past. It really was a great post.

The Things We Carried said...

I would never go back to the days of standing out as a child! Ugh! I am afraid I will soon be needing bifocals too. My doc assures me it happens to all of us sooner or later.

only a movie said...

Messed up kids make the best educators... ;-)

Also, got my progressive glasses about 6 mos ago, and totally ditched contacts. I love being able to see everything.

Jules said...

I hear ya. I can't even see the E on that stupid eye chart....

Jan said...

I'd trade my progressive bifocals in for contacts, but I'm afraid I'm too damn squeamish to put something ON my eyeball. *shudder*

I always knew you were special, hon.

JennyMac said...

LASIK!!! Saved me.

You have really overcome some challenges.

TechnoBabe said...

I have known so many people who went the Lasik way and all have been successful. I chose not to for reasons of my own. I have bifocals but only wear them for watching a movie across the room at home and they aren't large enough area for me to read through the bottom part. So I have a pair of glasses for distance for driving and a pair for reading. Works for me. I too wore contact most of my life but about three years ago I stopped wearing contacts and started experimenting with what made me most comfortable wearing glasses. Best of luck to you. Sounds like you have always been a survivor.

♥ Braja said...

I knew you were special....
xo

Christine Gram said...

From what I've read about your meetings with parents, being able to not hear might not be such a bad thing.

Touching post. I have zero nostalgia for my school days.

Nancy said...

Poignant post, she said, after sliding her trifocals into the sweet spot so she could read it!

Nancy said...

p.s., you'll note from my picture that despite wearing glasses for more than 30 years now, I still don't like to be photographed while wearing mine. There are some things we just don't seem to get past, eh?

K13 said...

awwww...i guess what doesn't "kill" us makes us stronger really applies here. You rock!!!

Cristin said...

Thanks for this. You totally wrote it for me right? Thought so.

So when can Graham meet you? Do you know any sign? Ok if you don't he'll teach you.

Rebecca said...

Thanks. Your blog is nice. I just found it through someone other blog.

Beth said...

To All - Thanks for all the sweet comments. You guys are an inspiration!

Cristin - I would LOVE to meet Graham! I don't know much sign language - but I would love to learn what Graham knows. My sister once met a student who taught her the sign for bullshit. It is still my favorite sign.

Gaston Studio said...

Oh yes, all those childhood struggles turn us into confident, sensitive adults which is one of the many reasons you're such a fabulous educator today.

Optimistic Pessimist said...

it's amazing that some things we despised as children turned out to be a gift. Wonder where you'd be without your struggles. Certainly not a runnin' sassy principal!!!

Bee and Rose said...

You are my hero! My nickname in grade school was "Elton Dawn" because my mom bought me these ridiculous Elton John style frames. Oh, the horror! Then I developed much earlier than the other girls in my class and earned the nickname "Dolly Parsons"....ugh....

Love this post!

Otin said...

At this point in my life, not hearing some of the stupid shit that people say might be a blessing :) You showed a lot of strength overcoming your hearing issues!

Hit 40 said...

I took forever to get my R sound correct - rabbit or wabbit. Both sound good to me!! I have figured it out, but I still have trouble hearing the differences in some words. I don't know what my problem is!!

Interesting that you needed the teacher to be turned to you when they spoke. I love using the overhead to keep an eye on the kids. One room has a new fancy smartboard which keeps my back turned a lot while I talk and write on the board....

might be better to just use the old overhead for the kids.

H.K. said...

Oh, wow thanks for sharing that! I know of a family where all the kids are hearing impaired and they all have hearing aids. Your story just shows that you don't have to let your limitations keep you from doing what you want to do in life. Great post!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

The only fairness I see is that we who need reading glasses; ie bifocals, are still alive to get to enjoy that little bit of discomfort. Actually, it's better than trying to extend my arms into the next county to be able to read my book or a paper!
Touching story you give... it warms my heart... I had no idea. Seems all this gave you a wonderful ability to write with humor!