Biggest Challenge

I have discovered, throughout my teaching and tutoring career, that I am able to solve many educational conundrums my colleagues cannot. I have been referred many students with issues or problems that a colleague could not handle for some reason. Probably my biggest challenge in this regard was a most recent one, a delightful student who was partially deaf.

Antoine had problems I had never seen, in twenty years of teaching and tutoring. When it comes to problems with grammar, usage, and mechanics, students may have a smattering of different ones, and/or patterns of a few. Antoine had smatterings (so to speak!), but they included problems more typical to a writer for whom English was a second language (Antoine was a native speaker).

What I came to realize, after getting to know Antoine and familiarizing myself with the form of sign language he used, was that the sign language had been, in effect, his first language. Antoine's hearing deficit was not discovered until he was five years old, and so he did not do a lot of the language learning a child will have done by that time. He learned sign language, got a hearing aid, and began to learn to communicate, combining speaking with sign language. His writing contained "mistakes" that were actually normal ways of saying things in the particular sign language, such as "I going." There was no provision in that sign language for the modal "am" or "was," or whatever would fit the particular idea. It was such a breakthrough moment for Antoine when we talked about it, that he gave me a gift, proclaiming that I had opened up a whole new world for him. Antoine at the time was in his early twenties and had had nothing but frustration in trying to c ommunicate through writing. I helped provide him with a conduit, and now he is on the verge of graduating from college.


Anne H.

Become a self-sufficient writer and learner

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