Connections in Classroom

By Clovis Bernard

As the new year begins, so does the new school term for many young adults with hearing loss across Canada. It can be a daunting experience for some people going to class with a hearing loss—what if the instructor mumbles? What if the class keeps doing group discussions? What if my class makes fun of my funny pronunciation? It is also understandable that some people want to stay incognito about their hearing loss.

For those who use highly visible accommodations services like Communication Access Realtime Transcription (CART) and interpreters, it can be even more stressful. In my personal experience with oral interpreters and CART for my entire school life, the obvious downsides include being limited on seating choice as you’re at the mercy of wherever there’s room for your interpreters to sit and hear clearly. If the lecture hall has good acoustic, I have taken seats at the very back where it can be easier to keep an eye on both the projector screen and the interpreters/CART. But you’re far less spontaneous with your seating plans.

On the plus side, you’re guaranteed you’ll get the same seat every class, even if you overslept or missed the bus as long as you’re able to handle the walk to the front of the hall under the eyes of hundreds of your fellow students. In the similar vein, you’ll likely be getting a lot of questions about your interpreters and CART from the students around you. They’re just being curious! I often take the opportunities to chat up with them.

In a sense, you become a little famous where a lot of your classmates will know who you are, and you won’t have to fumble through a self-introduction. It can make for some fun encounters on the street where I have run into former classmates who I haven’t met properly because they’re always behind me, but they recognize me because I’m always in front of them.

I never know who’s going to be the next kind of person to come up to me and ask me about it, but that’s what make it like an exciting grab bag fishing for a mystery treat to me. You get a little bit of bad, like everything else in life. Think of them like the sour or spicy treats thrown in occasionally to make you appreciate the sweetness of the adventure. Most of the time if someone says something incorrect, it’s an opportunity to (gently) educate them. After all, the classroom is a place for education for everyone.

For those who wish to retain their anonymity, they have many different other opportunities to make connections so you can move at your own pace. We at Young Adult Network are keen to help you make those connections across Canada.

If you have any brewing story or article idea for YAN Corner, feel free to shoot me an email at: cbernard@chha.ca