Welcome to the Deaf-World

by
Since this is my first blog, I want to introduce myself. My name is Casey and I am hearing. I am a transfer student from Texas, who grew up homeschooled.
I have a very mixed family of three brothers and two sisters. That is a long story, so I won’t bore you with the details. ) I have spent most of my life growing up in Texas, but my family did move to Oklahoma for a short five years before going back to our home state. At the college in Texas, I majored in Interpreting but soon realized that Interpreting was not for me. I enjoyed interpreting but not all the other complicated additions to it such as the Code of Ethics and some of the regulations and pressures I had to face during my semester of practicum. I managed to persevere though and graduated with an A.A.S. degree in Interpreting Magna Cum Laude. Nevertheless, I loved signing and I loved the Deaf-World, so I decided to pursue ASL for my BA degree. That’s why I am at Gallaudet University.

But how did I become involved in the Deaf-World? You may ask. My family is not deaf. In fact, I do not even have hard-of-hearing family members or distant relations with a hearing loss. In addition, I did not meet a single deaf person until I was 17 years old. So, how did I get acquainted with the Deaf-World? Here’s my story:

I got my first glimpse of the Deaf-World one early August morning my senior year of high school. I had decided my senior year to enroll in a few courses at a local junior college to earn some dual credit hours. Since it was my first time actually to “go to school” (I grew up homeschooling) and I had an undecided major, I thought it would be fun to enroll in some language-related courses (I love language, grammar, English, etc.). I knew a little Spanish from a high school class, and I knew a little sign language from a class I took in 3rd grade, so I resolved to take both.

I arrived at Tyler Junior College early Tuesday morning, anxious about my first day of classes. I walked hurriedly down the sidewalk trying to remember where my first class met. Spotting Potter Hall, a three-story building that looked more like an old brick house with white-railed balconies than a place where classes are held, I opened the glass doors and stepped into the hallway. I looked around for something familiar to tell me where my room was. I made a decision and headed left down the hall. There it was. The door was open and I was the first to arrive, so I made my way in and took a seat.

I want to tell one funny story about my first experience at college regarding seating arrangements before I get back on subject ) Going into college, no one warned me that when you walk into your first class and sit down in a particular chair that the chair you sit in remains yours for the duration of the semester and that sitting in someone else’s chair is an abomination. I had grown up homeschooling, which meant I could sit anywhere I pleased–either at my desk in my room or any unoccupied dinning room chair. I thought the same rules applied in college, so I thought it would be fun to try out every seat in the classroom. You get the idea: sit in a different chair every class period. Well, needless to say, many of my classmates got annoyed at me and some were not afraid to say so. After the first time a girl told me I was in her seat and I needed to move, I realized that she meant business and I found another chair where I stayed for the next three years of my life (most of the ASL and Interpreting classes, for the most part, were held in one of two rooms; therefore, I sat in my respective seat like a good college student and didn’t switch chairs every week). )

Anyways, back to my first subject, I sat down and waited for the arrival of the other students and my teacher. The students trickled in one by one, and, soon after my classmates arrived, a short, stocky man ambled into the classroom and placed several books on the tiny wooden table at the front of the room. I waited with anticipation as he took his time laying out all his materials. Then, at last, he looked up, smiled, and instead of speaking, he signed, “Good morning!”

Ahh! Sheer terror gripped my heart. I suddenly realized that this man was deaf and all I knew were a handful of signs and the alphabet. How was I supposed to communicate with someone who couldn’t hear me? Every part of my being told me I would fail miserably in this class. I tried to push my doubts and fears away as he began class, writing his name on the board and handing out our class syllabus.

The room was so quiet. I had never heard such stillness in a classroom before. It was a little unnerving. The other students and I were all hearing and so when our teacher told us that we could not talk at all during class and could only sign to each other, I was distraught. I hated the silence and I felt completely helpless. I felt as though I would not survive my first college semester. However, I did survive it–and I loved it.

It took me several weeks to get accustomed to there not being any voiced lecture, but what was replaced by my expectations of a loud, booming voice was so much better. I began to appreciate the silence that surrounded me and, as I did, a new form of sound began to evolve. I began to hear with my eyes. Even now, I am beginning to wonder how I survive WITHOUT hearing with my eyes! When I graduate from Gallaudet and begin yet another chapter in my life, I won’t be on a campus where I can SEE communication all the time. Eventually, I will have to return to the hearing world where speech and English is the primary form of communication. I know that I will miss my experiences here at Gallaudet where ASL and the Deaf-World thrive.

My teacher at the community college was the most animated, funny, and entertaining person I had ever met. He was the best storyteller, too. I fell in love with the class and thus continued enrolling in ASL classes for three years. I learned a lot that first semester. Not only did I add a few signs to my vocabulary, but I also learned to appreciate ASL, Deaf humor, and many other things concerning the Deaf-World. This first class was my first peek at what the Deaf-World was really like.

However, my learning experiences did not end there. My ASL Lab teacher loved to get students involved with the Deaf community in my hometown (and for that, I am appreciative; now, I look back at all the growing and learning experiences I had). My first experience at a deaf community event occurred that first semester when I decided to go to a bowling party. I was feeling somewhat confident at the time in that I could ask people a few questions such as “How are you?” “Where do you go to church?” “Are you married?” “Do you have kids?” etc. As you can see, I was like many hearing people that sign to a deaf person they meet, “I…know…some…sign…” and think they can communicate just like a deaf person. Anyways, I had my memorized phrases in my pocket and was ready to go.

I drove to our church (there is a small bowling alley in the basement of the Family Life Center) and walked in to a room full of people signing. I was a little overwhelmed…well, okay, I was VERY overwhelmed. I ended up sitting with a few other hearing students who didn’t know any sign and we just talked about class. A few brave deaf people approached us and tried to communicate a little.

In the end, I decided after that first experience that I would never attend another deaf event until I was a PROFICIENT signer. I learned that it takes a lot more than a few memorized words and phrases to communicate effectively. However, until I became proficient, I decided no more deaf parties and no more Deaf-World for me.

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