Now for a rare story of do as I say and as I do. This one has a much happier ending than the previous story.
I was excited to take an AP class in high school. The teacher was new, but very skilled. At the start of every school year, I emailed and met with all my teachers to go through my classroom accommodations, but since this teacher was new, and was not there when I had my meeting, I could only email him. I thought everything would be fine.
First day of school, the AP class was my first class of the day. I had the microphone, a new notebook, and an eager brain – in short, everything I needed to learn. I arrived early and met my new teacher for the first time. I introduced myself and gave him the microphone. He shied away and waved the microphone away, “Oh no, I can’t wear the microphone.”
This being the first day of class, I was shocked and stunned. No other teacher ever declined to wear the microphone. I took the closest seat to the front in silence, wondering what to do. I knew I could survive a day without a microphone, so for the moment I thought I would be fine. I forgot to take into account that the lights in the classroom were turned off for computer work, so the only light came from computer screens and the gaps in the windows’ blinds. I survived that class by some miracle with some introductory notes and concepts written in my notebook. Immediately, after that class, I went to find my IEP case manager, who fortunately taught in the classroom next door. I told my case manager about what happened. He nodded and said he would talk to the new teacher. I also told my parents about the new teacher and we all hoped for the best the next day.
Second day of school, I showed up even earlier and talked to my case manager. He said he had talked to the teacher, the teacher had nodded and agreed in all the right places, but, ultimately, he was not sure that he gotten through to the teacher. I went into the dark classroom again. I got a similar reaction from the teacher. He said, “I don’t need the microphone.” This time I protested a little, “But I kinda need it.” I had weak protesting skills at that time. The new teacher brushed away my comment and again I went to my seat. Now I was shocked, stunned, and frustrated. I spoke to the new teacher after that class. I told him this was not okay. He said he would try to work something out with my case manager. I told my case manager what had happened, and he said he would try talking to the new teacher again. I struggled more and now my next class was affected by my exhaustion from lip-reading in the dark.
I told my parents again. My parents at this point were uneasy and they contacted the principal. They also said that if the teacher was giving me too much trouble that I could always drop the class, as it was an elective and not a required class. Here my stubbornness came in handy. I was taking that class, difficult teacher or not! I also started preparing for the worse by researching the American Disability Act and disability laws.I looked at other options instead of using the microphone – maybe I could ask for an ASL interpreter (but my ASL was quite weak and out of practice), or an oral interpreter (someone who would mouth the words the teacher was saying), or captioning. Any of these alternatives would be okay options if the new teacher still did not want to wear the microphone, but using the microphone would be easier and less costly. Given my stubbornness, there was no way I’m letting a teacher keep me from learning!
Third day of school, the computer science teacher still refused to wear the microphone. To this day, I still do not know why he did not want to wear the microphone. He might have been paranoid that the blue-tooth microphone was transmitting and recording his voice for some sinister purpose (it was not), and I contacted the school’s audiologist for help on that front. This time the principal was prepared to talk to the new teacher. He still didn’t get how much I needed the microphone. My parents were of the mind for me to drop the class, but I wanted to take this class. This teacher was driving me to crazy stubbornness.
Fourth day of class, once again without the microphone, it culminated in one big meeting – the new teacher, the principal, the audiologist, my case manager, a supporting teacher who had worn the microphone with no issues the year before, and me. There could be a variety of reasons that changed the new teacher’s mind – the principal was quite serious, the audiologist and other teacher reassured him that the microphone was only to benefit my learning and understanding, and I was unrelenting. After that meeting, the new teacher reluctantly agreed to wear the microphone. Over time it got better the more he got used to wearing the microphone. I could finally hear what he saying! Best of all, he never made me feel bad about forcing him to wear the microphone. I think he understood that the microphone was a huge deal to me.
At the end of the year, I earned an A in the AP class, and scored high enough on the AP exam to get college credit! I learned not only the subject of the class, but also stronger advocacy skill from the new teacher.
If I had had this teacher six years earlier, I would have loved him for not wearing the microphone, but ultimately I would have hurt myself by not using the microphone. My parents were really proud of me for standing up for what I needed - especially for the microphone - they remembered when I hated the microphone and the hearing aids (See “The Talk,” May 2013 blog).