78: I Can Hear You Now

78: I Can Hear You Now

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

I Can Hear You Now

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

~Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

After recess one day, I realized Christopher hadn’t returned to class. I sent a couple of boys to check in the restroom for him. They returned almost instantly. “He’s in the bathroom crying and he has locked himself in the stall,” they reported.

Of course, I needed to retrieve him. As I approached the restroom, I could hear his sobs. “Chris, it’s Mrs. Boyer. What’s the matter? I know you’re in there. Why are you crying?”

“Dhose boys kweep making fun of me at weecess. Dhey cawed me Dummy and said I tok stwange.”

“Okay, Christopher, I will talk to those boys who are making fun of you. It’s time for you to come back to class.”

Reluctantly, he opened the stall door. Tears streamed down his face.

“Teacer, I don’t want to come to skool. It’s too hard, and nobowdy yikes me.”

I needed to learn more about Christopher so I could help him. I talked to his mom. She told me her son didn’t start talking until he was almost two. She had her hands full as a single mom, raising Chris and his sister while working two jobs. She also didn’t speak English well, so helping him with homework would be difficult.

I felt bad for Christopher. Yes, he did talk funny. He had repeated first grade and struggled with academics. He worked with the speech teacher daily. Frequently, he would stutter and mispronounce words, making it difficult to understand him.

Many of Christopher’s assignments were turned in with pictures drawn around the margins. Chris did have a gift. He was a talented artist. So, I asked him if he could tell stories with his artwork. Aha! Maybe this was what he needed to bolster his self-esteem. He came alive when he was drawing.

One day, during reading group, I noticed Christopher staring at the other students while they read. He kept watching their lips. I asked the speech teacher to observe Chris during reading time.

“It looks like he’s lip reading,” she said.

So, we decided to have his hearing checked. The hearing test indicated that Christopher had substantial hearing loss in both ears! No wonder he couldn’t talk; he couldn’t hear. He qualified for hearing aids through an assistance program.

The first time Chris came to class wearing his hearing aids, he had a baseball cap pulled down over his ears, but I could see how excited he was to be able to hear. During story time, he sat mesmerized as I read a Dr. Seuss book. After hearing the story, he came up to me.

“Thank you, Mrs. Boyer, for helping me. Now I can hear you read Oh, the Places You’ll Go! I like that story!”

What a difference the hearing aids made for Christopher! His speech started improving, too.

For the first time, he wanted to participate in class discussions. He told me by the end of second grade that reading was his favorite subject.

I was switching to third grade the next year, so I requested that Christopher be in my class again. I wanted to make sure that he had every opportunity to succeed. My class became involved in a wonderful project where they wrote and illustrated books to be given to doctors’ offices for their waiting rooms. The children were so excited to write their own stories, and everyone wanted Chris to draw the illustrations to go with the stories.

Beaming with pride, he announced he wanted to be an illustrator of children’s books when he grew up.

I was blown away when Christopher volunteered to speak at an event to thank teachers, principals, and local business owners who had given him a computer to use at home for his schoolwork. He now had the courage to speak in front of a group to express his gratitude for what he had been given.

As Christopher stood at the podium, speaking with confidence and appreciation, tears streamed down my face. Christopher had blossomed and grown into a confident and happy boy. He had come a long way. He just needed the tools to have a chance.

I was a teacher for twenty-five years, and Christopher was one of those students who taught me more than I could ever teach him. Thank you, Christopher, for teaching me to never give up and always have hope, no matter how difficult things get. I can hear you now.

~Patricia Boyer

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