Deaf and hard of hearing students find fun and acceptance together
April 9, 2019 - Gathered in the North Gym at Edina High School, students circled up after enjoying a dance session with some of the high schoolers on the hip hop team. The district’s deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students gathered for a day of community bonding and self-acceptance activities. Leading the day was the DDH team: Jennifer Duncan, Molly Krenz, and Hawley Mathieson.
“There used to be a large gathering that happened in St. Paul,” Duncan said. “For a variety of reasons, the event is no longer happening. But we thought to ourselves, why don’t we host one for our own kids?”
This thought became a reality with a grant received from the Edina Education Fund. The funding supported the day’s activities and they were able to purchase matching t-shirts for every student. “Without the grant, we really wouldn’t have been able to afford to do this day,” Krenz acknowledged.
DHH Day was full of activities, from hip hop dancing, a photo booth and gym games, to get-to-know-you bingo and a presentation from a speaker. During their time with the speaker, the students wrote some of their worries on balloons and with a tennis racket in hand, smacked away the worry balloon and spoke against their worry. The speaker read one of the balloons. “I’m worried that people will get mad at me if I can’t hear them.” She then encouraged them to brainstorm responses to that worry. “You just have to tell them, I was born this way,” offered one of the students.
Another chimed in, “It’s not weird - that’s just the way it is.” The speaker praised their courage and responses, and the students beamed as they smacked away the worry balloons. “That’s just the way it is!”
Mathieson said these moments are stepping-stones for building self-confidence in DHH students. “Often times, students feel like they don’t belong. Most are the only ones in their grades with hearing loss - a lot of times, they are the only one in their school.”
Along with their own personal device, students typically bring an FM system to their classes to give to their teacher to use, so the teacher’s voice goes directly into their devices and they can hear. “When they feel different, it makes it hard for them to feel confident.”
Days like this show students that they are not alone. The leaders encouraged the students to “be the boss of their hearing loss” and “make brave choices.” All day, students bravely tried new activities, shared specifics about their hearing loss, fought their worries, and found a community of fellow kids like them.