In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Learner Experience: Reflections on Being a Graduate of the Education Program in South Africa
  • Guy McIlroy (bio)

I am a bicultural “oral Deaf ” (McIlroy, 2008) person. I was born profoundly Deaf, and my parents followed the educational philosophy of that time of using hearing aids and intensive speech therapy. On the one hand I am grateful for that input, as I hear quite well and speak clearly; consequently, I was deemed to be a good candidate for placement in a mainstream school. At school I considered myself as a hearing impaired/hard of hearing person; [End Page 500] neither of these terms particularly offended me as that was just the convention at that time and place, and I was too young and ignorant to challenge this label. A comment I often received was, “But you speak so well!” That is correct, but on the other hand, a closer analysis of this comment reveals that this begins with “But . . .” What is left out here is the “you are Deaf, but . . .” Although I benefited from mainstream schooling primarily in terms of academic advancement, it became increasingly clear to me that I was different and therefore excluded at school in some way. I have compiled a collection of significant school experiences to highlight the issues that emerged.

Mainstream School Experiences

I remember a particular grade 7 English class. The teacher was trying to get me to say a paragraph from a novel with great gusto and with emotion just as he had read it out to the class. I was at the front of the classroom, so he chose me to start reading aloud, but he was furious that I was not doing it right. The problem was that he did not know and understand that even with hearing aids I still could not hear his differences in tone, so I did not understand what he was trying to get me to do. The more he shouted at me, the more confused and lost I felt in front of the class. This humiliating experience could have been avoided he had known more about being Deaf. (I hated his class after that and sat in the back.)

It was typical of many classroom situations that, within a few minutes of the start of the lesson, I would often be lost. Usually the topic would veer into open-ended discussions in the classroom, and I would be left behind even though I sat at the front, while the really interesting discussions and useful incidental learning bounced around the classroom behind me, beyond my grasp. If something was not in the textbook for me to follow, I found that I missed out unless I asked the teacher questions directly and received a direct answer from him. From the frustration of these lessons I resolved to read extensively as a survival strategy to build an in-depth knowledge that did not rely on my partial hearing, since books do not mumble or contain a cacophony of 30 voices talking all at once.

At my school, there was a science teacher who wore small hearing aids. Even though his hearing loss was less severe than mine, this teacher did not encourage me in any way to be proud of my identity as a Deaf person. In fact he hindered me since he conducted himself as a person with a hearing loss yet told the class repeatedly that he was not “Deaf.” Since this teacher seemed to perceive Deaf persons as inferior, I was not encouraged to claim a positive “Deaf ” identity for myself. I discovered that the terms hearing impaired and hard of hearing were acceptable terms, but use of the word Deaf was not sanctioned or supported in a mainstream school setting; the onus was on me to cope in the classroom. With this incomplete grasp of what was going on in class, I felt like a foreigner who was never really fully included. This explains why despite both of us having a similar hearing loss, I never connected with him, as he portrayed for me the kind of false person I did not want to become. Looking back now, this was the moment in my...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 500-502
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.