Надежда Никифоровна Рогожина, проректор по международным программам, зав. кафедрой лингвистики и межъязыковой коммуникации Самарского муниципального университета Наяновой, кандидат педагогических наук, доцент.
Директор негосударственного учреждения дополнительного образования “World Class-Samara”.
This time I am going to talk to you about teachers. There is a wonderful pretext for that: in Russia the first Sunday of October is marked as “Teacher’s Day” and October 5 is “International Teacher’s Day”.
Both my parents and my husband were teachers and I am a teacher myself, too. And I was lucky to have excellent teachers all through my studies both in my childhood and as a grown-up. They taught different subjects in quite ordinary schools (there were no specialized schools and classes then): English, Russian, Literature, Geography, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Mathematics, Drawing (though I am not very much of an artist!), Singing (I sing sometimes!). They were not honoured but they did their job well, were sincere and kind (but strict) and all that gave good results. Thanks to them I have chosen the profession I have never regretted and which has given me many happy moments. It is really rewarding when you take students and lead them to another level of knowledge, see their development.
This column is a tribute in honour of my teachers (I caught myself at the thought that I consider this column like a monument, like Nelson’s Column, for example, but they do deserve it!). I cannot but mention my beloved Teachers from Kuibyshev State Pedagogical Institute (Samara State Pedagogical University now): Galina Chernyshova, Tamara Grunyushkina, Valentina Gordon, Elena Turapina , Galina Pryadilnikova and Marina Porkhunova.
I also would like to give credit to all my colleagues and friends – teachers both Russian and foreign: I learn much from them and appreciate their assistance.
In one of my earlier columns I mentioned the “Heartwarmers4U” conference in Niagara-on-the Lake (Canada) where I met the author of the story “Three Words”, Stephen Hopson, published next to this column. Stephen is deaf and dumb, but he lives a full life, is a successful writer and speaker (he speaks with the help of a synthesiser and when he read his story, the whole hall stood up and burst into applause. That was the tribute to him as the author and to his teacher.
I wish all teachers could have a tribute like this some day.
My life was dramatically transformed because a simple three-word phrase was delivered at the right time in just the right way. When I was three years old, my parents discovered I was totally deaf, a situation which forced them to make crucial1 decisions about my education.
After consulting with numerous specialists and doctors, they made a decision that would forever alter my future. Instead of sending me to a private school for the deaf, they decided to “mainstream” me. All of my peers and teachers would have normal hearing.
Since I started going there in 3rd grade, I was the only deaf child at Blue Creek Elementary School in the small, quiet town of Latham, New York. From almost the first day there, the other kids taunted me and called me names mainly because of my hearing aid2 and the way I talked. I remember thinking, “What have I done wrong?”
My hearing aid was a rectangular box that was harnessed3 to my shoulders and hung from my neck like an albatross4. It created a big lump on my chest with wires running from the box to my ears.
I experienced great anxiety throughout elementary school because, in addition to the problems of “fitting in” with the other students, I also struggled mightily with most of my schoolwork. I seemed to spend every spare moment doing homework just so I could keep up. The teachers didn’t know what to do with me.
Because of my hearing disability, I was constantly asking everyone, “What did he/she say?” But I worried that everyone would soon grow tired of repeating everything back to me. Since fitting in was so important to me, every time people around me laughed or smiled, I did the same even though I usually had no idea what was going on.
When the kids made fun of me, I internalized5 all of it. I was sure that I was a bad person; I felt I deserved their sneers6. On the surface, I was gregarious7, outgoing8 and happy-go-lucky9, but in reality, my self-esteem was quite low. I saw myself as an ugly buck-toothed10 kid wearing a weird-looking box around his neck who wasn’t smart enough to keep up with the rest of the kids.
Mrs. Jordan, my 5th grade teacher, changed all of that with a simple three-word phrase. A large woman with salt and pepper hair, and twinkling brown eyes, Mrs. Jordan had a voice that boomeranged off the walls of her tiny classroom. One morning, she asked the class a question.
I read her lips from my front-row seat and immediately raised my hand. I couldn’t believe it – for once I knew the answer.
But, when she called on me, I was afraid. Here was an opportunity to impress the powerful teacher and show her I was worthy of her love. Maybe even impress my classmates a little. I didn’t want to blow11 it. Despite my fears, I felt uncharacteristically confident because – for once – I was sure I had the right answer. I took a deep breath and nervously answered Mrs. Jordan’s question.
I will never forget what happened next. Her response was explosive. It startled12 all of us. Mrs. Jordan enthusiastically slammed her right foot on the floor and whirled her right finger in a full circle until it pointed directly at me. With sparkling eyes and a wide smile she cried, “THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!”
For the first time in my young life, I was an instant star. My heart burst with pride as an ear-to-ear grin filled my face. I sat a little taller in my chair and puffed out my chest. My confidence soared like never before.
I decided right then and there that I would make a place for myself in this world. A simple three-word phrase delivered with incredible enthusiasm had totally transformed my young life. “That’s right Stephen!”
From that day forward, my grades13 and speech improved dramatically. My popularity among my peers increased and my outlook on life did a complete turnabout.
And it all started with Mrs. Jordan. “THAT’S RIGHT STEPHEN!”