"I have two pieces of advice for students. One is to not let any disabilities deter you from getting an education and pursuing your dreams. My second piece of advice is...be ready for anything. Your education will give you critical thinking skills which you can use in many jobs. Never stop learning!"
As one of the earliest Baby Boomers, I was fortunate to be the child of two intelligent, educated parents. I was raised in the Los Angeles area. My mother was an elementary school teacher, and my father was finishing his bachelors work at USC on the GI Bill while working full-time in a lab. To help make ends meet, the lab allowed my father to bring home noninfectious rabbits for us to eat. I got to hate eating rabbit meat.
My parents noticed early on that I seemed to be having problems with hearing things. In the mid to late ‘40s, there wasn’t the ability to test babies for hearing problems that there is now. After several tests, it was determined that I needed hearing aids. At age four I was fitted for my first hearing aid. It was like a little box, probably about 1inch wide by ½ inch thick and two to three inches high.
I wore it in a case that had a strap around my chest and another around my neck. There was a noticeable wire that went from the aid to a large knob attached to an ear mold in my ear. The audiologists said I should probably just wear it for a couple of hours a day to get used to it. Well, I showed them. I wore it all day long, every day.
I was fortunate that most of the time I was not laughed at or made fun of for wearing a hearing aid. After about three years I got a newer, slightly smaller aid - still using the case strapped to my chest. I was pretty well accepted despite having the aid. Probably part of that was because I was adept at sports and thus was usually among the first selected for team sporting activities. This ability carried through to college. In junior high I finally got aids for both ears by getting hearing aid glasses.
Having the hearing loss did present big challenges for me in school. To assist me, my parents had me going to speech therapy and lipreading sessions up through junior high. Kind of hard to use those skills with current mask wearing mandates. I usually sat near the front of the class where possible, to make sure I could hear the teachers. In college I even bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder to tape lectures. Back then they weren’t nice and small to fit in your pocket. It was more like a medium sized “boom box”.
I guess one advantage of the hearing loss was that it kept me out of the draft in 1967-68 when I finished college. For those forgetting their history, that was at the height of the Vietnam War, and the military was taking most any males who walked on two feet.
Having this disability has given me a deeper understanding of others with a disability. It has definitely helped me to relate to our students with hearing limitations. I have been privileged to assist many of them during my years at Mission.
I have two pieces of advice for students. One is to not let any disabilities deter you from getting an education and pursuing your dreams. My hearing loss didn’t keep me from doing any of the many jobs I’ve had.
My second piece of advice for students is not to assume that when you graduate, you will immediately get a job you love in the field you went to school for. Be ready for anything. Your education will give you critical thinking skills which you can use in many jobs. When I graduated with my masters with teaching and counseling credentials, I was unable to get a job in that field for some 20 years.
Education jobs were scarce in the early ‘70s and despite sending out letters (using a manual typewriter) of interest to most all of the community colleges (over 90) and numerous high schools, I got back only four applications and one invitation for an interview. Because of that, I ended up turning my wine hobby into my profession for about 20 years.
A back injury then ended that career path, and I started working for Santa Clara County Social Services. I moved up through various positions to finally get the “experience” needed to apply for a counseling position at Mission. Now in my dream job, I also am able to use a lot of information and skills I learned at my various previous jobs.
Never Stop Learning!