MATH IS HOT QUEEN OF ALL SCIENCES: THE STORY ABOUT SEXY ‘X’
MARIA: Good evening (in my time zone at least), to the infamous Bowen, the man that makes even Deaf people listen to his LOUD VOICE. It is said that it’s possible to hear your voice even if you’re three floors down. But I assume speaking this way is a part of being a teacher for the Deaf/HoH, right?
BOWEN: [LOL] I was always loud before I became a teacher… maybe I like being the centre of attention. But seriously speaking, I am so used to being loud because people had a hard time understanding me when I was young, this was before I had good speech, so I thought speaking louder will make them understand me. Also, sometimes when I don't have my hearing devices on, I speak louder so I can feel the vibration of my voice. And lastly, me speaking loud means I enjoy the company I am with and having a great time.
Okay, so the conclusion is: the louder you are, the happier you are! All jokes aside, how did you develop your good speech?
I developed good speech thanks to my parents, whom kept getting me to talk as soon as I got my hearing aids… they always asked me questions about what I saw, what I heard, what I was doing... and I also had a really good teacher at school to keep practicing with me. Now my parents regret it because I talk too much. Hahaha!
Let’s now dedicate one moment of silence to your poor parents… So, when were you diagnosed as a hard of hearing person? How does hearing loss help or bother you while being a teacher?
I was identified with a hearing loss at the age of 2, basically I wasn't responding to sounds or talking as I should be, so my parents took me to the doctor and that's how they found out. I think hearing loss is both a gift and a curse depending on the situation. In having a first-hand experience with hearing loss, this allows me to relate to the students I work with. I understand completely what they are going through, their concerns/worries about wearing equipment at school, difficulty making friends and more. So, I know exactly how to help them… On the other hand, it can be challenging for me to understand what they say as kids aren’t always patient, so I have to make sure I can get the information in one shot.
MARIA: What subject do you teach (hope it’s not Math, pleaseeee, I don’t like Math teachers [LOL])? And how did you get into this profession?
HAHAHA, oh my goodness, I am so sorry to disappoint you! I did teach Math before I became a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. "Why is six afraid of seven?"
OH DAMN, I HAVE TO STOP THIS INTERVIEW RIGHT NOW! You're talking to the person who said (unconsciously) during a national radio interview that 2 + 2 is always 2.... the whole Poland probably had a lot of fun then. SO, I'M NOT GOING TO TALK TO YOU ANYMORE! Okay, just kidding, but gosh that was bad luck.
Because... seven eight (ate) nine. Actually, did you know that 1 + 1 = 1?
Math can be seriously dangerous for your health or even life!
But it can save your life too... like how many dosages of medicine to take!
Phew, before people like me figure out how many is needed, they'd rather die.
Anyways, I didn't really want to be a Math teacher - my ultimate goal was to be a teacher for the deaf and hard of hearing. Math was just a subject I was strong at in school and I was required to have a subject that I could teach at a regular school before I can do special education, which is working with students who have a hearing loss. The journey to become a Math teacher was a Year of Hell for me, if that makes you feel better. I had a really hard time doing my practicum to become a teacher - it was at a high school where I had to teach 16 and 17-year-old teenagers, and I was only 22 at the time (4-5 years in age difference).
Tell me more about this hell, I need to calm down now…
There were 30 students in the classroom - I can hear the people at the front, but not those at the back, so I can't hear the questions and I can't tell if people are whispering at the back. So, I had huge problem controlling the class. There was an embarrassing moment where I bluffed. I had asked a student the question and didn't hear what his answer was, so I replied, "Oh, that's correct," but really, he said "I don't know." It was very stressful, and my supervisor wasn't very helpful either. So, in the end I failed the practicum the first time, which made me think of quitting becoming a teacher. Then my mom said no one in this family is a quitter, so I tried again for the second time. Now, I am prepared and know what to expect, so at the beginning of the second practicum, I told the class about my hearing loss and the expectations for clear communication. I also did an unfair hearing test with them, where they all had to wear earplugs and I gave them a spelling test, so they can feel what it's like to have a hearing loss. In doing that at the beginning, it made a huge difference - I was able to focus more on my teaching and do a much better job as a result.
Oh, and I even got to teach about the sexy ‘X.’ Hope you didn't faint at that comment.
Actually, I just picked myself up from the floor after reading this sexy ‘X’ comment. You’re making me weak.
Hahaha, do you want to know more about that? Basically, it is just a technique to help students remember how to simplify fractions.
Wait, I just picked my smelling salts in case of emergency... Okay, tell me more about that, who cares if humanist will survive one Math lecture.
A picture is worth a thousand words: /picture below/
Call for emergency! Okay, okay, it was actually so... SEXY… my flat mates will throw me away from the flat for my uncontrollable laughing in the middle of night.
Are you really laughing? It seems silent to me over here.
You mean you don't you feel those vibrations of laughter from your phone?
Not really… because I am using a giant computer!
Anyway… after getting my teaching degree, everything was a breeze. I got into the Masters program for deaf education to become a teacher for the deaf in the United States. I was the only deaf person in the class, so I had the advantage of understanding lots of concepts given in class compared to my hearing peers. Teaching students with hearing loss is quite different - it is one on one, so I get to build a relationship with them. so as a TDHH, I work on listening skills, reading, writing, and most importantly advocacy skills – as many of my students don't speak up when they don't hear the information, so I always sabotage them by speaking super-fast, quiet, or mumbling to get them practicing advocating. I also do a lot of jokes, as students with hearing loss usually don't get them when their friends make jokes. So, maybe that explains why I make lots of jokes at events (surprised that people aren't sick of it yet, or maybe they already are).
It’s good that you didn’t give up, you even improved yourself so much that from having a problem with controlling the class, it went to not having a problem with controlling the whole IFHOHYP organization as its President. What do you think is important, or even crucial if we’re speaking about empowering hard of hearing people?
This is a tough one to answer because I am still figuring it out... I think the most important thing is self-acceptance. If we don't accept who we are, how can we expect to empower ourselves? We need to be proud of who we are and be hopeful that we will find ways to overcome the challenges. The next important thing is to build a community - find a place where we can feel safe and supported so that we can thrive, to be the best we can.
How did you get involved with IFHOHYP?
I got involved with IFHOHYP in 2014... actually I should add that I met IFHOHYP in 2008, when there was an International Congress in my hometown of Vancouver, Canada. But, I didn't really know or understand what the benefits of IFHOHYP were. Six years later, I received an email from the Study Session preparation team looking for a male team member, so I signed up, thinking that it would be great to visit Europe again (Strasbourg, France) and have all expenses paid for. I was not prepared to be stuck in this international family of HOHs. I have always brought it up at every event/speech that I make - somehow, I immediately clicked with the people I met, Camilla, Jenna, Paulina, and many others. It is such a warm feeling be part of this wonderful community.
What gives you the feeling of satisfaction or joy?
Well after the study session, I somehow ended up being on the Board, thus having the opportunity to be part of events/projects that all have a focus on building communities and connecting HOHs together. I love seeing people create friendships with each other and perhaps even romantic relationships! I also love that they grow more confident after coming to an IFHOHYP event and that is what motivates me to continue serving this community.
You already mentioned that teaching HoH/Deaf students is different because it’s one to one (that's interesting! So, there is no classes for more than one student?). Did you find other differences also?
The students are in regular classrooms with other hearing students, usually one class is about 30 students. I will take the student out from the classroom and go to a different room where it is just me and the student for a 40-minute session. This allows the student to get a listening break from the noise in the classroom and give him or her the space to ask questions about things s/he does not understand in class. I find that often students missed a lot of information in class, so I had to fill in the gaps.
Does that mean that hard of hearing students are in kind of integrational school?
Many hard of hearing students are in mainstream schools (or in your case called integration schools), so this means they are in a regular classroom with other peers. These students will get support from a Teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing like myself. I am guessing there isn't such a job in Poland. Maybe I can be the first one! (after mastering Polish of course). There are very few schools for the Deaf in Canada, only 3 and these are all for signing students.
Maybe you don't have to master Polish if you get employed as an English teacher! Okay, go ahead for next question. How to make classes accessible for hearing impaired students?
First, we do not use the term "hearing impaired" here in Canada, "hearing loss" or "hard of hearing" are proper terms, as impairment seems too negative. I try to encourage teachers to set up their classrooms where the tables are in a U-shape so the student can see whoever is speaking, rather than in rows. There would be a SoundField system in the classroom and a pass around microphone, so that the peers can use it during discussions, rather than having to yank the mic from the teacher every time. Videos should always be captioned, and the teacher should not stand in front of the outside light as it makes the face go dark.
Well… I suppose that even those cyborgs like Math teachers have their own life apart from school and IFHOHYP. What is your passion in your daily life? Should I also add making jokes to this list?
Hmm, I have to say my passion in life is the work that I do with the local youth support program and IFHOHYP. I just love being a part of a community, helping others grow and seeing connections spark. Of course, there are times when I get burned out, so to relax, I spend a lot of time with my dear friends, eat and go on hikes.
Next question then: where can we meet hiking Math teacher? (of course, this question is in order to get know which trails or paths we shall avoid, hehe!)
I come to your dreams, so there is no escape… HAHAHA... my body is physically located in Vancouver, Canada.
/Heart rate in this moment: 0/
And you just identified one of my passions – which is to crack jokes here and there!
Hehe... do you have a favourite joke?
That's the beauty - I don't remember any of the jokes I’ve told - it is only a one-time thing, so very rare to hear my jokes [LOL]. Oh, I guess the recurring joke that I always do at IFHOHYP events is: "Who is having a "discussion" with who!"
Okay, dear Math teacher, at this point of our talk you are quite convincing... enough convincing that maybe now ‘X’ will seem to be sexier for me. (and just maybe if you’re convincing enough, then I'll never say 2 + 2 = 2 in public again).
Especially triple X!
Written at the end of a love letter (or interview…) So, to sum it up, our dear readers, all there is left to say is: XXX.