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March 13. That will be the day I will forever remember for the rest of my life. Early Friday morning, the administration sent an email to all faculty and staff to meet in our Performing Arts Center (PAC) at eight in the morning. A few days prior, rumors were spreading that our school might be in the process of shutting down…until the end of summer. 

I teach American Sign Language (ASL) at this private school and I have been teaching for over ten years. Jobs for teaching American Sign Language is soaring all across America because it is a visual language and it allows for students who struggle with other language another alternative. I identify myself as deaf/hard of hearing. I’m fully deaf in my right ear and I have at least 40% of hearing in my left ear. Yes, I wear a awesome hearing aid that has bluetooth that allows me to listen to music and watch videos on my iPhone. 

As I walked into the PAC that morning while catching up on my emails on my iPhone, I noticed at the whole room was silent. Eerily quiet. I found a seat in the auditorium. One of my colleagues, who is deaf as well, sat in front of me, sitting next to our Vice Principal holding a laptop. He opened up Google Slides and used their closed caption feature for translation. Our principal and president of the school were standing in front of the auditorium with worrying face that already explained what about to happen next. 

School got shut down. 


Digital Learning

All of our classes would be now done by going digitally. For me, this wasn’t an issue since I’ve doing all of my ASL classes digitally. Rarely ever given any assignments on paper and all students turned in their assignments using Google Docs, Google Slides and they uploaded their ASL videos online. Teaching digitally for me is a no-brainer; however for my colleagues, especially my older colleagues who don’t teach much online I had the most concern for. 

The week prior I decided to test out several digital meeting rooms with my students to find out which digital meeting they were most comfortable with: Google Meet, Zoom, and Canvas Conferences. As we tested each one, students giggled, made jokes, made funny faces and the ringing feedback since they were all in the same room testing it out was constantly annoying.

They all liked Zoom. 

March went by slowly. Students were experiencing the shock of not going to school anymore. Families started losing their jobs. At first, students were trying to be enthusiastic about doing classes online. They loved that classes didn’t start until 10am. In April, things starting showing signs of fatigue. Being inside with family started to annoy them. Being inside and not going out was starting to drive them crazy. Class time online on Zoom started to be less engaging. In May, things really went downhill fast. Some students were having issues within their families that they had to find a job to support their family. Some students were sleeping in and missing their classes. It felt like they were giving up on school for 2020. I believe some really did. 

Pandemic.

I knew it would be really bad. Really, really bad. What I didn’t know was how badly it would impact my life. After graduation and in the beginning of June, I had a Zoom meeting with my principal. My hands were shaking as I waited to go online at nine in the morning. Once I logged in I saw the faces of my principal and president of the school. I knew it at that moment it was bad. 

I lost my job due to very low enrollment. 

My last day was June 9th. 113,000K Americans had died by then. I have not put any gas in my car since March. Last time I went to the grocery store was April 3rd. I obsessively watch CNN from 9am to 5pm. My mental health is at a all-time low. Just to get my mind in a another place, I watch Mindhunter and Stranger Things to take me into an alternative world. I don’t go out unless I absolutely NEED TO. I now order all of my food to be delivered by Amazon or FedEx. 

I filed for unemployment on June 9th. The claim system confused me. It’s now July 3rd and my claims still haven’t been processed. I’m absolutely am going insane. Being deaf growing up has been extremely difficult since communication can be confusing as a kid. I often say, “What?” “Can you say that again?” and it annoys my hearing friends and family. Some refuse to say what they said by saying, “Nevermind” or “It’s not that important”. 

Growing up I often find myself in my room reading books after books since I didn’t have alot of friends. My younger brothers tried to get me to socialize more, but often found it hard sometimes. Now, during this pandemic, I find myself extremely isolated. I try to go out for a walk at least once a week (yes, I know I should try doing it everyday) but the fear is real. At 37, I have underlying medical conditions on top of being deaf. So, as you can see I am trying to do everything in my power to not get COVID-19. 

On June 19th, I went to my doctor for a follow up appointment. On that day I was debating in my head if I should go or cancel it. BACK AND FORTH, for three hours prior to the appointment. Upon arrival, I was greeted by a nurse who did a non-contact temperature check and then given a facemask. The doctor came in the patient room with a facemask and I was like this is going to be hard. Sitting down, he said,”I know you’re deaf/hard of hearing, so I will SPEAK LOUDER FOR YOU”. 

Sometimes I wished it wasn’t this hard. 

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Thomsen Young

Founder of SG