A student 'listens' to the encouragement of people around her
Seventeen year old Bea Tan felt all kinds of emotions during her first day as a Grade 11 student in Miriam College's Miriam Adult Education (MAE) program. Deaf since birth due to a hereditary condition, it was the first time since studying in Miriam College Southeast Asian Institute for the Deaf (MCSAID) from preschool to Grade 10, that Tan was about to be part of a class of hearing students. "It was scary, it was nerve wracking, I was so nervous and excited at the same time since it is the first time that I will be in
a mainstream classroom with hearing students," Tan shared via sign language.
Her worries proved to be unfounded. Tan, along with two more deaf students
from MCSAID, were welcomed and accepted by the Grade 11 students of MAE—most of whom are scholars from public schools.
And the acceptance wasn't just limited to befriending the three deaf students in the class—all 37 classmates of Tan learned sign language for months to better understand and help their schoolmates adjust .
"Our apprehension is that they (the deaf students) might have a hard tune adjusting, but the rest of the MAE students have really good hearts, and they adjusted well to disadvantaged students like them," said Glenda Villanueva, MAE principal.
Using small cue cards, Bea taught her classmates basic sign language via teaching them the alphabets first, then the basics.
"They now know sign language," Tan proudly shared. She is one of the pioneer students of MAE's Inclusive Education Program for high school. By opening their doors to deaf students from MCSAID and other public schools, they hope to set the foundation of these individuals for an independent
and brighter future ahead.
In 2012, the first batch of deaf students were enrolled under the technical vocational program, particularly bread and pastry production as this was the fastest way to land in entrepreneurial activity, and to even land a job.
Tam shared that although it was difficult at first to study in a traditional classroom, she was able to adjust well thanks to the her teachers, majority of whom, know sign language.
"It s difficult because you need to catch up with what the teachers are saying. They can't just slow down for us while the rest of the class waits. It's a good thing that most of my teachers know how to do sign language. So they teach the class while doing sign language."
The instructors of MAE are equipped to handle disadvantaged students such
as Tan. Most have undergone special life-skills training such as learning sign language to prepare them for a more inclusive MAE program.
"For the most part, we learn by keeping track of what's written for us, and we also do lip reading."
The program has proven to be so successful, that from three enrolled in the previous school year, 33 more deaf students have now signed up under the MAE program.
For Tan, being part of MAE has taught her life-changing lessons she hopes to
bring with her once she enters college — she is currently in the process of applying for a visual arts course in UP and Miriam.
"The best part of the journey is that I had an opportunity of being with hearing people. I got to try so many things, which I have not experienced before. I used to call on someone to interpret for me when I was still in MCSAID,
now I've learned to be independent, to try and challenge myself, and face the difficulties on my own."
Throughout this journey, Tan has a lot of people to be thankful for — her
parents, and of course, her teachers in both MCSAID and MAE.
"I find it's easier to go through this with empowerment from my teachers
who inspire me to do my best, and who also do their best to teach us. Of
course, my parents and my siblings."
Today, Tan enjoys the best of everything in her life — she gets to study in
a prestigious school, and at the same time, she also enjoys the simple things
in life like playing with her dogs or going out with her friends — just like a
normal girl would.
"You just need to be brave to try something that you haven't done before,
to be ready to face the uncertainty With this journey, I knew that I was about to get out of my comfort zone, to be with people who can hear. It's a challenge, but I wish to face all of these without my limitations. I have learned how to be independent, how to work hard, and now I will wait for what God has planned for me."