With all the advances in the quality of hearing aids and the popularity of cochlear implants, I don’t teach very many students nowadays who can’t hear anything at all. While they might not be able to understand speech, most students react to sounds, though they can’t always identify them. “It’s a truck backing up” I’ll explain, or point out the crow on the branch of the tree outside the classroom window.
We are in the midst of studying the story “The Treasure of Lemon Brown” by Walter D. Myers, as part of our national curriculum program. It turns out that this story is highlighting those students who have a serious hearing loss. I did teach it last year but only to a few hard of hearing students. This year we have a more diverse group in terms of hearing loss.
The main part of the story takes place in a dark abandoned house, during stormy weather and there are quite a few references to sounds. Two of my students thought lightning was simply called “thunder and lightning” and did not know that thunder makes a sound (other students did know this). When clouds hit each other there is lightning! There are scary noises in the dark, in particular, “a scraping sound” which was harder for these students to understand than the crashing sounds.
The main character, a teenager named Greg, tries to “quiet the sound of his breath” when he is crouching, afraid in the dark. That was hard for quite a few kids to understand.
Not one of them was perturbed by the fact that Lemon Brown sang the Blues. Some had encountered the name (” like Jazz”, they said!). Others simply said they had no interest in what type of music Brown sang, knowing he was a singer was enough.
But the hardest phrase was this one:
“His father’s words, like the distant thunder that now echoed through the streets of Harlem, still rumbled softly in his ears”.