Mohammad Adeeb watched quietly from the back of the classroom, closely following the techniques that the specialist teacher adopted to bridge the communication gap hanging over her classroom. The student researcher was looking to complete his Master’s degree, and intended to use these observations to create a formal curriculum for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. In this moment, the student hoped to capture the skill of the teacher and transform his notes into a set of replicable instructions, spreading the success of al-Rajaa school beyond Jordan’s borders and to schools across the region.
One would think that entering al-Rajaa would involve immersing oneself in a world of sign language, but this was not the case. The classroom was lively with eager chatter, with sign language used only in moderation. Although unable to hear, the older students had long since developed key lip reading and contextual understanding skills that helped them speak and listen in total silence.
When asked about how students can learn to interact so confidently, the teacher, Mary, points to the mirror on the wall. “They hear with their eyes”, she explained, and described the process of getting children to speak in front of the mirror, observing the ways that their lips should move in order to produce the desired sound. The teachers also ask the students to place their hands on their throats, noses, and mouths to feel the vibrations. With practice, deaf children can learn their alphabets, and eventually, can learn to speak without ever hearing their voice.
In today’s lesson, the students were sitting in a u-shaped circle and attempting to lip read the teacher, to work out which foods she was describing. Different teachers make themselves more or less easy to lip read, helping students to prepare themselves gradually for the realities of lip-reading in the real world. Today, the students were doing well, the room surprisingly active with answers and discussions.
Many of the scenes Mohammad Adeeb was witnessing were not unfamiliar to him. He first enrolled in the school at the age of 4, and remembered the challenges associated with passing high school education as a deaf child. Beyond his higher education credentials, he is also a full-time teacher; he was recently appointed as the school’s Physical Education instructor, having rejected an earlier offer from the Ministry of Education. For Mohammad Adeeb, the school is his second home, the place where he first learned to communicate with his family and friends.
It is perhaps this motivation that is helping him to design his Master’s thesis in his spare time. Now at 33 years old, he wants to give back to a system that once helped him flourish.