GMIS which is located in northern Jakarta, in Kemayoran and to be to be precise, near Ancol beach. It is one of the most reputed schools around south east Asia and is affiliated to the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge International and Indian Higher Secondary Board. This means that it offers its students the rare opportunity of opting for the curriculum which will best benefit them for life beyond school. It also organises a variety of events which are extremely well-managed and challenging that provide opportunities for the development of the students' other skills which put them in an adventagious position should they opt for alternative careers once they finally leave their doors and enter universities or professional institutes. I was astounded to learn that as many as thirteen stage plays are performed during the year. My first thought on hearing this was, "The school should be in the Guiness Book of World Records."'No child is to be left out' is the school's policy which in my mind should be an USP of the institution. This policy has worked wonders for the present students like me as well as the alumni. It is no wonder that its 'Hall of Fame' includes Miss. Indonesia 2011/12, a co-founder of Facebook and a bronze medal winner at the SEA games held earlier in the year, in this very country, Indonesia. And at the time of writing I have just come to learn that our Head Girl, Shrinjeet Kaur has been crowned 'Miss India Indonesia'. Even the morning assemblies are so elaborately planned - skits, dances, inspiring videos, band performances and entertainment. Students of the school like myself consider it an honour to be part of it. The succes of this event can be gauged from the the number of parents who come from far and near to witness it while also offering support and solidarity to it. I realized before long that with the potential and ambitions that I harbored, the school was the ideal for me in realising my dreams. All I needed was to be patient and wait for my opportunity to prove that I was not just a small fish in the sea.
I was filled with what seemed a fresh lease of life. I could foreshadow happy times ahead for I possessed a prized talent; dance. I was confident that if I got the opportunity to dance before everyone here I could certainly earn the respect and recognition necessary for me being accepted by everyone. The opportunity came barely a month later when I enlisted myself to parform at the 'Dance Talet Time, Inter house competition'. Unfortunately, for me my bravado and confidence suddenly deserted me as I had to fight my own devils; what if I was not as good as the others who had been trained in various dance forms andalso worryng about how prepared and confident I was. I had not really done any dancing at all since my arrival in Jakarta. Added to this was the quandary I faced on what dance style to perform. I knew I could easily perform an Indian classical dance, but this form was quite common and so the 'wow factor' would not be there. I thought, "Sherwin you can perform a Kathak dance, but is your heart set on it?' The answer was a difinite 'No', for I wanted to do something which would stand out and make me be noticed and remembered. Eventually, after much deliberation I decided to perform ‘Contemporary’ for to be honest I was fascinated with this form of dance which I had seen on the small screen’s reality programme, ‘So You Think You Can dance’.
I spent endless hours for the next couple of weeks glued to Youtube, learning and practicing each and every movement of various dances that caught my fancy. There were so many ideas running through my brain that it was really like trying to solve a Math problem, mostly because it involved using different angles and shapes. The 'pivots' were extremely difficult and I often landed where the sun doesn’t shine as I’d keep losing my balance trying them out at home. Also, often when leaping in the air I’d end up on the floor like Peter Parker, without his supernatural powers. I knew I had to perform each and every movement and gesture perfectly so that the story which I wanted to convey could be understood by the audience. I needed to make every emotion come out as if it were being relayed by my soul, and for that I needed to record and recall all that I saw minus the music. I knew I could depend on my counts to keep in step for I had mastered that skill.
My House teachers were very encouraging as they bent the rules by allowing me to submit my audio recording just a day before the contest. In fact I was not supposed to be permitted to perform since I had overshot the last day for submission of the audio track that I was to perform to. In GMIS deadlines are a sanctity which everyone has to adhere to. Excuses are not encouraged or permitted. After submitting my audio CD I said to myself, "Fortune, you are my friend and as long as you are by my side I am certain that I can raise the bar for myself and the other competitors.
On the day of the competition the auditorium was packed to capacity. This was one of the favourite competitions and all the participants backstage were tense and anxious. Almost all the different dance styles were performed from Hip Hop, B Boy to Bhangra, Kathak to K Pop, and Freestyle to folk dances. The wide array of dances was either applauded or met with cold silence. It did not take rocket-science to know that the popular dancers were the ones being showed the most appreciation by the audience. I was in the meanwhile waiting in the wings, anxious and unsure of how I would be received. A cold sweat trickled down my white tuxedo shirt making me shiver. Suddenly I felt the urge to urinate and I crossed my fingers that I did not wet my pants. My turn to dance was towards the end of the show and so the longer the wait, the more my adrenalin began to increase. The wait which was about an hour seemed to me similar to an over-enthusiastic mountaineer at the foot of Mount Everest with many hours to go before reaching the first base camp.
The audience who by now who had seen most of the best dancers perform was now getting restless while some were seeming to get bored. "This certainly was not a good omen", I gathered..
After what seemed an eternity, my turn came. I took my position towards the left rear end of the stage and then raised my right arm to indicate to the sound controller that I was rearing to go, though my heart was pounding like an automatic gun. The song I had decided to perform on was, Fix You, by the band, Cold Play. I had especially decided on this song as it was about the devastating Tsunami that destroyed so many lives and property of the country that had given my brother so much happiness. The pictures and articles that were on display immediately after this terrible natural disaster haunted my family for months. I wanted to dance not just for myself alone but also as a tribute to the citizens of Japan for their bravery and selfless sacrifice.
Three minutes transformed my life forever! It changed me from being, a nobody to being elevated to the status of almost a celebrity and by the end of my performance I had achieved what i set out to do. I was given the first standing ovation in the school. I guess it continued for almost three minutes. Never before had anyone, ever received a standing ovation since the inception of this event which was many years ago. The very mention of my name by the Principal during his feedback at the end of the programme saw the audience stand up and applaud for me, once again. I, who was standing with all the participants need to say with with utmost joy thai I felt as proud as Neil Armstrong when he put took first step on the moon. Immediadtelyafter the speech was over I was presented with glowing tributes from everyone who had witnessed my performance and from others who had heard about it. After it was all over I thought to myself, "two or three minutes is all it takes to change a person’s life, positively or negatively," Time, I realized was very important and one should certainly make best use of it.
A week later I was with dad in one of the elevators in which there were two more students, busy chatting on their hand phones while dad and I were silently standing in opposite corners. The elevator stopped on the fourth floor and these two girls got in. The elder one I knew whilst the other I had seen, but had never been introduced to. The girl whom I knew said, “Hi Sherwin, where are you off to?” Before I could reply she said to her friend, “This is Sherwin, he’s the great dancer!” The girl looked at me and with a friendly smile said, “Yes, I remember you, you're the guy who danced Contemporary, you’re awesome! Where do you train, and do you dance Broadway, too?” I read everything she said and replied, “I train on my own by watching videos and to be honest I’ve never tried Broadway, but I guess con if i try." I had barely finished telling her this when the elevator reached the bottom floor. “Bye, see you later,” they said in unison and went off on their own business. Dad looked at me and smiled, appearing very proud and happy. “You’ve come a long way from being known as the deaf boy to being called the dancer boy, think of it, there ain’t no mountain high enough for you. All you need is the determination and hard work to reach the peak. I’m happy and proud of you! I’ll see you back home”.
The extreme hot and humid conditions that enveloped the city and made life uncomfortable for all including me soon but soon it had to give way to the monsoon to perform its duty and didn’t it show its power and might by showering rain whenever and whenever it so desired, much to the delight of everyone except the mercury in the thermometer which was forced to lower its status. I’d say that it had got used to facing highs and lows in a similar manner that everyone does in life, not out of choice but rather due to the influence of others, and situations. I could empathize with the mercury as life for me too had seen both, the high and the lows. However, through it all I had realized that nothing lasts forever.
It was about a month later, in the afternoon and I was waiting for the rain to stop. The rain which was falling from the Heavens as if it was falling in sheets had forced me to stay put in the shade and cool of the school’s lounge. I was leaning against a wall when Mrs. Jaya Lyall, a Grade 10, teacher approached me. I immediately straightened up and with a sign of surprise looked at her. One look at her soft, motherly expression and I immediatelly felt at ease. “My son, the students of my class have to perform for the Assembly in about a fortnight and they would like to do a contemporary dance, however they need the help of an experienced dancer. They have requested me to approach you to help them and even help with the choreography of the dance. Would you be willing to do it?” I was not sure if she was actually telling mee this or whether i was infact dreaming. It wasn't the norm for a student of a lower grade to guide those who belonged to a higher grade. i looked at her and was assured that it wasn't a dream. I thought over the matter and realized that the experience would do me good and also I’d make more friends. “Certainly Miss, when could we start?” She seemed delighted with my response and said, “Tomorrow, after classes are over, if it’s fine with you?” “Okay, I’ll come to your class and meet them.
After school, the following day I went to grade 10 D where an Indonesian-Chinese girl, named Jennifer met me. She was with about nine other students and it was apparent that they were waiting for me. She took the initiative to introduce herself and the others too. She informed me about the basic ideas that the group had in mind. I underatood that she and another boy were to be the lead pair and that they had already decided on who would be partnering whom. I listened to her but did not say very much as for I was paying attention to whatever she was saying for I was afraid that I could embarass myself if I did not give her my undivided attention. Then when i had gathered as much as i thought relevant to know such as, the basic message to be conveyed and the concept, I promised to give them some positive inputs the following day.
I went home directly after that and watched a number of Mia Michaels’ dances videos. I spent the entire evening watching her videos and continued doing the same late into the night. I was trying to see how I could fit in bits and pieces of various dances as well as some of my own into one dance. The difficulty was that the tempos of the various dances were different as compared to the tempo of the song which they had selected, Also, the steps which I could perform with ease were too difficult for them. It was way past midnight before I was able to decide on the formations and a few set pieces to teach them the following day.
The process of doing a few sets a day was working out great and within a week’s time they had all learnt the dance. I found managing my time that week was like trying to play on a see-saw all by one’s self. If I spent more energy on the dance the pressure on completing my daily school tasks increased while on the other side if I exercised too much time on the school tasks then the pressure on completing the dance increased. It was like something which I had learnt about in a Math or Physics class, called Inverse proportion, which needless to say I did not understand. I realized now why I could not understand it then; it was because of the difficulty I had putting it into practice, and also due to the fact that dance was much simpler and more interesting to me.
The morning of the performance saw me leaving home before anyone at home which was an achievement in itself as I was always the last to do so, on any other given day. The others at home had not even started preparing to get dressed when I said, “Bye everyone, wish me luck!” and before anyone could say anything I opened the front door and was off.
At school I met up with all the performers and had a quick run through with them. I was impressed with the outcome and was especially impressed with the way Jennifer danced; so gracefully and so filled with emotion, as if she were a part of the lyrics of the song. I wished them luck and took the back seat, hoping that the dance would be appreciated by the learned audience who knew a thing or two about dance due to the number of occasions so many of them had participated in some sort of dance or the other at one of the various events that the school holds. This style of dance though was quite new and so I was worried that it was a gamble. There was nothing in my hands anymore and I was left standing thinking that at least I was accomplishing one of the International Baccalaureate student’s profile demands; that of being a 'risk taker'. Thinking over it all in the short time I had before the Assembly began made me feel like a philosopher of old as came to the conclusion that - “A life without risks is like life teaching you nothing.” With that thought I took my place alongside the audience.
While the dancers performed I noticed that the others in the audience were looking at them and appeared moved by their performance. I noticed that everyone was watching the troupe as if mesmerized or under some sort of magical trance. If Ilooked for a reason for satisfaction filling my heart, it was only to obvious - it was Jennifer who gave me the satisfaction. I was enamoured with her grace and perfection. I wished at that moment that it was me performing with her for as I knew that she was the ideal partner for any good dancer, leave alone me. However, as they say that if wishes were granted then beggars would ride and so I knew my wish would remain being just a wish. Later the Principal offered his feedback,mentioning that the dance was enchanting and very different from what was usually presented at the Morning Assembly but that he liked it and enjoyed it tremendously. Finally, a students who offered the vote of thanks mentioned my name and thanked me on behalf of her classmates for the choreography and support renders to the troupe of dancers. I had no idea then that I would be inundated with requests for choreographing for other evnts of the year.
As the year progressed I found myself choreographing a Ballroom dance for our class play, Romeo and Juliet in which I also played the role of Samson. I was not to dance in it as the character, Samson wasn’t supposed to be at the event when the dance was being staged. However as fortune or misfortune would have it, just a day before the play was to be staged one of the male dancers fell ill and so I had to fill in for him. Doing so felt a little difficult as it was like learning to use your left hand when you are right handed. Then barely a fortnight later, it was my own grade’s turn to host the programme for the Morning Assembly and my still recall teacher, Ms Rachael informing me that I was to choreograph and also perform a Contemporary dance with some young ones of Grade 4, which I did. Then a short time later I was again approached by a teacher who was directing the the grade 6 play to choreograph a contemporary dance, depicting a conflict between a mother and her daughter. fFinally when another teacher approached me to help out with her Grades' morning assembly performance I had to refuse using lack of time as an excuse. It was true though as since I was devoting so much time to dancing and choreographing I was not giving even half the time needed on my academic work. Fortunately for me, the school and subject teachers were very accommodating and always took out extra time to help me make up for lost time. I’m sure that in no other school would the teachers have been so supportive and understanding.
It was Mr. Vijay Kumar, the ESL and Ujan Nasional Coordinator who had been sitting in the Principal’s office the day I had been called regarding the bullying incident that met my dad one day and said to him, “Mr. Richard I had no idea that your son had this hearing impairment. Let me tell you that your son has a gift and is an inspiration for all those who suffer from this handicap. The way that he answered the Principal’s questions had me believing that he could hear normally like anyone of us! It was the Principal who informed me after your son had left the office that he suffers with a hearing impairment. Your son should tell his story to the world so as to inspire others. He’s a gifted boy!"
It was dad who then helped me to relate my experiences to you so that no one be thought of as less equal or less fortunate than others. We all have our strengths and weaknesses and must not only accept it, but overcome them. I may be a gifted dancer but I cannot sing a line in tune to a song. I agree with William Shakespeare when he said, “All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.
No doubt I will be in a better position to appreciate Helen Keller’s statement that she found deafness a far greater handicap than blindness…. Blindness cuts people off from things, deafness cuts people off with people. For now, my close relationships remain wonderfully significant. But knowing that hearing loss can be socially isolating, I often wonder, will these relationships and life in general still as be satisfying once school life is over.
If you did not know……
Classification of hearing impairment:
They may be classified as a) Mild hearing loss, where the child suffers from a hearing loss between 15 – 40 dbHL. These children may have difficulty in following speech in noisy situations. b) Moderate hearing loss ( 41 – 70 dbHL). These children have difficulty in following speech without a hearing aid. Also, they have great difficulty in noisy situations. C) Severe hearing loss (71-95 dbHl). These children have difficulty in following speech even with a hearing aid. D) Profound hearing loss (>96 dbHL) Hearing aids will be of little to no help. When the hearing loss occurs at a young age, interference with the acquisition of spoken language and social development may occur. Hearing aids and cochlear implants may alleviate some of the problems caused by hearing impairment, but are often insufficient.
Pre-lingual hearing impairment exists when the impairment is congenital or otherwise acquired before the individual has acquired speech and language, thus rendering the disadvantages more difficult to treat because the child is unable to access audible /spoken communication from the outset. It is important to note that those children born into a deaf family using sign language have no delay in language development and communication. Most pre-lingual hearing impairment is due to an acquired condition, usually either disease or trauma; therefore, families commonly have no prior knowledge of deafness.
Social impact in the pre-lingually hearing impaired
In children, hearing loss can lead to social isolation for several reasons. First, the child experiences delayed social development that is in large part tied to delayed language acquisition. It is also directly tied to their inability to pick up auditory social cues. This can result in the deaf child becoming generally irritable. A child, who uses sign language, does not generally experience this isolation, particularly if he attends a school for the deaf, but may conversely experience isolation from his parents if they do not know sign language. A child who is exclusively or predominantly oral (using speech for communication) can experience social isolation from his or her hearing peers, particularly if no one takes the time to explicitly teach the child social skills that other children acquire independently by virtue of having normal hearing. Finally, a child who has a severe impairment and uses some sign language may be rejected by his or her deaf peers, because of an understandable hesitation in abandoning the use of existent verbal and speech-reading skills
It is commonly known that untreated hearing loss may have serious negative psychological effects. Some are more common than others -- here are some of them: shame, guilt and anger, embarrassment, poor concentration, sadness or depression, worry and frustration, anxiety and suspiciousness, self-criticism and low self-esteem/self-confidence.
Untreated hearing loss often results in certain physical problems such as tiredness or exhaustion, headache, vertigo, tense muscles, stress, problems with sports, eating and/or sleeping disorders and stomach disorders.
Effects of hearing loss on learning
Childhood hearing loss is a very common problem within our schools. Even a very mild loss can affect how a student learns. Every teacher in the early elementary school can expect to have one-fourth to one-third of his or her students without normal hearing on any given day. Children spend at least 45% of their day engaged in active listening activities. It is obvious that teachers need to be aware of the impact such a loss can have on learning. The maximum desirable noise level for children having normal hearing is 35 decibels (dB). The noise level can reach up to 44 decibels in an empty classroom with only traffic noise from the street or hallways. With 25 students and one teacher, the noise level can reach from 55-75 dB. Children in the process of building their language base do not have the same linguistic experience as adults. Adults call on their experience with language (previous knowledge of a topic, known vocabulary, grammatical/sentence structures) to fill in the gaps in hearing. It is only when children reach their teens that their speech recognition in difficult listening conditions comes close to that of an adult. It also has a negative impact on verbal language, reading, writing and academic performance. A loss of any type or degree can present a barrier to incidental learning because:
90% of the knowledge acquired by a young child is learnt incidentally.
A hearing loss is a barrier to overhearing and learning from the environment.
Children with a loss often miss social clues.
Children with a loss cannot listen and learn--at least 10% of classroom instructions may be missed.
Academic losses occur in children as early as kindergarten and first grade. Most children with losses begin to show considerable learning difficulties when they reach third grade. This difficulty may be due to the changes in language complexity, less visual clues, more verbalizations, greater need to sequence and recall and lack of development of pre-skills in the previous grades.
How can teachers help?
Teachers need to evaluate the listening environment and the skills of their students.
Suggestions to aid in meeting the specific needs of the hearing impaired child in the classroom are:
Do not turn away to write on the board or cover your mouth while talking.
Rephrase if the child does not understand rather than repeat the same words over and over.
Seat the child away from hallways, playground noise, etc.
Allow the child to move around in the room in order to clearly see the speaker.
Use as many verbal cues as possible. Take time to explain things. Give context clues-- a written word, object or picture to set the stage to help follow the change of subject.
Write key words of an idea or lesson on the board or use an overhead projector.
Assignments should be written on the board so that the student can copy them into a notebook used for this purpose.
Appoint a helper/note taker for the child.
If the child's hearing impairment involves only one ear or if the impairment is greater in one ear than the other, seat the child in front of the room with his poorer ear towards the noisy classroom and his better ear towards the teacher.
Speak clearly and with moderate speed.
Source: Sanjeevini Clinic, Mangalore, India.
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