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24-Love Letters from Vietnam: Tim Says Goodbye to B-7 - Kate Says Hello to New School Year
5 September, 1969
Well, it's Friday night now and our company is is preparing for the big move. It's ten o'clock and we've just finished cleaning the barracks. The floors are so bright you can't look directly at them. Tomorrow morning, it's "Good-bye" to B-7 and "Hello" E-2. By the way, the address will be the same with the exception that instead of Company B, Seventh Battalion, it's now Company E, Second Battalion. I'm not too happy about the move. Just as I was becoming adjusted to the routine, I'm up-rooted again. But the situation does have possibilities. It may give us an opportunity to part company with half of our present roommates. O'Brien, the , and I our going to screen our perspective roommate very carefully. I don't think asking for references is out of order.
I received your cookies yesterday. What do you mean they were a flop? As usual they were very good. Thank you, Kate. I'm looking forward to a life filled with peanut butter cookies.
Except for the move, it's been the same routine. The only thing in my present life that is constantly changing is my love for you. It's growing stronger and more complete every day, Thanks again for the tap, Kate. Whenever my love makes the separation too hard to bear, I listen to your voice and you're closer to me.
By this time, you should have "hit the beach." Well, what do you think of your four new charges? I think I'm a little jealous because I know I'll soon be sharing your love with them. But then again, that's why I love you as I do; you have so much love to give.
Well, it's getting late now, and I'd better go. Wish your parents well for me. Pray for me, Kate as I do for you.
From Kate to Readers
For a List of All of the Tim and Kate Letters, Click Here.
To My Dear Readers,
As you read these letters for the first time, I'm sure you realize that I, too. am reading them for the first time - in forty years! And forty years is a long, long time - longer than perhaps some of you are old!
Several things are amazing to me in this journey. One of the most important insights, I think, is how beliefs change over time - well, let's just say how my beliefs have changed over time.
In today's letter, Tim mentions my starting school in the Fall. My degree was in deaf education. It was a major that perhaps I should never have pursued. (More about that later). He mentions "four charges" which might seem an unusual class size. But it is true that in my second year of teaching, I had a class of only four students. These students were profoundly deaf since birth and had multiple disabilities. Two of the children, as I remember, were diagnosed with significant social-emotional problems and were in foster homes. Two of the boys had been diagnosed with reading disabilities. This was a fourth grade class and the children were reading on a first and second grade level. Our school district had adopted the "oral" method which included only lipreading, speech, auditory training, and reading in it's approach to teaching language. The speech of the children in my classroom who had been trained since pre-school in the auditory method using their hearing aids, supplemented by lipreading was for the most part unintelligible; hence, the reason for the small class size. More time and effort was needed in teaching language acquisition to this particular group students than to other students in our school who were more proficient with lipreading, speaking, and reading.
As the year progressed with my students, as I could see that it was impossibile to solve, for example, a problem that happened outside of the immediate environment. (A disagreement on the playground or in the lunchroom could not be solved if I wasn't there because the students couldn't explain what had happened.) I started, therefore, to question the method I had been trained to use. Remember this was the time before coclear implants and improved hearing aid technology. A pencil that might drop on a student's desk was amplified at the same decibel level that the speech of the classroom teacher was being amplified.
The major objection to teaching children sign language at the time was that the structure of American Sign Language did not follow English Language structure. Leaders of the oral philosophy of deaf education in the midwest, specifically Alice Streng and Winifred Northcott, felt that teaching through sign language would not enable deaf children to function in a hearing world. (This was all before significant research that substantiated that American Sign Language was a viable language with a rich syntactic and semantic structure.)
But just as there were dissenters to the war in Vietnam, just as support for that conflict was starting to not make sense, so too, was there dissent from deaf educators as to the efficacy of the oral method. Research in California by McKay Vernon started to trickle to the Midwest in this same year that I was doubting the approach I had been trained to use and was presently using in the classroom. Vernon had started to experiment with a "Signed English" system of teaching which was beginning to interest teachers like myself who were becoming less and less convinced that oralism worked for all children.
So, just as my beliefs about deaf education were beginning to change during this year, my confusion about the war was intensifying. But overriding all of these internal conflicts was my struggle with the religious belief in abstinence before marriage that had been ingrained in me (and in Tim as well) through years of Catholic school education. It would become for us, an almost insurmountable problem as our love deepened through the letters, the phone calls, and the audio tapes we sent to each other. To read and listen to what we believed then is a bit mind-boggling and a testament to how blessed one is if he or she has been given the opportunity of age to reflect on continue to grow and to learn. It leaves me with an feeling of obligation to pass along any wisdom I feel I've acquired. But the question is this: When I was young, would I have listened to anyone's "wisdom" had they tried to pass it on. I don't know the answer to that question.