I was mainstreamed in a public school from Kindergarten to Grade Six. There were about twenty mainstreamed students in our school of several hundred "hearing" students.
We were split into two classrooms, one for the lower grades, and one for the upper grades. The routine constisted of aural training, speech therapy, and remedial English. It felt like hours of repetitive listening on headphones, repeating the sounds heard, copying the teacher's face, and reviewing flashcards.
Aural training happened at the "big table". It was a semi-circlular table where the students sat around the outside and wore headphones plugged into a jack in front of us with a microphone snaked up in our faces (ready to bite i imagined). The teacher sat in the center with her own microphone and she'd say a phonetic sound and we would repeat. "Shh Shh Shh" in succession as if we were robotic seals in a circus. I was often bored and would fidget waiting for my turn. I'd play with the volume control and hum "mmmMMMmmmMMM" into my microphone.
The rest of the class time we were plugged into our own desks and there was a microphone hanging in the middle of the room. Apparently I wasn't the only bored kid in class, there's been times when the teacher would have her backed turned on us and a fellow student would jump out of their seat, reach up and get that microphone swinging in a wild pendulum and scoot back before the teacher turned around. "Who did this?" she'd demanded, but we'd just shrug our shoulders.
The rest of the school day we were in the regular grade classroom. We'd wear these HUGE hearing aid. They were the size of a restaurant napkin dispenser! Big ugly dark-cream colored bugger that strapped on my chest with vinyl straps over my shoulders, criss-crossed across my back, under my armpits and snapped back into the unit. The teachers wore a color-coded microphone and you had to switch out our "color chip" to match the teacher we were with. There's been days I'd freeze outside because my parka couldn't zip up over the damn thing! There's been times where I'd forget to switch back to my regular hearing aids at the end of school, end up going home with it, where the battery eventually died and I'd miss my cartoons all night. The weirdest experience I've had with the school hearing aid was when the teacher would excuse themselves to use the bathroom, but forget to turn the microphone off! I've heard toilets flushing, water running, hand dryers blowing and other "business" UGH!
Because of our common "bond" of being mainstreamed, the twenty or so "Deaf" students hung out and did a lot of activities together. It wasn't uncommon to see a second grader playing with a sixth grader at recess. This sometimes caused problems because of the difference in sizes. I remember we were playing a group game, either Tag or Red Rover, I was punted in the chest by "Big John". We called him "Big John" because we had two Johns in our classes, so there were "Big John" and "Little John". There I was on the ground holding my stomach and crying for my Mommy. "Big John" scooped me up, he was a BIG guy, stood me up and begged me not to tell the teacher that it was his fault. After I calmed down, I promised him and got a big bear hug from him.
The mainstreamed students even had their own buses to and from school. A lot of us were not within "walking distance" so we were either on a small mini-bus, or a station wagon "cab". After school we'd call dibs on who rode in the far back where it was "bouncier".
When Grade Six rolled around and it was time to change schools, I begged my parents to let me go to the Deaf School. I was tired of being teased and bullied on my hearing aids, coke bottle glasses, the way I talked or anything else they could think of. I'm not going to wail away about that, we've all been there one time or another, you were either bullied or were the bully.
Whenever I see someone moaning about something that happened to them when they were young, I'd just say "Welcome to Childhood!" You live, you learn.