Adversity at Elementary School

Stephen Hopson

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Everyone experiences adversity regardless of who they are because no one is immune from it. It's how you deal with it that determines the final outcome.

This is a story of a deaf boy who struggled in elementary school who's life was eventually changed by a caring teacher in fifth grade. This is actually the first series of four articles about my experiences in elementary school. Yes, that deaf boy was me.

From the very beginning, it was a struggle academically. Since it never occurred to anybody at the elementary school to retain the services of an interpreter, I had to sit in the front row so that I could read the teacher’s lips. Classroom discussions were virtually impossible to follow because I couldn’t hear what was being said around the room. In a vain effort to keep up with the flow of conversation swirling around me, I was always asking whoever happened to be sitting next to me what was being said. Eventually, I got tired of watching everyone shrug their shoulders indifferently and rolling their eyes. I began to pretend that I knew what was going on. Fitting in was so important to me that every time the kids laughed, I laughed along even though I was clueless most of the time.

I spent every spare moment trying to keep up with my peers. While most of them finished their homework well before dinner, I was often holed up in my room right up until dinnertime, only to go back and work well into the night.

One evening, I was working on a math word problem. For the life of me, I couldn’t solve it so I asked my father to help me out. We had been going over it for more than a half-hour and making no progress at all. The smell of pizza drifted in from the kitchen. It was almost suppertime.

My father decided to try one last time.

“Stephen, read through the word problem again, ” he said.

After I read it aloud, he added, “Now, do you add or subtract?” Hesitantly, I replied, “Add?”

“NO, STEPHEN YOU HAVE TO SUBTRACT, SUBTRACT, SUBTRACT!" His eyes were bulging, ready to pop out, while slamming his fist on my tiny desk, almost knocking over the little green lamp. I shivered in fear. I wanted to dash beneath my bed and stay there forever.

Going to school wasn’t much better either. Kids taunted me and called me names mainly because of my hearing aid and the way I talked. I remembered thinking, “What have I done wrong?”

Not only did I have trouble fitting in, but I also had difficulty reading the clock, counting money and reading. Although I was gregarious and acted as a happy-go-lucky kid, I actually thought of myself as an ugly bucktooth kid with wires that ran from the hearing aid box to my ears. Other parents didn’t want me to hang around their kids fearing that my deafness would rub off on them. How absurd was that!?!? Want to see a picture of me when I was a kid? Go here:


Because of my academic struggles, I was fast on my way to being held back in fourth grade. Teachers didn’t know what to do with me.

But then fate intervened.

I was allowed to pass, making the way for my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Jordan, to make a grand entrance into my life.

She uttered a simple three-word phrase that was delivered at the right time in just the right way, forever changing my life.

You can see the rest of the story by going to “The Power of Three Words - THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN!". This story is followed by another called “The Courage to Stand Up to Bullies". Finally, the last article is entitled “Remembering 5th Grade Teacher on a National Talk Show. "

ENJOY! (Be prepared to grab a cup of coffee, glass of wine or whatever it is you like to drink and enjoy the stories).

Profoundly deaf since birth, Stephen Hopson is a former award-winning stockbroker turned motivational speaker, author and pilot. He works with organizations that are ready to explore and overcome adversity because no one is immune from it - adversity does not discriminate. His professional speaking services, Obstacle Illusions, include fun and passionate presentations, especially the story of how his fifth grade teacher forever changed his young life with THAT'S RIGHT STEPHEN! You can view his website at Stephen also maintains a blog called “Adversity University" at


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