“All your life you're yellow. Then one day you brush up against something blue, the barest touch, and voila, the rest of your life you're green.” ~Tess Callahan
Story time at my children's preschool.
A few weeks ago I was asked if I could replaced the person who was to teach sign language to elementary kids (4th-5th graders). Fortunately, the date fell on a Thursday, when I do not teach at college, so I was willing.
I prepared - actually over-prepared; but more sometimes is a good thing - for the after school program. Naturally I do not live where I teach so I got lost and made a turn onto the campus where I should not have and a teacher and I did not have a good start. He did not realize that I could not hear. Nonetheless, after I got into the school, he apologized and I waved it off to simple misunderstanding in a stressful situation.
So I met up with the teacher who was leading the after school program and I got to meet the kids. We went to one of the classrooms and I handed out the ever popular manual alphabet, along with the numbers and colors, popular signs with elementary kids. At least they are not high school kids who try ever hard to get me to teach them the bad language. It was my first time with the smartboard, a new technology and it was quite useful.
Teaching the manual alphabet is not too hard, this one has done it far too many times to worry needless about it, only to make sure that the handshapes are formed right and the palm is faced outwards. Numbers came next then we had fun with the colors. I had index cards and papers handed out (now when one is over prepared like me, I will forget the essential stuff such as index cards and balls) for questions. The students practiced spelling their names and their peers names (where the ball comes in, turn taking). I also had handouts for frequent questions, culture etiquette so far I think that's all.
Some students had questions; I only introduced myself because I wanted questions. One student came up and asked how I became deaf. I explained via smartboard about how I became deaf. Another student came up and wrote 'that's sad.' Now that was the first time someone said that, especially at that age. I shook my head and she wondered why. I wrote that I get to experience life in a different way than most. By me becoming deaf, I get to embrace life that was given to me whether it was perfect or not. I hope that somehow that messages gets through and when life is not fair or if they happen to become different for whatever reason, that they remember the importance of experiencing life as given rather than something to be sad about.
I think it was several days before or after that a link came through one of the facebook pages where an episode in Switched at Birth talked about Deaf Gain.
“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.” ~ C.G. Jung
Deaf Gain is a positive approach of deaf community in a cultural and linguistic minority manner. I will discuss this another time. It seemed to me to have an impact in how I considered my response to the student regarding 'that's sad'.
At the end of the program, I was asked to speak. I did tell the students I can talk when I was asked but I refused to do so on the basis that the students will belt me with questions and assume that I will understand. That is the precarious connection between hearing and speaking, another topic for another time. I did speak a few words, the student was shocked and ran to get another student, which I repeated the process. (Feeling like a caged gorilla).
All in all, the program went well. I felt that I conveyed the importance that my being deaf was not something sad about, only just a part of me and a part of life. These kids were easy to teach than the kids I have, I only delude myself with that for a few minutes knowing I would prefer high school and college, but man, the enthusiasm those kids have? If only!
To Be Whole
Currently I am an ASL teacher at a local college and at an high school. I received my Masters in Sign Language Education from Gallaudet University. At home, I am an activist within the community, Northwest Indiana. My son is in first grade and my daughter goes to E.C.L.I.P.S.E. ASL Preschool. Change begins with you and change is effective with a team.