I’m one of those people who get a bunch of ideas in their brain (due to excitement), then begin to overthink everything and my brain turns into a hamster stuck on a wheel. That is how I’m feeling with The Learning Project already… In a good way! I am very enthusiastic about my topic, mainly because there are so many different avenues I can explore. However, because the options really are endless, it is going to take some organizing and narrowing things down. Strap in folks, because here comes my plan… With some other details!
Learning ASL, Exploring Deaf Culture, & Deaf and Hard of Hearing Classrooms: The Inspiration
I believe everything happens for a reason and sometimes it is difficult to ignore common themes that continue to appear throughout your life…
Recently, I started working alongside a colleague who used to run a deaf and hard of hearing classroom. I think it is so interesting how deaf people learn to communicate and understand the world without experiencing sound. To me, it is truly amazing and speaks to the power of learning being a dynamic and complex process… One size does not fit all. In addition, my sister-in-law is a speech and language pathologist. When she was receiving her training, she was required to learn American Sign Language (ASL). Over the years, she has casually taught me some very basic ASL, which I found myself enjoying. I was also in choir all through elementary and high school. One of my music teachers would have us sign certain songs as we would sing. Signing and singing was my favourite. I felt like I could really capture the emotion of the piece in a meaningful way. Looking back through an educator lens, I also think it is an inclusive practice that we should see represented more frequently.
Taking a more personal angle, I’ve met two deaf people in my life. The first person I met was Mrs. T. I got to know her through my dad’s work and my mom sold Avon to her… Sidebar: Who remembers Avon? She had lost her hearing in adulthood and was able to read lips. I remember my mom explaining when my brother and I would go over to her house that we needed to make sure that she was looking at us when we spoke and that speaking loudly won’t help. She had a black dog who would alert her when her phone rang or if someone was at the door. My mom also said when they would talk on the phone, Mrs. T used some kind of voice-to-text device and had various pieces of technology that she used in her daily life. This would have been in the late 90s, so I can only imagine how many more developments in this area have occurred since. When I first met Mrs. T, I remember feeling nervous. I had never met a deaf person before and didn’t know what to expect. To my surprise, there was nothing Mrs. T couldn’t do and if I didn’t know she was deaf, I probably wouldn’t have figured it out. When I teach the Grade 4 Sound Unit in Science, I love showing this video. I appreciate how honest and inquisitive kids are… They just ask whatever is on their mind! I also think this video takes the “fear/nerves” out of meeting a deaf person for kids, as it highlights helpful information about deafness that is beneficial to anyone (not just kids) who are meeting a deaf person for the first time.
In addition, I worked with a deaf man throughout high school and university when I worked at a local cafe. He was a master lip reader and could sign, but no one I worked with could sign with him, myself included. He would speak sometimes, but was difficult to understand, so he was pretty dynamite at expressing himself through actions. Communicating took a lot of patience and I began to realize that being a deaf person and knowing how to sign doesn’t do much good if no one else around you knows how. He was no shrinking violet and worked really hard to be part of conversations, but I would imagine this would have been exhausting and challenging. It honestly started to bother me that I couldn’t fully communicate with him and I wanted to do something about that, but just didn’t know where to start.
*Cue The Learning Project…*
Learning ASL, Exploring Deaf Culture, & Deaf and Hard of Hearing Classrooms: Resources Collected… So far
Initially, I wanted to learn some basic ASL. I was thinking maybe signing the alphabet, some basic phrases, and possibly learning how to sign picture books and share this with my students. However, there is a whole deaf culture that I feel is important to acknowledge and engage with if I am learning their language as a hearing person. I have also been lucky enough to have gained a colleague who is extremely knowledgeable on this topic, so I started to consider learning about these classrooms in my school division. Who knows, maybe this project could lead to something bigger career-wise for me?
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been gathering resources, following different organizations and people on social media and reaching out to different teachers in my school division to set up a time to chat and inquire about any resources they are willing to share. I have so many resources that I need to start looking through. So. Many. Below, I’ve created a document that is essentially a giant resource dump. Some of these resources might be more useful than others depending on where my project goes, but to help me wrap my brain around my project, I felt like I needed to at least go through everything to help me determine a starting point. I am almost positive this list will grow, so the creation of a Wakelet may be necessary! Since I haven’t had a chance to ask the individuals I contacted if I can share their names or resources as part of my project, I’ve used letters to identify them and I will share their resources if they grant me permission. For now, here is my own list and some of their websites/suggestions I plan on diving into.
Learning ASL, Exploring Deaf Culture, & Deaf and Hard of Hearing Classrooms: The Plan
At this point, I’m not sure what I would like my “final goal” to be. Essentially, I want to learn more ASL than I know now, about deaf culture, and about the deaf and hard of hearing programs in my school division. Going back to my choir days, I would love to be able to sign a song (or at least part of) and teach my students some sign language as well. My project is more process than product driven and I plan to document my growth through blog reflections, YouTube videos, creating a Wakelet to keep track of my resources, and connecting with educators in my division to (hopefully) experience a deaf and hard of hearing classroom.
I find making some kind of plan with dates and deadlines helps keep me stay accountable and on track. So, what I’ve included below is exactly that. However, please know this plan will change and evolve over the next few weeks. Since there are so many topics I am hoping to explore, I decided to focus on a specific topic for a week or so and then move on to the next, while continuing with my ASL practice throughout. To learn ASL, I’m going to start with lessons by Bill Vicars on his YouTube channel and begin with ASL 1, which is the beginner level for learning ASL. I also found another resource called Start ASL that offers free lessons to learn on your own, as well as paid options. Hopefully, my schedule starts forming more of a clear picture for you!
Bits and Pieces Collected: So Far…
As teachers we all know that conversations never actually get wrapped up– the bell rings, “*Insert Student Name* got hurt on the monkey bars”, *CRASH*… Any other interruptions you’ve experienced? That being said, I’ve been given lots of “tid bits” of information to further explore by colleagues, but haven’t had a chance to really have a conversation with anyone yet… Although I’m in the process of making arrangements for some of those! Nonetheless, I’m excited about what has been shared with me so far. Some of these bits and pieces are:
- The speech and language pathologist (SLP) at my school mentioned something to me about the difference between Deaf vs deaf and that there are varied views about using certain sign languages. Some groups do not use any signing at all, while others use a variety of ways to communicate (e.g.: ASL, lip reading, various technologies, etc.).
- Another colleague mentioned something to me about these two ladies on YouTube that… The conversation ended there due to a playground calamity. So I must find out about these two ladies…
- Cochlear implants and auditory processing… Two very new things to me! This was mentioned to me by an SLP I plan on chatting with in a few weeks.
- Also, a serious shoutout to Kelly is in order for passing along some resources and names of people who could help me out with my project!
- Self Advocacy… This came from one of the resources passed down to me. I feel like this is a very necessary piece to the puzzle when learning about deaf culture and navigating deafness. Furthermore, any difference or exceptionality requires self advocacy, which I think is the hardest thing for people to do with pride and confidence.
If you’ve stuck around this long, you’re a trooper, but you’re not off the hook yet! I’m curious…
- 1. Has anyone taught a deaf or hard of hearing student? What was your experience?
- 2. Does anyone have any resources they would be willing to share?
- 3. Has anyone learned ASL or another language in general? If so, do you have any advice for me? I tend to bite off more than I can chew!
- 4. Tell me about your project! How have you organized it? Or are you, “going with the flow” to see where it takes you?
Thank you for reading this very scattered blog post! I am excited to see where this project takes me and I look forward to following your learning projects as well!
Until next time,