Thursday, March 13, 2008

10: notes from the bilingual, bicultural classroom

...and what's amazing is that out of 17 kids the two who refuse to sign are the deaf ones!

You read that right. The deaf children refuse to sign! I understand why, but it's still marvellous to observe.

I'm proud to say I think I've achieved a fully multicultural classroom. I type this while watching my students act in an anger management and conflict resolution program run by ENACT. The program's goal is to act out common school problems and help students realize better ways to resolve those concerns. We have two interpreters in the room. The Deaf students are new to ASL. They still feel embarrassed about using an interpreter. Their background has been one of being picked on for being different. Here in our school, with deaf teachers and administrators visible, they have begun to have pride in themselves, but there are still barriers. They glance at the terps out of the corners of their eyes and sometimes absentmindedly imitate signs; the hearing students try to sign with them but get frustrated at their embarrassment and instead REFUSE TO SPEAK for the visiting team leaders! Yes, they sign and use interpreters; moreover, the fact that the interpreters cannot tell who is deaf and hearing is very heartening to me... An indication that maybe we're doing something right and can create a real signing community here. Ideally, any student would be able to speak or sign, and be functional on some level in either language, so yes, it would be appropriate for the hearing bilingual student to use ASL interpreters, just as the deaf/Deaf bilingual students do. I do wish I had some indications for ways to ease the distress I see the Deaf students feeling. Should I set up a special class for them? A special group? Do Deaf students need Deaf time? Do they need more structure in their environment to guide language and interaction? And how DO you get boys to be more comfortable with the more extroverted aspects of ASL?

All these questions. And so many answers to find...