Voice ~ In Any Form

download           Day 7

Last week I attended a Ministry session and had the pleasure of joining a table with two deaf    educators and their ASL interpreters. I was in awe of the brevity of the signs and how those  hand gestures translated into such well-defined lengthy responses.  It quickly became apparent  which ideas were being emphasized as the educator’s movements became more demonstrative,  with the occasional banging to the chest or on the table.  Respectfully engaging in a conversation  with a hard of hearing or deaf person requires one to watch the “speaker”, but listen to the  interpreter. As a society, we naturally look at the person speaking to us, but not in this case.  So it took a while to get a rhythm going, but the more I watched and listened the more impressed I was.

As the session continued, our collective conversation focused on challenges with Literacy instruction, both at the student desk and when it comes to supporting educator learning.  This teacher started to share her frustration when teachers for the deaf/hard of hearing rush to sign for the students instead of letting them figure it out on their own, especially when it comes to demonstrating evidence of their learning in a written form.  She wondered how much of the teacher’s input was being reflected in student work.  Although her teaching assignment is unique, in that the teacher’s role includes the added dimension of signing, the challenge of knowing when support translates into changing the message is a common one.

I remember a story that a friend shared about her daughter and a story that she had written.  The teacher mistakenly thought that her daughter has misspelled the character’s name and proceeded to change it throughout the story and send it off to the “publisher” in that form.  Although this example is a minor one, it was a significant “faux pas” in the eyes of the student.   To her, the name and how it was spelled had a special meaning and the teacher had changed it.

I wonder how we ensure that we are honouring student voice and not impacting or changing it by imposing our thoughts and ideas. That is always one of the challenges when we model any skill for our students.   What conditions need to be in place to ensure that our students’ authentic voices (in whatever form they use ~ words or signs) are reflected in their work?


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One thought on “Voice ~ In Any Form

  1. Well , I’m catching up – promised I’d respond to every post. Am a bit behind but I’ll get there. 🙂

    My son and I had the opportunity about 10 years ago to work for 3 summers at the Robarts Summer Technology Camp for the Deaf or hard of hearing. It was a very exciting time. It was a residence sleep over camp so the students were there all day long in the labs and then in the various dormitory rooms at time – eating in the large cafeteria for all meals. Signing was only one way those deaf students communicated. The speed at which they could sign was quite amazing and the signing instructors showed us the many short-forms the kids had invented to even speed up the process. But most kids could read lips and carried on a normal conversation with us, but you had to be looking straight at them while speaking. I learned to speak much clearly at the time. It was also very humorous when they had to compensate for my own speech issues. I often stammer when I talk and when they first tried to read lips and noticed my stammer – they’d look at me quizzically – once they were told what the real issue was, they smiled and adjusted their own thinking and we communicated quite easily.

    Then some students were getting cochlear implants at the time! Those students could still sign and read lips but some measure of hearing was being restored.

    The implications for schools and teachers (and support services) when and if all of these hearing impaired students leave the specialized schools and come to our public school system, is huge. Teachers will need an entirely new skill-set and mind-set.


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