Monday, October 26, 2009

Juxtaposition of Teaching Sign


I often teach sign & seek out opportunities to do so. I just got back from teaching a fun group of RAs (resident assistants) sign at one of the UW dorms.

As always, I provided some quick background information & an explanation of the difference between ASL, English, and PSE (pidgeon) sign as to clue the learners in on that while *I* personally may sign "How are you?", that this is not uniform for ASL. An ASL user would simply sign, "How you?"

I found myself this time, acutely conscious, of how I kept showing BOTH the ASL and English signs. Really, it is better people are educated that the way *I* sign is not the only way and most importantly: ASL is a separate language that has its own grammar structure. It is not just a way to "represent" English although that is the way I choose to use it. If they were to encounter a Deaf person, I want people to walk away knowing that the Deaf person is not "stupid" or "illiterate" when they may write in ASL or "drop" the "is" from "My name is."

They are not even dropping the "is." They are signing THEIR language properly.

Something I've mentioned before is how I tried (and still try, I'll admit) to distance myself from the Deaf culture because of the lack of understanding that Deaf people have their own culture/customs which may come across as ignorance or even apathy to those unaware of it. It is not always a conscious decision and the older I get, the more I understand how "terrible" this choice sounds.

Some Deaf would say it's not their fault, that the hearing need to become educated. But as always, the perennial question here is: How do people get educated when they're UNAWARE they need to be? Of course, the Deaf are the ones who need to educate. Sometimes, this position gets old.

Some hearing would say the Deaf need to learn English (structure), after all, the predominant language is English. But would that solve the misunderstandings that may occur when (any) two cultures interact? I don't think so.

So I try to do my small part in the world to further understanding. The thing is, though? I'll let you in on a secret.

I enjoy it. I really, truly do. I love seeing people learn to communicate in another way. I love people's minds being expanded. I love being in front of crowds. It is a privilege for me.

I'll probably keep English and ASL in a juxtaposition when I teach. I feel I can't rightfully teach JUST one. It is a bit conflicting; these two modes, yet I find people are flexible enough & understand. So, I'll show you how to sign "How are you?" but I will also show "How you?"


Abi said...

cool blog! :)

Janet "Grammy" Harrold said...

Hi Tasha,

I came upon your blog through a response that you left on another blog. I am the grandmother to "Beautiful Hailey" she is 3 years old and has athetoid cerebral palsy. On Sunday we are about to start learning ASL through a tutor that is coming to my home to teach our family, Hailey is currently considered non verbal. She tries to say words but the only thing that comes out clear is HI, we are a bit concerned that teaching her and encouraging her to learn sign, she is less likely to use her vocals. Please check out my blog to learn more about Hailey and let me know your thoughts on this matter. Thank you.

P said...

Dear Haileys Grandma! I am a mom to a two year old with Down Syndrome and two girls.

ASL very definitely IMPROVES and speeds up verbal language. The ability to communicate and be understood has huge benefits beyond building the oral motor skills to speak.

Your granddaughter will speak with you dedication and if ASL works, you have some means to connect if it takes a slow path to arrive at speaking. But she'll get it, you are persistent!

Consider ASL a way to build vocabulary and increase communication and LOWER FRUSTRATION. I use ASL and prompt my son to also speak.

Speak very slowly and calmly when focusing on teaching but use simple signs as often and with every family member and therapist willing.

My oldest child LOVED signs and used it tons. She spoke early and tons. Plus to learn it you spend

P said...

You spend time one on one, and reading books, doing flashcards perhaps. The benefit of focused attention alone is great right?

You can do it and hope you have a therapist or amazing teacher like this blogger to help. Try to start an ASL group that meets even once a month to reinforce everyone learning it too!!

And to the college blogger, YOU GO!!!! If I ever make it up to Seattle like I am dying to do-- we must connect. Contact me URGENTLY if you are ever in Los Angeles.

I love your passion for teaching. Do find connections both within and outside the deaf culture, I think you can be a great bridge between the two even if you favor one philosophy over the other! ;)

I am thrilled you choose to work with our kids, your enthusiasm and blog reading alone seem to show you have found an amazing fit. Keep exploring and teaching and I look forward to hearing and seeing more soon as you make and acheive your goals!!

One more ASL tip is the Signing Times videos are great way to learn ASL. They are a bit FAST for most of us beginners but we might catch up if we watch them enough. Some clips are on you tube and Laurie Berkner does them but also has awesome kiddy CDs of her own.

P said...

Oh and also enjoy exploring music, it has saved my life and soul.

Kiddy music for grandma. Try music together too, which is a national music program with awesome classes and catchy tunes for kids even adults like

also putomayo music for both if ya, awesome especially their African and hawaiin etc all good