Thursday, February 19, 2015

Trapped by Snow...I Gotta Write

Earlier this week, my town was hit with 10 inches of snow.  If you live in the north, you might be giggling at 10 inches, especially if you are in Boston.  However, for us, it is a blizzard!  School typically closes if we get an inch or 2 on the ground.  We've been out all week with no hope of returning to school soon.

So, what does a cooped up teacher do when she is trapped in her house for days?  Write, of course!

I have the bug.  Not the sickness type of bug but the writing bug.  Sure, I have been blogging sporadically for a couple of years now; recently, though, I can't stop thinking about writing.

Since December I have been working on an article for my school district's newsletter about teacher leadership.  I drafted it then put it aside.  Nothing motivated me to pick it back up and continue working on it, even after getting some great advise from Chris Bronke (@MrBronke).  That's until the National Blogging Collaborative  (@natblogcollab) came into my life and partnered me with Brooke Perry (@brookster29) as my writing coach.

In over a week's time, my "rough" draft was revised again and again until it was in mint condition.  Valuable feedback was given by Brooke; even other NBC coaches chimed in.  I cannot believe the transformation of this piece from beginning to end.  I don't think I have ever been more proud of a piece of writing as I felt when I emailed the article last night.  Now I patiently await publication so I can share it with the world.

And now I have the bug!  Since Monday, I
  • have finished drafting a co-blog and am working on revisions with my co-blogger with the hopes of publishing soon
  • outlined another co-blog with him that will come out before the first one is finished
  • and am now writing this blog

I do look forward to getting back to work educating bright minds, but am quite happy to have been trapped in the snow so I could write!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

My Magic Wand

Recently, a question was posed in a Voxer chat group that really made me think:

If I had a magic wand, and with one motion could change something in education that would make my job more effective, what would I reform?

My initial response is that I would magically establish regional DHH programs throughout Kentucky.  Why wouldn't I pick that answer?  Anyone who knows me well would think the same.  This subject is what I have been advocating for years now.  It is the quickest and easiest answer to this question.  However, the more I contemplate, the more I realize that there is ONE thing that would completely transform how I teach.   If this one change was to occur, Deaf education would never be the same again.

Imagine what it would be like if parents, upon discovering that their child was deaf, were paired with a Deaf mentor.  This person would be the parents' connection into what life could be like for their child.  A Deaf mentor could:
  • Make daily/weekly visits to the home to teach parents and family members American Sign Language
  • Help the parents understand what living in a visual world is like
  • Connect parents to other Deaf adults, parents of Deaf children, and Deaf teens
  • Serve as a role model to the child
  • Provide strategies for parents on how to incorporate aspects of Deaf culture into their home
  • Help parents understand that learning ASL will help their child learn to speak if so desired
  • Be the one that connects parents with hearing professionals
The list goes on and on.

How awesome would it be if parents and family members of Deaf children became fluent in sign language so that there would be no barriers to their interactions?

How different but exhilarating would it be if Deaf children entered preschool or kindergarten with a fully developed language that consisted of over 10,000 signs/concepts similar to the language level of hearing children?

How thrilling would it be for these children to be developing a Deaf identity prior to entering school?

How would the dynamics of Deaf education change if teachers no longer had to constantly play catch up as they tried to directly teach ASL, offer incidental language learning opportunities, AND teach English and other academic content?

This is to not say that other supports and services for the child and their family would be eliminated.  There is still a need for speech therapy for those children who would benefit from it.  Research has proven over and over again that learning ASL does not hinder speech development; it enhances it.

Additionally, teachers, consultants and other professionals (hearing or Deaf) that provide support to parents are still vital to the overall development and success of a deaf child.  These professionals would work in collaboration with the Deaf mentor and not in place of.

For those children who are hard of hearing, they would not be lost in the fold; Hard of Hearing mentors would also be available to serve as role models and mentors to the family.

Let's use a magic wand and allow Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals to be the first point of contact for parents of children with a hearing loss.  Let them welcome parents into this visual world and show parents what their children could become!