Monday, October 29

My Elementary Made Who I Am Today



Transcript for Sign-Impaired: "My Elementary made who I am"
done by KMG.L (aka) gnarlydorkette

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When I was age 2, I was diagnosed deaf-- severe to profound deaf. That is fine, but my mom was stumbled on where to enroll me for school. The first consideration was Riverside Deaf School-- in California, known as "CSDR" (California School for Deaf, Riverside). She was contemplating but you have to know that Riverside is about two hours away from my home-- so we went to see the school-- I do remember vividly the visit. I spent my time playing and socializing with Deaf people. Anyway, my mom felt that she cannot send away her daughter. She loves her kids too much and she was in conflict with herself until she found out a public elementary school close by in San Diego which is mainstreamed-- my mistake, a school that has a special-needs program tailored for Deaf children using sign language. The program was a lot like to Riverside program-- deaf children in a classroom-- so I was sent to that elementary school.

I went through all grades at that same elementary. I do have many positive memories related with Deafness and ASL. I grew up knowing and seeing Deaf adults at my school. I didn't have any Deaf teachers at my school until 6th grade-- no, 4th grade. So from preschool to 4th, most Deaf adults were working as teacher's aides for hearing teachers who could barely sign. The Deaf teacher's aides would take over and tell stories in ASL-- many are still alive and still working. There were so many Deaf teachers’ aides, so I will say that in my class annually, there would be two Deaf teacher's aides at most. There was one Deaf senio-- well when I was 4 or 5 years old so it must mean he was... probably 60years old, at least to me, and he was "old-school" and used ASL old fashion in story-telling-- we the children adored him so much.

But that is my point! From age 2 to... age 10, I was in a HEARING school BUT I do have Deaf teacher's aides-- deaf, deaf, deaf everywhere. Plus my classmates were Deaf-- on an average for every grade, there were 10 deaf classmates-- from five to ten per class. There was always at least one Deaf classmate with a Deaf parent. So I grew up knowing that there were Deaf parents-- and that I was just different by having hearing parents. I went through elementary thinking that life is normal. When I reached fourth grade, I did have a Deaf teacher originated from CSDR-- in later years, I found out that he taught at my school because he was a graduate student and he had to teach a class for his thesis or dissertation. So we, the deaf students, looked up to him and found out he graduated from Gallaudet University-- we were fascinated by Gallaudet. When I was young, I thought Gallaudet was the ONLY college-- I didn't even think about where the Hearing people go-- so I thought to myself, Ok I will go to Gallaudet University because it is the only one so I must go there anyway. Growing up, I thought Gallaudet was the only one choice. Oh how naive I was!

Anyway, the deaf teacher always preached his love for books which was the reason for his thick eyeglasses. We learned a lot from his classes. I became older and in 5th and 6th grades, I did have Deaf teachers-- all were similar to my 4th grade teacher-- Deaf graduate students training to become a teacher.

My 5th grade teacher was a champion-- that was where I realized how possible it is to ... compare ASL and English. How she did it-- which frustrated me so much-- was that she would film us signing in ASL-- poetry for instance, then asked us to write down English equivalent of our ASL poetry as our homework. It stumbled many of us because we thought it was impossible and only saw ASL and English as separate and non-interchangeable languages. She forced us to see a bridge to interpret back and forth. It was frustrating but at same time, an eye-opening lesson to realize that it is possible to interpret English to ASL or vice versa.

Often we would discuss about which English word that best suits a sign-- we would look up in dictionary or thesaurus to get close enough for translation. The teacher filmed us over and over and assigned us the homework-- which we got sick of but we knew she got a good heart with good intentions for us to understand English and ASL. Often in front of the camera, we would try to sign in PSE or SEE and she would stop filming and said that it was not our normalcy, just sign as we would in normal circumstances. We gave in and just signed in our natural language. We watched ourselves on videotapes and tried to scribble down English translation-- Imagine a 5th grader, aged 10 or 11, watching a videotape of self and write down English translation!!

In 6th grade, we have a male Deaf teacher which went by fine-- so in 4th, 5th, and 6th grades we did have a deaf teacher-- however there was still a hearing teacher in presence-- as a moderator to guide through the young graduate students.
So that is my whole elementary experience-- Deaf teacher, deaf teacher's aides, Deaf classmates, with Deaf parents...

Also, I want to add one more thing-- I remembered from kindergarten and all grades, my principal knew signs and he was hearing. We had a name sign for him-- Mr. H-- Hartford [I may be mistaken-- I realized it may be Harrison?]. I am sure you can ask any body who has gone to that elementary if they remember Mr. H-- they will automatically say, "Oh yes I know, cool black hearing signing principal!" The vice-principal did know signs, but not so well. When the principal was replaced, we were devastated but the new principal did know signs pretty well. So if we got in trouble and got punished to be sent to the principal’s office-- we didn't need an interpreter-- they knew signs well enough to yell at us.

Also, my elementary mascot had "ILY" signs in both hands. The elementary mascot was a Dragon named "Spitfire" with your typical dragon features-- wing, smoke out of nose, and two "ILY" ("I love you" sign) hands

So I grew up in a very positive environment for Deaf children-- Deaf teachers, signing principals, hearing people knows signs, etc.

There were a large number of Deaf children-- for each grade level, there was at least one all-Deaf classroom-- sometime there were three deaf classrooms for one grade level.

So my elementary years, at that certain school, had an impact on me. You know the adage where you have to expose everything to a child at a young age to make an impact-- so my elementary had done their job with me-- checked. I grew up with a positive mentality and proud being a Deaf person.

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