My Teaching Philosophies in ASL and Deaf Classrooms (Infographic)
Teaching sign language to Deaf and hearing students allows me the flexibility to teach according to my teaching philosophies I mapped out in the visual above. Inherent in American Sign Language (and the hundreds of other global sign languages) is the ability for me to teach with the theory of multiple intelligences as these languages are learned visually, kinesthetically, and linguistically. And what makes it especially conducive to my future employment goals, is that this is the case whether I am teaching in a brick-and-mortar classroom or online. ASL instruction, for better or worse, is loosely regulated which allows me to build a safe learning environment for growth, rather than needing to focus on state-mandated testing. If my students are not allowed to learn resilience and determination by making mistakes and trying again in school, where can they learn to develop these life skills?
Minority Languages Stand on Their Own
My non profit organization, The Deaf Dream, works with students from around the world whose language is belittled and, too often, suppressed. In an almost eerie way, the state of the Chinese-run education system and the fate of the Tibetan language mirrors the last two hundred years of Deaf education (both education systems I explored in my posts earlier this week). The hearing-built school system has focused on making Deaf children ‘as hearing as possible.’ I have spent the last 15 years studying the research surrounding the Deaf right to language and the clear superiority of bilingual / bicultural education (Gibson, 1997). My primary goal is to teach Deaf students in their primary, innate languages first, with English taught as a written second language. And in the case of teaching sign language to hearing students, I have actively avoided teaching fingerspelling as this is simply a set of gestures created by hearing people for an English language concept. I hope to communicate to my students that sign language stands on its own, despite unfounded social dialogue to the contrary.
Homogenizing Curricula is the Norm
One of my philosophies was especially honed into me as I reviewed the public education systems around the world this week. The idea of a “one size fits all” approach to schooling is damning; it literally blocks students from development of self. And yet, on every continent, the majority of school systems promote “unity” by homogenization both in curriculum and in the style of teaching (emphasis in linguistic or mathematics intelligences, rarely any others). My philosophy is that skills like reading, writing, and presenting, should be learned ONLY through a student’s passions. When I want to expand their horizons and teach them something new, I do this through enthusiastically teaching and setting up experiential learning activities, but NOT as homework, testing, or skill-building activities. This concept is a no-brainer to me because the purpose of education, in my perspective, is to develop the whole student (thank you, John Dewey!) and nurture a love of learning that will extend beyond a school day’s hours or 12 years of education, not an “acquisition of pre-determined skills” (Talebi, 2015).
Armstrong, D. F. (2000, May 4). William C. Stokoe, Jr: Founder of Sign Language Linguistics 1919-2000. Retrieved September 13, 2020, from http://gupress.gallaudet.edu/stokoe.html
Gibson H., Small A., Mason D. (1997) Deaf Bilingual Bicultural Education. In: Cummins J., Corson D. (eds) Bilingual Education. Encyclopedia of Language and Education, vol 5. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-011-4531-2_23
Talebi, K. (2015). John Dewey - Philosopher and Educational Reformer. European Journal of Education Studies, 1(1). Retrieved September 03, 2020,https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED564712.pdf