Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It's Not Just Deaf Ed

Anyone who knows me has probably heard me complain about elementary teachers. So first, a disclaimer -- I have known some really outstanding elementary teachers who do a great job. But I taught students in junior high who told me that their elementary teacher told them straight up that they hated math. This is not the way to improve math education.

We see the same thing in my deaf school with science. (Math and science aren't the same thing, but it's the same issue.) The elementary teachers say they hate science, they don't like teaching science, they don't understand it, etc.

Today, my mom told me about a university professor who teaches an earth science course for elementary ed majors. He says he's not impressed with them by and large. The majority say they hate science, and even go so far to say they won't teach science, and therefore they hate his class because he makes them actually use their brain cells and learn the stuff.

Guess what -- elementary teachers are not exactly in short supply. Sure, if you get a job at certain schools, they might have science specialists, so you'll only teach language arts and math (the math part is another issue, of course, since in my experience, most people who hate science aren't big math fans). But most likely, you won't have the luxury of picking and choosing.

If you don't want to teach science (or math), don't be an elementary teacher. If you're passionate about teaching reading and writing, be a secondary English teacher. Or maybe you can get a gig as a reading resource teacher. But spare the kids -- they don't need a teacher who shortchanges their math and science education from the get-go.

Friday, February 13, 2009

I won't be one of those girls.

Even if/when I get married (the relative weight on either side of that slash is debatable ... a whole other issue), I can't imagine enjoying the kinds of conversations I sometimes hear. Verbal fluff of the social variety. Who so-and-so is going out with, followed by which couples you go to dinner with, and did you hear about their new house?

Don't get me wrong. I like conversations. I even like hearing news about people I know but may not have seen lately. But there ought to be some substance in the conversation. There ought to be a reason you're telling me. If not, let's talk about something else. There are plenty of interesting topics in the world -- movies, music, politics, world events, the latest advances in science, the Razzie and Darwin Awards . . .

So I won't be one of those girls, standing in the corner of the grocery store talking about nothing for half an hour. If it's your idea of a good time, it's just as well that I'm single right now, and therefore have nothing to say. The world I live in seems to be a different one.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Politically Correct? Um, no...

This is actually an old "inside joke" from last year, I think, but I figured I should document it for posterity.

There was an argument (for which I wasn't present) regarding the label "hard-of-hearing". Someone complained about referring to some kids as deaf and some as hard-of-hearing, saying we should just call them all deaf.

Besides the fact that some of the kids call themselves hard-of-hearing -- and I'm not about to tell them their self-identity is wrong -- sometimes we need to differentiate which kids we're talking about. Essentially, we need a way of referring to kids who have some level of reliance on spoken English.

Around school, I sometimes refer to them as "talkers". But when I heard about this argument, part of which being that hard-of-hearing has some kind of negative connotation, I started thinking about a more "accurate" label for such individuals.

What I came up with was SHATSAFASEs -- Students Having Access To Sound Adequate For Acquiring Spoken English. And yes, if you say it fast enough, it sounds like "shut your faces". :-X

Is that better, or can I please say hard-of-hearing when I need to refer to kids in a deaf school who hear enough to understand spoken English?

Another Year, Another Attempt to Blog

The mood has again struck me to try and keep up this blog. My theory for why I skipped the entire year of 2008 is that I had nothing interesting to say . . . unless anyone is interested in hearing about how one student still doesn't do his homework and none of them ever study for tests.

But the "English" part of me is feeling neglected, probably because I feel like I spend more time in ASL than English these days. Oh, and have I mentioned the bewildering fact that I continually have to teach my high-school-age students words like "steep" and "minus"? And these are the kids who are above an elementary reading level. Not complaining, really, just marveling.

So, I will endeavor to find something interesting to say. Or, if not interesting, at least informative.

Next week promises to be another mess of non-classroom time. Honestly, if there were a competition for which school could find the most excuses to take kids out of class, my school would win, hands-down. To be fair, Tuesday through Thursday isn't their fault -- we have to give the state competency exam, required for graduation. Friday, though, we're spending a couple hours celebrating MLK, Jr. Day (early due to scheduling conflicts).

I'm all for giving our students an enriched education full of cultural and historical significance. But even our brightest students are barely cutting it in mathematics, so I'm not for taking them out of math class to do it. Isn't that what social studies classes are for?

Being the miracle worker I'm supposed to be, though, I'm sure I'll find a way to make it work. :-P

A lot of people have been talking about New Year's Resolutions. My main one is to read more . . . I miss it. Since I now have a first period for the first time in a year and a half, it's a good excuse -- I have to read with them 20 minutes each morning anyway. And it's my calculus class, so they don't need my help to read their own books.

Downside . . . I have to find a way not to get so engrossed in a book that I spend all my time after school reading it instead of getting my work done. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Here We Go Again...

So much for updating regularly. And now I can't remember whether I fixed whatever "design issues" were bothering me before. Oh, well.

I survived my first year at NMSD, made some great friends among the faculty, and worked with some great students. There were also some horror stories, but I'll share those later.

For now, I'm home in Utah for about a week to unwind, then back to Santa Fe to teach in the two-week summer program. (Help, I'm clueless!) That should be a lot of fun, including some deaf students from Sweden. I'll get to learn a little Swedish Sign Language! :-D

Until then, I'm saving up my energy for that tedious 9-hour drive back to Santa Fe.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


You may notice over the next little while that the look of the blog changes bit by bit. I made a silly decision to upgrade to the new version of Blogger, and because I had some hacks before, it messed things up a little. Now I'll have to play around with it until I get it like I want again. (And relearn all the stuff I used to know about HTML in the process...) Fortunately, I'm soon going home to see my siblings who are more web-design knowledgeable.

Meanwhile, don't feel obligated to get a Google account and log in to leave a comment. Just click the "Other" option and type in your name or screen name.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Progress is Sweet

I was just going through, "labeling" all my old posts, and read through all the posts that are the reason I started this thing -- student teaching at a school for the deaf in Spring 2005.

Something struck me -- how stressed I was about the language. It's been almost 2 1/2 years since I entered graduate school, feeling like my ASL skills were completely rusty. I remember that first day at orientation, hardly understanding anything and pretty much ready to panic and give up. Two quarters later, I had some confidence back, and was ready for student teaching, but I was still so nervous about understanding (the students) and being understood.

Fast-forward to now ... Sure, I still have moments of, "What on earth are my hands thinking?!" (most often when I don't get enough sleep) and while conversing with students, I have those moments of, "Say what?" But looking back, I have those moments with hearing students, too. Moments when the "math" part of my brain doesn't connect effectively to the "linguistic" part of my brain. Moments when the students make comments so out-of-nowhere that I just can't process it the first time around. Moments when students are mumbling, talking too fast, not speaking up, or otherwise being "teenagers" in their communication.

The nice thing now is that I no longer freak out about whether I can communicate with deaf students. I know I can, and I do. And every week I'm getting better at understanding when they're having animated, non-academic conversations with each other. Yes, 4th period, I do catch a lot of what you say ... I'm just not always paying attention or looking your way (especially if I'm helping one of you with your math). ;-) Between student teaching, my time at NTID, teaching part-time last year, and especially teaching full-time for the past four months, my fluency has increased more than I actively realized. It's a good feeling.

The final hurdle to overcome: the increased anxiety I feel when I'm signing with Deaf adults. It's not something I choose to feel. Every Deaf adult I've interacted with has been super-nice and supportive. There's just some kind of subconscious pressure I put on myself to "live up to" some invisible standard.

... and signing in front of the entire faculty? Forget about it. Maybe next year. :-)

What Kind of Coincidence...?

How weird is this? My "traditional" zodiac sign is Aries (the Ram). My Chinese zodiac is year of the Sheep. And my first name means "a ewe" (female sheep).

Does this mean I should have more of an affinity for wool than I do? Or do I bleat in my sleep?

Cross-Language Dilemma

Can someone help me with how to sign "read upside-down" in ASL? It's something I do all the time, and a very handy skill for a teacher to have. You know, most of the time I'm across the desk, facing the student, and since I can read upside-down, the student doesn't have to turn the book around for me to see what they're asking about.

But I'm not perfect at it. Sometimes, when my brain is a little more tired, or the textbook is more complex with technical vocabulary, I have to work a lot harder at understanding from my upside-down perspective. This means I make the occasional mistake, and I try to say something along the lines of, "Oops, wrong me, my fault for trying to read that upside-down."

Every time I say something like that, I feel like I stumble over the "reading upside-down" part. I just haven't figured out the appropriate way to sign that.

Where are my ASL teachers when I need them?

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Too long ... much too long

I've got to get back into the habit of posting stuff...

I'm just about halfway through my first school year here. Things are still going well. My students are great, and I have a lot of fun teaching them. Having five very different classes to teach wears me out a little, but it's also really interesting and keeps me on my toes. Teaching Pre-Calculus gives my brain the kind of exercise it needs to avoid Alzheimer's later in life, I think. ;-)

Funny thing ... People are always saying to me, "It must be so different teaching deaf kids," or, "So how do you teach math to deaf kids? Isn't it hard?" It still floors me every time. It's not that different. Teenagers are teenagers, whether they can hear or not. Just like in any group, there's a lot of variety in personalities, but that just makes it interesting. Since I know the language, teaching them math isn't so different from teaching it in English. True, quite a few students struggle with English ... but I've taught ESL kids and struggling readers before. It's not like I have to re-invent math just to teach it to deaf students.

As with any school, though, things aren't perfect. We're a little off-balance with academics vs. athletics. Anyone who wants to claim I don't support athletics can stop right there! The kids know I come to every home game I can manage, and I totally support them. It's just the sheer volume of time they're taken out of my class, particularly due to sports (although there are other things as well).

Consider that most of my students are behind grade-level, to varying degrees. That means my goal is to help them close the gap. To do that, they have to make over one year's worth of progress in a school year. But how do we do that when in some cases, students will miss my class at least 30 times in the year? Get it?

Fortunately, some dialogue has begun about that, so hopefully we can make some steps to find more balance.

Something else hit me really hard today, though. I had to interpret between a student and some members of his family. That just stinks. Not that I had to interpret -- I'm happy to bridge communication barriers where appropriate -- but that I had to interpret. I can easily see reasons these particular people aren't fluent signers yet, but I hated the realization that I can have much more meaningful conversations with that student than his family can.

Someone needs to use all this high-speed internet, web-cam/video-conferencing technology to set up really high-quality ASL classes for family members of deaf children. Somehow we have to get around the "time" and "money" constraints that seem to get in so many people's way.

Well, just another week, then two blissful weeks at home (and hopefully this time I can force myself to do some lesson planning ... once I get started, I actually enjoy planning different activities and approaches ... it's just the "getting started" part that gets in my way). :-P

Meanwhile, here's another picture of Melanie, the Plucky Ducky in her Halloween costume:

Definitely a cutie! :-D I can't believe she's almost 6 months old already.

Hopefully more to come soon ... if I manage to remember that I have a blog ... and if I get some indication that anyone's actually reading it.... ;-)