Meanwhile, in Connecticut

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My blog this year will be a hodgepodge of serious and goofy entries — I hope to chronicle my days as a grad student at Smith, but I also want to have some entertaining/distract-from-constant-school posts.

Currently, I am on a break (between our summer session and fall semester), so I have plenty of time for non-school posts.  I’ve been spending my days hiking (Connecticut is beautiful), avoiding lyme disease (Connecticut is lyme-ridden), reading, and alternately losing and regaining faith in humanity as I spend time online.

Losing Faith in Humanity Via Internet:

1) Here is an actual quote from a Craigslist ad I read today:

“Your duties will include assisting me with the day to day operations of my company as well as you and I being lovers.”

He knows what he wants.  And he’s willing to pay — 1500 a week.  These ads make me curious about the poster.  How far removed from reality (and the Beatles) do you have to be to think that money buys you love?  OK, OK, I know he said “lover” not “love,” and money has been proven to be effective in that field, but when I read this type of ad, I see someone who is trying to fulfill the daydream in his head of a hot assistant who dotes upon him…and I think he wants to be loved.  Maybe.  Maybe?

2) When titling this post, I typed “Meanwhile” into Google, and a suggested search was “Meanwhile at Walmart.”  Which, as it turns out, took me to a site dedicated to photos of people/occurences at Walmart. Don’t visit the site.  Really.

In March, when I had arrived in the States after a year in Korea, I called my (soon to be) boyfriend and told him I wasn’t sure I liked living in America.  It kind of scared me and I didn’t feel like I fit in.  He told me I needed to spend less time in Walmart and stop “accidentally” watching reality TV shows.  He was right.

Regaining Faith in Humanity Via Internet

1) The following Craigslist goat ad.  Hilarious.  Maybe not faith-in-humanity restoring, but something similar:

“I have 2 dozen goats I need to get rid of. I had no idea raising goats would be this hard. These little bastards keep eating all my wife’s flowers and climbing on our g*d* cars. Nobody told me they were such good climbers. The first person to get these damn goats out of here can have them.”

2) The abandoned Walmart that got converted into America’s largest library.  Very cool. The florescent lighting makes my brain twitch, but the idea is awesome.

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Masters of Deaf Education: What I’ve been learning.

(Note: This post will basically be a summary of the classes/course content I took this summer.  You’ve been warned.)

I’ve blogged about how busy I’ve been and written an overview of the basics of Oral/Audio deaf education.  Today I’m going to continue that theme and give brief descriptions of the classes I took during the summer session.

ELL (Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners)

This was the first year an ELL course was required as part of the M.E.D. program, and I believe the reason is that new education legislation was passed requiring all certified teachers to have a certain amount of ELL course hours.  “ELL” is essentially a broad term for ESL or EFL; it refers to non-native speakers learning English.

The class: ELL required many hours — we had between 11 and 14 hours of class and observation every week.  The class sessions were mostly four hours long.  Four. Hours. Long.  As a human, and an ADD one at that (I’m so trendy), four hours is far beyond my capacity to retain information.  To be fair, our teacher was great about mixing up the format between lecturing, discussions, and group work, but ultimately four hours was quite a stretch, especially every other day.

The content: We learned about different teaching approaches designed to create ELL-friendly classrooms.  The course was designed for regular classroom teachers with 1st generation students in their classes, so it wasn’t about how to teach English, but how to teach a lesson (any subject) in a way that shelters (helps guide) the kids whose English abilities are low.  However, we did learn specific methods of English teaching, and were able to observe local language classrooms with international students learning English.  The observations were the most enjoyable part of the course because they were a tangible experience of the hypothetical situations we discussed in class

Perspectives on Deaf Education

This was a two part class, in which we studied curriculum (specifically, Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum) in the morning and discussed the history and controversies surrounding Deaf Education in the afternoon.

The class: The coursework consisted mainly of reading and reflections.  Classes were lectures in the morning and video/discussions in the afternoon.  Our final project was an anthology of curriculum resources to use in our teaching careers.

The content: During our morning classes, a huge emphasis was placed on Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum, which basically means curriculum designed to meet the developmental needs of a child according to his/her age and ability.  DAC encourages parental involvement, takes into account different learning styles, and considers different theories of development and teaching (Skinner, Erikson, Maslow, etc.)

During our afternoon classes, we learned about the history of deaf education (which is long, interesting, and has been rapidly changing over the past 20 years.)  We also watched Sound and Fury, a documentary about a deaf family faced with the decision of choosing whether to implant their deaf child.  After watching the documentary — and the informative followup — we discussed the controversy of oral vs. manual education.  (Which I will go into more detail in another post.)

Introduction to Hearing Science (Audiology)

Developing Auditory/Oral Communication

Oral Deaf Education — No I don’t know sign language

signlanguage1280x1024“So are you studying sign language?”

I get a variation on this question almost every time someone discovers I am studying deaf education.  It’s an understandable query, as most of the portrayals of deafness in films/the media tend to revolve around signing; eg. Mr. Holland’s Opus, Children of a Lesser God, Seinfeld, The West Wing, etc.  There doesn’t appear to be a lot of public awareness about the advances in auditory technology over the last 20 years (the FDA approved the cochlear implant for toddlers in 1990) or the different communication options for DHH (deaf and hard of hearing) children.

Oral Auditory Deaf Education

I am studying an oral auditory approach to deaf education.  Essentially this means I will be teaching DHH children who have hearing devices — cochlear implants or hearing aids — that allow them to electronically access sound.  So: deaf kids who can hear.

When I explain that my students will be able to hear and I will be speaking to them, the next question I get is: Why do you need to be specially trained? (Why aren’t the kids all fine at public school?)  Without getting too detailed, here are three main reasons:

1) Hearing devices are received after months/years of living without (or with limited) sound.  This puts them behind hearing babies who have access to sound in their mother’s womb.  DHH infants/toddlers need coaching to help them listen to and understand the sounds around them.  The first time they hear, they don’t understand what the noises mean — it’s like listening to a foreign language (except exhausting because they are working to hear).  They need to be surrounded by constant language input.  They need to work on the listening hierarchy of detecting, discriminating between, identifying, and comprehending sounds.

2) Hearing with an implant or hearing aids is not as clear as natural hearing.  It is slightly distorted/staticy; my professor likened it to listening to staticy news on a radio and straining your ears.  (Think of the relief it is when the sound is finally adjusted and the input is clear.)  Also, the devices work through microphones which are designed to filter noises, but aren’t perfect.  This means that it can be difficult for an implanted DHH student to hear clearly in situations with lots of background/ambient noise.  He will need to work with professionals who understand the devices and his individual hearing.

3) Delayed access to sound, and the decreased quality of sound will often mean speech, developmental, and cognitive delays.  If a child has low access to language during her formative years, this will impact her ability to think critically, and it will affect her social skills (eg. she won’t have heard polite behavior modeled like “please” and “thank you”).  Late access to sound will also mean speech delays which need to be worked on with a speech therapist.  A Teacher of the Deaf is trained to understand and help with all of these potential delays.

The Goal: Mainstreaming

Ultimately, the goal of Early Intervention (working with toddlers from a young age) and DHH preschool/elementary schools is getting the children up to a level where they can be successfully mainstreamed into a public school.  

So, I’m studying:

-Teaching.  How to be an effective teacher, child development, how to teach reading, how to work with Developmentally Appropriate Practices

– Working with deaf children and their families.  How to aid and coach parents in their role of language input.  Understanding the anatomy of the ear and the physics behind hearing loss (audiology) as well as issues with implants/aids.  Eliciting and feeding language (constantly talking to students and asking them to use their voices).

– Deaf Culture.  This includes a class on the perspectives of deaf education — the oral audio approach is still controversial today.  (Which I will discuss in a later post).  AND, though I don’t know sign language now, and I won’t be using it much in my career, I will be taking a sign language course, and I’m incredibly excited to be doing so.  

Here are some videos:

Video of kids who are implanted at different ages:

A woman implanted at 29 hears her first sound, then discusses the experience on the Ellen Show.  (Her speech intelligibility is much higher than I would have expected for this age, so there might be other factors at play.)