Wednesday, June 25, 2008

20: summative assessment

Today we handed out awards in a classroom finally chilled to perfection. In one of the perpetual ironies of the system in which I am blessed to work, they totally missed the hot months of April and May and installed an airconditioner on the 25th of June.

The day before the last day of school. *rim shot*

I'm in class right now. I've gone ahead and submitted my final paper, not because it's in any sense done - I plan to keep working with this, it's just the bare bones of the curriculum for next year. I plan to teach a full year's curriculum on "Literacy for Empowerment." This is based somewhat on the half-assed news unit I taught to seventh grade this year. I've expanded it and revised it to include writing essays - so the reading component has a writing component. My co-teachers might scream, but I'd love to have seventh grade for double periods next year. Or eighth. The specific unit I'm focusing on designing for this class revolves around learning to construct arguments and deconstruct the arguments of others. Not fights in any traditional sense, but arguments in the philosophical sense - logical constructions. IF is an exception to the rule - but I notice many of my Deaf students have a problem with logical constructions and arguments. My work with this group has mostly centered on forcing them to make such logical connections. I have a tentative hypothesis as to why, but it's not a pretty one. I suspect many of the students with such problems come from hearing families and grow up used to the concept that they are not going to get an explanation for why things happen. The communication difficulties in such families often mean that the connections between cause and effect are inherently invisible. As a result, the kids don't ask questions. To make it worse, the lowered standards of the hearingfolk (with respect to the abilities of Deaf children) make them take the docile, accepting expression as the natural state of the poor deaf child (this type of audism is more unconscious than conscious.) When I gave them a space to ask questions, they blossomed.

Not that the hearing students are any better with logic. But they have been taught that they don't have to do anything they don't want to. So with hearing students, it takes a lot of convincing to get them to buy in to something. With Deaf students - they can be very willing - but because of their background, often they don't really invest themselves because their natural curiosity has been stunted.... just like the students I used to go to school with in mainstreaming programs.

I'm starting to let my mind wander. I wanted this to be a simple summative assessment, and all I'm doing is sharing impressions. One more thing, though.

Up til now I've always said that, ideally, the best place for the Deaf student is in the Deaf school where incidents like that I've just described rarely happen. Deaf people see the look for what it is - confusion - and, remembering their own times lost in the clouds, try to clear it up. Unfortunately, my experience is that Deaf schools are often insular and therefore unable to access and incorporate the latest research. Moreover, there are a variety of political and sociocultural imperatives which affect their acceptance of the implications and demands of using such research in the classroom - big words for saying they'll be tired, or burned out, or the research isn't adapted for use with Deaf kids, or the Deaf staff need to have some concepts bridged into their own language for full comprehension, or the hearing staff are looking for an "easy" job...

I was wrong about the Deaf school. It's too insular, and it runs the risk of stagnation. I am starting to believe that the type of bilingual, combined school - a type of which I have only dreamed - is the only place where both students can achieve full development. Not just because of research and people seeing whether you're confused or not, but those are definitely parts of it....

I guess this summative assessment will continue on for another couple blogs. For now, adieu.

1 comment:

maineteacher said... are right on about Deaf schools at least in the school I work at...The h.s. students are at a public school with two teachers of the deaf (me being one of them) and a team of interpreters..oh we also have a deaf teacher teaching ASL. Me hard of hearing and other teacher Deaf--sort of capital D ?? She's new and young so it should be great. Previous teacher --burned out but that's another story. What impresses me when this program works is how much the students are forced to rise to the occasion. The isolation of a deaf school can allow people to lose sight of higher expectations.