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Multicultural Education Environment for Diverse Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children Transcript

[Collaborative Experience Conference logo]

[A PPT slide appears with a stick figure and the following text, "Multicultural Education Environment for Diverse Deaf & Hard of Hearing Children. A Journey of Transformative Teaching. Laurene E. Simms. 2017 Collaborative Experience Conference. Breezy Point Resort, Breezy Point Minnesota. November 3, 2017]

[Laurene appears onscreen. She is onstage and signing.]

Laurene: I want to thank Anna Paulson for inviting me to be here today. Thanks so much. It's really an honor to be presenting to you. She had to get in touch with me a long time ago to make sure that this would work in my calendar. But she made it work. So thank you Anna for inviting me. Thank you so much. Like I said, it's an honor for me to be in Minnesota today. This is a wonderful state - just wonderful. I have a lot to talk about and not a lot of time so I'm gonna do my best and luckily I have a little clock here in front of me to make sure that I stay on track but it is a lot of pressure. Let's get going. So who am I? I asked Debbie and Alicia to keep their introductions brief because I'm going to be giving you more information about myself as we go along this morning. True, I indeed do work at Gallaudet University. I am a professor in the Education Department. I see some of my former students here and it makes me so proud to see the wonderful work you have done. Congratulations! I've been teaching for a very long time. I've had some of my current students - graduate students - say that they remember seeing me when they were in kindergarten. Wow! When I ask them what they're doing at Gallaudet, they say they wanted to study with me. That's how long I've been around. Retirement is not too far though, not too far off. I also work as an ASL and English consultant with bilingual schools and have a contract currently with three different schools. My work with the schools is focused on children ages 5 and under. I also work as a multicultural and social justice and education consultant. So that's a little bit about what I'm doing right now. I'm also the mother of three. All of my children are parents themselves. My oldest son is deaf. My middle child is someone I think many of you are familiar with. Do you know Rosa Lee? She's pretty well known for her performing arts work and signing music. She grew up hard of hearing but it's losing more of that hearing as she gets older as part of a genetic process. Watching our other keynote speaker this morning talking about the experiences of hard-of-hearing children was really interesting to me. It really helped me understand what my daughter's experience growing up. My third child is a hearing boy which makes him a CODA. I am now the grandmother of five. My first grandchild is deaf, my second hard-of-hearing and the remaining three are hearing. We have a diverse and wonderful family who love nothing more than be together and talk. That's enough about me for now.

[PPT slide with three figures, each holding a sign. One says "Critical Pedagogy," the second says "Equality vs. Equity" and the third says "Spheres of Influence." The title of the slide is "Key Points A Journey of Transformational Teaching"]

Laurene: The description of this keynote uses words like multiculturalism, diversity and intersectionality. That is a lot to wrestle with. I'm narrowing down my presentation today to these three key points what I call a journey of transformational teaching. I sign the concept of transformational this way. There are three key points I will be talking about. The first is critical pedagogy which I will sign as the abbreviation CP. The second being equality versus equity and the third is a discussion of spheres of influence. These are my main topics for today.

[Slide with a picture of Amy Hile, a well-known teacher with the years 1968-2016 besides her picture. The slide title is, "My presentation is dedicated to my dear friend and colleague, Amy E. Hile."]

Laurene: I don't know how many of you know Amy Hile. Oh, I see a lot of you. Well she's a Minnesota girl. She was one of my closest friends. It's hard for me to talk about her without getting emotional but I will try. Amy was a colleague in the Department of Education and also a dear friend. We shared a philosophy and an approach to our work that was similar. I want to dedicate today's conversation to Amy Hile. Oh and let me explain a little bit about why.

[Slide with a picture of Laurene and Amy smiling side by side. The slide title is "Our Last Journey on Train February 2016"]

Laurene: Last year Amy and I took a four-hour train ride. We were going to be giving a presentation to teachers of deaf educators. We had a lot of time to talk on that train ride.During that trip, a lot of what we talked about was how to transform deaf education. But something happened on that train ride that knocked me off my foundations. At one point Amy said to me, Laurene I know I am white, I know I come from a deaf family, and I know that gives me a lot of privilege. I came from a family where every person could hear except me. I went through a lot of trauma with school speech class and so on just as I'm sure many of you did. Amy  acknowledged to me that she was deeply aware of the privileges she carried. Up till then I had never had anyone speak about their privilege and I was honored. I certainly had read articles and there are a lot of amazing discussions going on about multiculturalism and diversity in my life. But, Amy was the first person to personally say something about it to me. 

[Slide appears with a book cover along with a picture of the author, Paula S. Rothenberg. The book title is, "White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism."]

Laurene: Amy shared her perspective on this particular book. If you have the time and if you are willing, this can be a very powerful read. Amy said that in reading this book, it prompted her to want to work toward changes in the deaf education system. She realized I was the only black deaf person in the academic field of deaf education in the world. American born, yes, but I am the only specialist in this field who is black. Amy could see quite clearly we need to have more people of color and languages in our field. We started a really long conversation in which I learned so much from Amy. She helped me shift my perspective, my attitude, and my understanding of the experience of white people. Up until that time, I had become so angry - your typical angry black deaf person. As I understood her experience more, I felt profoundly changed. I'm so grateful to Amy for giving me that experience. Anyway, one of the points that Amy made was that we had to be extremely conscientious. 

[A slide appears. The title is, "Be conscientious" and below is a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr., "The oppressed must never allow the conscience of the oppressor to slumber. Religion reminds every man that he is his brother's keeper."]

Laurene: Let me talk a little bit about what I mean by conscience. I'm not talking about a conscience or the way we use this sign implying guilt. 

[Slide changes to a picture of a white woman with small writing all over he face. Underneath the woman are the words, "White Guilt."]

Laurene: I'm talking about the phenomenon of white guilt or feeling bad because you happen to be white. 

[Slide returns to the MLK quote]

Laurene: Instead, I'm talking about a kind of consciousness that is signed in a way that indicates a deep awareness or the ability to attend and to reflect on the choices and decisions that are being made. It is about attending to your moral compass in your thinking, sensitivity and monitoring what's happening. Amy said consciousness requires constant vigilance, deliberately and making the effort to maintain awarenesss. Amy said not many people are capable of this kind of awareness of consciousness. That's because they're deeply embedded into a system that gives them privilege and power and one in which they are very comfortable. That was a very powerful realization for me. The remainder of my presentation links to what Amy taught me. 

[Slide changes to two graphics and the following text, "Engage in Social Responsibility Individually and Collectively." The first graphic is the word "blame" crossed out. THe second graphic shows a series of street signs with the following text, "not me" "their fault" "his fault" "her fault".]

Laurene: When you leave this conference, I want you to leave with a mindset that does not include blame. I was at one of the schools where I consult and talking to a teacher. I heard another one say what I often hear which is a complaint from an educator that a student shows up in high school not being able to read and so they blame the middle school. In turn blame elementary school teachers for a child not being able to read and write at grade level. The elementary school teachers blame ECE and early childhood then passes that blame on to the parents for not having the appropriate communications systems.But where does it stop? Do you blame the fetus? Do you blame the parents for getting pregnant in the first place? Where does the blame game stop? What we do know and understand is that the educational system, like many systems, is extremely powerful. What we don't often understand is that we are the system. We are the system. There is no one else to blame because the system is us and each of us has a component of that system. Each of us are a component of that system. Each of us individually and collectively need to be accountable for changes in that system. So when you leave this room, I want you to take all the blame and toss it in the trash can so it does not leave with you. Am I clear. All of us need to be accountable. All of us need to take action for change, including me.

[Slide changes to a quotation box with the words, "Trigger Warning."]

Laurene: Even without the blame game involved, some of you will be triggered by some of what I say today that is because each of you has a core value system that you, you are and I am operating under - a way of being in the world that you have developed over time. When Amy spoke of her experience growing up as a white person, you'd better believe I was triggering hard. I was being reminded again and again how growing up I hadn't understood why I was experiencing pain that I never asked for or deserved. I had all these unanswered questions until this conversation and I started to read this book. Some of you here, particularly those people of color, will experience some of those triggers today. If this happens, please remind yourself to take a deep breath and recognize you are surrounded by good people. We are all here to support one another so that's my trigger warning.

[PPT slide with three figures, each holding a sign. One says "Critical Pedagogy," the second says "Equality vs. Equity" and the third says "Spheres of Influence." The title of the slide is "Key Points A Journey of Transformational Teaching"]

Laurene: Let's look to the first point, critical pedagogy, then I'll move on to equity versus equality and sphere of influence. 

[Slide appears with the title, "Professional Development" with icons of several people in conversations and surrounded by mobile phones, light bulbs, magnifying glasses, wheels, email, laptop, etc.]

Laurene: Now I know you have come in part because you are looking for professional development credit. I see you racing to the back of the room to sign up for your CEUs when you attend these workshops and certainly we want to have that kind of professional development. but I also want you to personally challenge yourself to look at issues of your own privilege within this profession as we discussed this topic today. We all know professional development is ongoing. None of us will ever stop learning. I'm 65 years old and I'm still learning. I'll never stop.Even though I look forward to retirement, I know I will never stop learning. The conversation with Amy happened less than a year ago and I learned so much...so much ...from the day I was born until then I had been learning. 

[Slide with pictures from recent incidents, a Black Lives Matter poster,  victims of a bible study massacre, two people holding rainbow flags and crying, and the school pictures of the Sandy Hook students who were killed.]

Laurene: You're familiar with what's happening in the social sphere lately and this has a relationship to critical pedagogy. Look at the Black Lives Matter movement, the massacre during Bible study at a church, the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and the killing of all these children at Sandy Hook Elementary. These are all horrible experiences that are not new to us as a society. Those of us who have been around a while have seen movements like Black Lives Matter before. We saw how a church in Salem was bombed in a racist attack, killing four little girls. The shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was another demonstration of attacks, this time because of homophobia. Sadly, we now have a newer horror in the murder of children at Sandy Hook. 

[Slide changes to news media pictures of the Charlottesville, VA white supremacy march and their protesters.]

Laurene: Then we have the recent incident in Charlottesville, Virginia. But even there, we have the KKK involved and again this is nothing new. What is new is social media and how it magnifies these events. We may see more but we also know these are repeated experiences in our society. Amy and I talked on and on about the cycle and how we believe the answer to stopping this cycle is critical pedagogy - education. What do we do in middle school, in high school. What do we do? I've seen a school that had a strict policy on bullying but never managed to follow through on incidences. The system was so busy playing the blame game that the bullying continued and the child suffered. How do we ensure follow-through for these children? These are the questions Amy and I had.

[Slide appears with the words, "Critical Pedagogy. 'Social justice is part of teaching. Critical Pedagogy. ' -Sonia Nieto" along with a picture of chidlrens' hands raised, all with diverse skin tones.]

Laurene: Critical Pedagogy. Social justice is only part of teaching. Being an educator is one of the most important jobs there is in the world and one of the most thankless. It's a noble profession. Without teachers, we wouldn't have doctors. Without teachers, we wouldn't have attorneys. Without teachers, we wouldn't have Presidents. We take teachers for granted but we know system change will begin in the classroom with those teachers. 

[Slide appears with a drawing of a person with a jigsaw puzzle brain. He is holding one of the pieces. The following text is shown, "What am I thinking? Feeling? Doing?" There is also a quote, "Teachers cannot transform schools until they transform themselves." (Howard, 1999)]

Laurene: You have to look at what you're thinking and doing in order for transformation to occur. Transformation has to begin with yourself and then move into the classroom.

[Slide with the cover of the book, "Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World," Third Edition, by Joan Wink. and the following text, "Three Models of Pedagogy * Transmission Model * Generative Model * Transformative Model"]

Laurene: Let me explain a little bit about the historical models of pedagogy that we have been using in classrooms and in any kind of educational setting. Everybody in this system is working under one of these models. By the way, this book is an easy read...easy read and it's an excellent book. The first is the transmission model, the second is the generative model, and the third is the transformative model. 

[Slide with the title, "Transmission Model" and a drawing of a teacher in front of bored and confused children. The following text is next to it, "The teacher is standing in front of the classroom and the students are at their seats, which are in rows. They listen to what she says and write it down in their notebooks. The teacher's job is to transmit knowledge. The teacher controls who knows what; power has always been a part of pedagogy."

Laurene: The transmission model is our traditional approach to education with a teacher in the front of the room teaching students seated individually. I work hard with our graduate students who are about to go out on an internship to identify which model they see being used just so they get it a sense of what it's like. The transmission model is centered around the teacher giving information to the students. I'm not saying that that's a bad approach, don't get me wrong, because there are times when this can be beneficial. It is just less effective in terms of learning, the power is all in the hands of the educator and it's the model you see most often in deaf education. 

[Slide: A graphic of a teacher working with three students in a group. All have questions. The following text is shown, "Generative Model. A classroom is set with small groups of students clustered around various learning centers. The teacher moves around the room, quietly observes, and periodically interacts with various groups. The generative model maintains tha students must actively engage in their learning process. Learning is not passive."]

Laurene: Now the generative model, that one focuses on small groups working on assignments with teachers moving from group to group. Its biggest benefit is learning how to strengthen teamwork skills - be engaged in the work. Learning is not passive. It's a move toward less teacher-centered and more students-centered work where the students are learning from and with each other. 

[Slide: Graphic of a teacher and students actively exploring nature. There are no question marks and everyone is engaged in activity. The following text is shown, "Transformative Model. This model reflects, not only the changing world, but also our more complex understandings of meaningful teaching and learning. This model reflects today and prepares for tomorrow. The goal of includes generating knowledge and extends from the classroom to the community. Critical pedagogy starts in the classroom and goes out into the community to make life a little better. A group of students is doing critical pedagogy."]

Laurene: And finally the transformative model is the most challenging approach and also the most effective. The transformative model is the one which where students are empowered to brainstorm, analyze and create solutions to problems for today and the future. This is the transformative approach. 

[Slide with a quote by Albert Schweitzer, "Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing."]

Laurene: Of course you will want to see an example of the transformative model. This quote is one of my favorites. Deaf people always want to know what's it like, what's it look like, what does it look like. I know hearing people do too but you can guarantee a deaf audience is going to want and to move out of the theoretical and into a practical example. Let me give you a visual to explain what transformative education looks like. 

[Slide with the title, "Equality vs. Equity" and two side by side graphics. The graphic on the left shows three individuals with different height on the same size stool looking over a wall. Only the tallest person can see well. The graphic on the right shows the shortest person on the tallest stool and the tallest person on the shortest stool. Everyone can see over the wall.]

Laurene: I think a lot of you have probably seen a variation of this image, correct? Now think of it in terms of your IEPs. Are you applying the same language in all your IEPs, your report cards? What do the audiologists document for students? What do the teachers say about students and their levels? Look at how we treat students.  Are the phrases we, us, and assessments we choose equal for all students like in the first image?

[Slide: Similar photos asthe previous one but they include a person in a wheel chair. In the left photo, the person in a wheelchair is next to a stool. In the right photo, he has a ramp.]

Laurene: I see a new variation of this image and I like it a little bit better. In that case, the wall is removed and the caption under the picture says liberation. But if you take the wall down from a soccer game, somebody's going to get hurt. In this case, do you want to put a chain-link fence in so that the people can be protected and see through? That's a system change that allows things to be tailored for individual needs. Our goal is to dismantle the current deaf education system, to know down the wall. System change is extremely difficult however. Systems are subject to the laws of inertia particularly because they are so big. Systems are resistant to change and that is because we are resistant to change. If we are the system and we are clinging to our personal values way of being and attitudes, then the system also does that. 

[Slide shows a confused looking child next to the words, "Literacy as Obligation vs." and a child concentrating on a book next to the words "Literacy as Desire."]

Laurene: Let's talk about one potential area for transformation literacy as obligation versus literacy as desire. My oldest son who is deaf, Jared, teaches English in high school in Southern California. He has the most beautiful language in both English and ASL. He's published two books. He is just amazing okay I'm a mother bragging of course. This is my son so I have to do a little bragging but he really is wonderful. Anyway, he told me he felt awful and hurt because his student told him they hate reading. Now hate is a very powerful word and that is the word they used. My son has tried everything to encourage his students and engage his students. He used comics, graphic novels, films to no avail. He loves to read and write and so once to spark his students, but because literacy is seen as an obligation, he's completely stymied. He said "Mom, you have been in deaf education for all these years and have so much experience.Tell me how I can teach my high school students to enjoy reading and writing?" I told him there are many issues that do not reflect him - it's the system. Somewhere along the way we teach deaf children to hate to read. Let me show you why. How many of you have seen deaf kids say that they hate to read? I know there's a lot of hearing students who hate to read also but my comments are focused on deaf education. 

[Slide title is "Literacy as Obligation: and the following quote, "In schools serving predominantly economic, social, or linguistic minorities, the curriculum often is reorganized into a more segmented, subdivided, and decontexualized approach called skill-building. In other words, the further a student falls behind in literacy activities, the more skill building she/he is fed, with the best of intentions."]

Laurene: I know this slide has a lot of text so just pay attention to the underlined section. I have been to so many schools where the teachers love to hand out worksheets and drills. Teachers love doing drills, practicing specific skills. They just love it. But skill practice is not effective. Ironically, if you focus on a skill, the more students fail, the more you tend to drill them on skills to make up the deficit which burrows into more failure with even more drills and so on and so on and so on. That's the transmission model of instruction I showed you earlier where students are given more and more work and still get further and further behind. Eventually they hit their senior year and they're still failing. 

[Slide with the following text. Literacy as Obligation. * Oftentimes students do not have the bridges between school skills and authentic task. * School skills seem distinct from and unrelated to real life."]

Laurene: In the framework of literacy, as obligation students, do the work for the teacher not for learning. Let me just say the students are amazing actors. Every single one of them should get an Academy Award. They know how to act to please the teacher and earn praise. This makes teachers happy and they feel like they are accomplishing something but it's not good for the student. You have to sometimes challenge students who act like they understand to really demonstrate their understanding.

[Slide: Has the following text, "Literacy as Desire * Students are to be engaged with whole, authentic, written discourse; hence, the mastery of English will occur. * Students tend to achieve more when learning, occurred through observation, apprenticeship, or discovery through experience."]

Laurene: So what is literacy as desire? Here's the definition. Students feel engaged and involved with the whole authentic written discourse. 

[Reaches for her phone]

Laurene: Here's my iPhone. I see so many different signs for it. Anyway, I have an app. You can download it. It is fantastic. It's called Cardzilla, C - A - R-D - Z - I - L - L - A, and the kids love it. It's a text chat app and a really effective way to practice conversation in text. My daughter and I are always using it with each other conversations are saved so they can be reviewed. It uses a nice big easy-to-read font and functions like written notes. If students want to understand something, we use this to help them write out what they learn.In literacy as desire, the material is always tied to their life experiences. 

[Puts her phone back down.]

Laurene: Students use observation, apprenticeship and mentoring to support them as they're learning to read and write. 

[Slide switches to a cover of a children's book, "Frog, where are you?" by Mercer Meyer, and the inside the book on one of its pages with no words, which shows a little boy and his dog looking at a frog in a jar.]

Laurene: Last week, I was teaching a workshop for families and they were so anxious - just nervous about reading to their children, wanting to get the signs right. I told them what I tell every teacher. Use wordless books. Take the English out of it and focus on the story. There are some beautiful books online with gorgeous pictures. Let go of words and use whatever kind of visual communication that works. You can be free to sign, gesture, act out things - whatever works. I tell them to always begin their stories with a time indicator. In this case, it's night. They need to indicate the location of the story, the bedroom, and the story evolves from there. The kids so enjoy these stories and that's the key. I've had families try it last week and they all said they wish they had known this approach a long time ago. Most parents learn ASL formally and it's so very hard for them to let go and enjoy signing a story instead of translating everything. I say just relax. Use gestures, signs, acting out things - whatever works. My grandson is deaf. He's Rosa Lee's firstborn. Even she came to me to ask how she could or should sign stories to him. Oh she peppered me with all kinds of questions. I told her what I just told you.Just do it. Just do it. She could not figure out how that would work given the baby was always looking everywhere but at her. I told her from day one be signing in the presence of that baby. Tell him how happy you are that he is there. Talk about milk. My daughter says she feels like a fool signing to him while the baby was looking at the ceiling or at the wall or whatever and I said do it sign all the time. She did it at the store. She would sign to him in his stroller all day. Every day - signing. I did warn her that there would be consequences of course. You know what happened? as soon as he could form a question he was on her like flies on butter, always wanting to know why this, why that. She can't stand how he is always pestering her. She can't cook a meal without him interrupting every other minute. He's seven years old now and the questions have not abated a bit. He drives her crazy and of course she comes to me asking where the heck this constant chatter came from. I could say and I did: It came from you. She was the same way with me. Always, always, always talking. She's 41 years old now and still always always talking. I tried my best to get a word in edgewise but when she's rolling, there's just nothing to do but give up and watch. How many of you have had similar experiences? That's why I encourage every parent of a deaf child to start signing from day one. Never underestimate a baby. Babies are small but their brains are huge. That little 21 inch, seven and a half pound bundle, has a giant brain. They may not be watching but those brains are absorbing everything around them. I say do this. Use wordless books. Don't worry about written English. The English text will come but only if you start with storytelling.

[A slide appears with the title, "An Ideal Approach for Literacy as Desire" and shows a series of three arrows forming a circle. Each arrow has a label, "Professionals" "Deaf learner" and "Families & Communities." In the middle of the circle is the word, "Interdependence."]

Laurene: What is the ideal approach. For literacy as desire, it is to be the work of an independent circle of people in the child's life. Can't be the learner alone or the professional alone or the family alone attempting to foster this desire for literacy. It has to be all of us. Remember, this is our collective responsibility. 

[A slide with the title, "Team Words (Interdependence) and two columns. In the left column are the following words, "Discouraging Approach * You have to read. This is a hearing world. You have to live with it. * You need to learn to read or you will not have a good job. * You will fail if you can't read. Reading is important to succeed." In the right column are the following words, "Encouraging Approach * I really love this story. Would you like for us to read it together? * I know of a wonderful book we can read together. * What is your favorite book or comic? I'd like to read it. Reading is fun."]

Laurene: Also consider the language you use when you're talking about reading. Remember, how my son said his students hated reading? I wonder how much of it had to do with language like this? How many times a student's told they must read in order to function in a hearing world and they have to live with it? What a turn-off. Oh they just have to read or they don't get a good job. Well if they don't learn to read, they will fail. This is discouraging language. Supposed we use encouraging language instead? I was the last of eight children and the only one who was deaf of the entire hearing family. When I was six or seven my mother passed away, my father had his hands full managing all of us. We were too poor to afford a babysitter. I was the only one that wasn't in school and so my father didn't know what to do with me during the day. eventually he brought me to the local library where the librarian was a friend and asked her to take care of me during the day. The librarian said she would do it for a short time. She did. I tell people I was born again in the public library. I'm grateful to my father and I "one hundred and fifty percent" endorse free public libraries open to everyone. They're free. I devoured books in that library land have loved them ever since. I have a trick I use to spark interest in reading. I taught first grade for a number of years. I would take down a book and pretend to be so engrossed and amazed by the story that I could not pay attention to anything else. Of course that meant that a student would eventually grab that book from me so that they could read it and see what all the fuss was about. If you love reading, show the students. Tell them the book is a must-read and they would enjoy it. I always wonder why schools don't use comic books. Comic books are great to read. I bet if you ask deaf adults who are fluent readers what they first started reading, they will say comic books. Is that true of anyone here? Look at all of the yes's. Yes, I still have a comic book in my bag. I'm guilty. I love Archie! Yay for Archie fans! Really I have the proof in my bag. If you open it up, there's a comic book in there still. I'm still reading comics. Every time I travel, I bring three books. One book usually an academic text. You can see from my face how I feel about that and then a magazine and a comic book. I read the magazine to take off because I'm nervous about flying and it keeps me distracted. Once we're in the air, the dreaded academic textbook comes out as I'm preparing for class when we start our descent, I switch to the comic book because there is an emotional component to the story that keeps me engaged so I don't pay attention to the landing I might be crazy but it works every time. Share comic books. Comic books are a perfect option for reading because there are images that go with the text.

[Slide with two quotes. The first quote says, "Learners have to want to read with desire, to write with intent beyond that of pleasing adults." by Margaret Meek and "We should start where the learner is, and help the learner to expand from there." by John Dewey.]

[Laurene flips to the next slide.]

[Slide: Researc title, "Deaf Epistemological (emic) perspective that uses insights from fluent adult Deaf readers. Gallimore, 2000, Mounty, J. Pucci, C & Harmon, K (2013) Simms, L, Andrew, J, Smith, A. (2005)"]

Laurene: This is research. Oh I don't think you can read the publication date, but it's going to be published next year in the spring. Our research led us to a process that we call RTS or read-think-sign. You know that most schools teach reading and word by word process right? Students read and sign each word in the order of the text. 

[Slide with the following text, "Word Identification. Studies on deaf readers who have focused on their word identification skills indicate that word identification is not sufficient for developing high-level reading comprehension skills. Gibbs, 1989; Hanson, 1989, 1991; Tzeng, 1993."]

Laurene: How many of you as adults still read word by word? I get a lot of mixed responses here. When I'm in the airplane, I'm not sitting there signing each word as I read it. Fluent reading happens in a way completely opposite from word by word yet that is the way we have insisted on teaching reading to our students. 

[Switches back to the Deaf Epistemological slide]

Laurene: During my research, I interviewed fluent deaf readers to try to identify what was effective for them when learning how to read. This kind of research is an "emic" study which means it's a deaf researcher talking to other deaf people and researching from within. It's not magic. There's no big secret to it. It's just the fact that we were asking what people do from within the culture. We did the study because we know the system doesn't work and I wanted to know what does. There are more and more deaf researchers out there. We have lots of research proving the current approach does not work. 

[Switches back to the word identification slide]

Laurene: Instead of focusing on what we have been doing, we want to identify a better approach. Look at the dates of this older research. Word by word reading was proposed such a long time ago - back in the late 1980s. Wake up! We're basing our current literacy education approach out of very old research. This is what we were told then. What I am telling you now is this does not work. This is why our students hate to read. Don't get me wrong. Word identification is fine for assessing students' knowledge of vocabulary. If you want more than vocabulary, you cannot use the old approach. The transformation model starts from a completely different place - one that assumes and expects children to love reading and not do it on command.

[New slide: Title is "Continuum: Translation" Below is a long arrow on both ends of the lines. On the left arrow is the word, "Literal" and on the right arrow is the word "Free." Below the literal arrow is the word, "guided reading." Below the free arrow is the word "storysigning." In the middle is the the following text, "Read, Think and Sign (RTS)."]

Laurene: In this research, we created a model where we put this process on a continuum. On the literal end, you see guided reading or that process of having a student read translated everything they read into a sign word by word by word. You know how hard it is to keep a child from becoming a little jumping bean during guided reading? We can't blame them. This type of effort is very tedious and requires a lot of mental energy. I'll talk a little bit about why that is a little later. In the middle of the continuum is the read-think-sign: RTS process. Here you encourage students to read and try to understand the meaning. Encourage them to guess even if they guess wrong. Teach them to use their experience, intuition, look at pictures and search for clues to help them understand what they are reading. Make sure the materials are not too far above their reading level so they don't get too frustrated. They should have about having to stretch just a bit for that last 25%. On the far end of the continuum, you see storytelling like the wordless books I was talking about before. 

[Slide with the words, "The cat ran up the tree."]

Laurene: Let's look at the middle: RTS process. I have an activity for you. There are blank sheets of paper in the middle of your tables. Make sure everyone has a piece of paper and I'm going to help you experience with the RTS approach and what it looks like. Is everybody ready? Okay, if you don't want to participate and prefer to observe that's fine too. Totally up to you. We're going to give you one minute to draw the sentence you see in front of you. The cat ran up the tree. Go! Okay, now I have some questions for you. I want to make sure that I repeat your answers so everyone can see. How many of you drew the cat first? Okay, one, two, three people. Okay, that's in line with my research. Alright now. How many of you drew the tree first? Most of you. I knew that already. That is absolutely in line with the research findings. One more question. How many of you drew the cat sitting at the base of the tree? Darn. You are outliners in my research outcomes. The cat should be in the tree. The sentence is past tense which means that the cat is already there. Some of you drew arrows to indicate the path of the cat and that manages the temporal aspect fine. That's an RTS process. Guided reading would have you in essence draw each word as it appears in the sentence. In this approach, you read, think and visualize the meaning and then draw. Use this technique with your students. At the VL2 Research Center at in Gallaudet, they attach goggles to deaf readers that track their eyes while reading. Can you guess the path of the eyes of the deaf reader. Yes, you're absolutely right. The eyes move back and forth throughout the sentence. This is unlike hearing readers, well most hearing readers, whose eyes tract literally through the sentence without backtracking. That is because hearing readers are basing their reading on the phonology of the word. Without the same auditory memory, deaf readers have to constantly backtrack to be able to understand the meaning of the text as it unfolds in English word order. This is why word by word reading is so exhausting and frustrating. If you look at the word order of the sentence, you see the cat, then past tense of run, then the tree. For a signer, the tree has to come first just like you did in your drawing. In order for the deaf student to read, they have to see the sentence as a whole and think about what is being said. Again, they have to be able to understand text to enjoy it so approaches other than word my word have to happen first. Okay, only 15 minutes left. I planned to have more activities with RTS but you got it. Right? Just understand we need to fundamentally change our approach to the way we teach reading

[Returns to the "Continuum: Translation" slide.]

Laurene: Teachers can use guided reading to identify miscues where students are misunderstanding particular terms, but this is the back end of the process, not the beginning. First, you have to use storytelling. Make sure all questions are answered in sign, then RTS to make sure students enjoy and understand. This can be a tough shift for our current students. I don't mean for you to suddenly tell your students to stop their approach if they use guided reading. What you can do is model the RTS process to them. Demonstrate how you read for comprehension, then over time, they will begin to adopt those same habits. Use models of the process like the cat and tree activity we just did. Use storytelling. Use RTS. Save guided reading for those times when you really need to look for specific miscues but the children must have the background information first.

[Slide with the title, "A note..." along with a picture of an eager child raising his hand and the words, "We know many things that a Deaf child does NOT know, bu we don't know many things that a Deaf child DOES know."]

Laurene: We know a lot about what a deaf child doesn't know. Our evaluation systems are all about documenting and tracking deficits. Our tools and checklists are focused on lack of knowledge. What we don't focus on and don't know is what deaf students do know. We need to change our assessment focus. 

[Slide with a photo of the aughtor, bell hooks, at the left and to the right is the cover of one of her books, "Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom."]

Laurene: We teach from our core values. We teach who we are. All of us are working from our own belief systems. This book is excellent - quite powerful. It will contain a lot of triggers, however. Bell Hooks is focused on systemic change and if you want to move out of the same old failure based system, take a look at this book.

[Slide with the words, "What should I do?"]

Laurene: Wow, time is going fast and we're coming to an end. I'm sure you're wondering what you do next. Do you remember the three elements of the journey to transformation that I talked about before? Let's see. First cognitive pedagogy or CP, then equality versus equity. Finally sphere of influence. Right? 

[A slide titled, "Spheres of Influence" with the following text, "1. Self: Educating yourself, understanding your values and feelings, examining how you want to change, 2. Close family and friends: Influencing the people closest to you, 3. Social, school, and work relationships; Friends and acquaintances, coworkers, neighbors, classmates, people with whom you interact on a regular basis, 3. Community: People with whom you interact infrequently or in community settings."]

Laurene: When you move towards transformational teaching, it's a process. I know many of you are excited to go back to work and implement some of these activities right away. I applaud you for that but please transform yourself first. This is what Amy taught me. She was working from the inside out recognizing the privileges that she had as a white woman from a deaf family with a strong command of English. She knew she could use her sphere of influence to work towards transformation. The same process happened to me. I had to look at my own history and my own value system before moving outward. Transformation starts with change of self. Look at yourself. What are your core values? For example, think about how you feel about everything I've been saying today. Read and conduct research about what needs to and can change. Then you can look outside yourself to your close family and friends. Talk to them about what you are seeing and learning. Beyond that, you move into the schools, co-workers, and other colleagues. Then your influence can move out into the larger community. It's a system right? Remember, we are the system and the change doesn't start at the top. It starts at the bottom with us. 

[Short video of a person standing on a multi-layered sphere under the words, "Spheres of Influence."The video zooms out to reveal words like, "Close family and friends, influencing the people closest to you" "Self: Educating yourself, understanding your values and feelings, examining how you want to change" and "social, school and work relationships: Friends and acquaintances, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, people with whom you interact on a regular basis, "Community: People with whom you interact infrequently or in community settings."]

[Slide with a mouse wearing a helmet in front of a mouse trap loaded with cheese.]

Laurene: Take the risk, absolutely. You have nothing to lose, honestly. We have nothing to lose at this point. We have already lost. When you have that many deaf children saying they hate to read, you know we have nothing to lose. Without reading, our students cannot understand the world that surrounds them. Without reading, there's no way to dismantle some of these larger systems. As I said before, what we see happening in the world is nothing new. If we want to break the cycle, education is the key and education from the moment a child is born. 

[Returns to the "Key Points: A Journey of Transformational Teaching" slide]

Laurene: This is our journey towards transformation. Finally, remember this is a journey we are all taking. Remember to leave that blame behind when you leave this room. Don't blame each other. Don't blame Anna for bringing me here. And don't blame the interpreters. They are doing their best to represent me in English. Don't blame the superintendent. No blame to anyone. We all must take responsibility individually. We all must take responsibility collectively. Thank you, Amy. 

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