On teaching the deaf

Sir Jeff (left in brown shirt) and his deaf class

A school for the deaf is unlike any other regular school. You can compare them based on many aspects. Even schools for the deaf also have varying degrees of difference.

One basic distinction is its class size. Hearing schools in the Philippines normally have a population of 50 or more per class, depending on how depressed the surrounding community is. Schools for the deaf rarely reach a number greater than fifteen. Philippine School for the Deaf, the largest and oldest public residential school for the deaf in Asia has a total population of more than 700 students from pre-school to high school. However, their class size never reaches 20.

Another difference is the mode of communication. Regular schools obviously employ speech as a form of interaction. Some deaf oral schools also use it but generally, the teacher transfers learning through sign language. In our school, Filipino Sign Language is the medium of instruction although we often emphasize that English must be used in any written format. Our basic policy is that students can sign whatever method or approach they like. They can use Signing Exact English, Pidgin Sign English, Manually Coded English, etc. Although I haven’t seen anyone using cued speech that doesn’t mean it’s not being used. However, I doubt it will prosper unless someone invents a special hand code for every Tagalog phonology.

These two differences greatly affect how we handle our deaf class. At MCCID, we have seasoned deaf teachers like Sir Ervin Reyes who won numerous awards in computer contests both locally and internationally and Sir Oscar Purificacion who also works as a commercial billboard artist in another company. Since the subjects they teach were mainly skills building; computers, the Internet, multimedia projector and other teaching implements greatly help them in conveying information. We are truly blessed by their dedication and in constantly improving their craft. They serve as good role models to their students.

There are only two of us who are hearing teachers; Sir Jefferson Cortez and I. Even after being with the deaf for almost half my life, my sign language ability is nothing compared with what he has experienced. You see, Jeff is the eldest child of deaf parents. He practically lives in a deaf world. That’s why I salute him for embracing a wonderful culture that many skeptics still deny that it even exists.

According to his blog, Meet the Stranger, he always exhausts ways in order to connect with his deaf students. He said,

Isn’t it right that being a good teacher depends on his/her student’s mood? I guess that it’s true based on my experience. One thing I always keep in mind is how can I handle them or even encourage them to study their lessons very well even though they found the books tiresome, unexciting and boring to read.

He also noticed that deaf students get bored reading books. Printed there are just a bunch of words with worthless meanings. However, they began to appreciate reading them through their interpreter. He explained,

But hey, do you believe that they love reading books through their interpreter? Whenever I gave them an assignment or homework about some sort of stories. Most of them loves “copy-paste” from the book they are searching about. When it comes searching their assignment through internet, all they have to do is to highlight what they are looking for then copy then paste it on Microsoft Word then afterwards, here comes the printer. When it comes to understanding their assignment, most of them comprehend on that picture instead of the information.

As an instructor, he has to explain every detail of their assignments and homework through Sign Language. They found their stories very exciting and fascinating. Their attention was aroused based on the many questions they throw on him. He finds them all friendly, loving and always had their warm-hearted and that is what he really likes about them. So no matter what lessons you deliver, it’s how you deliver them that is important and the right attitude that you impart on them.

Mabuhay ka Sir Jeff! We are truly blessed having you onboard MCCID. To all the teachers for the deaf worldwide, this blogger salutes you. 🙂

You may find other stories about his experiences through his WordPress blog.

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