Friday, November 11, 2011

Ensuring the right to education

   It took us a long time to post a new message here in our blog. It is due to the many articles and pictures that we need to upload in order to make this blog as informative as possible for all who would like to read and even join.

   We would like to share to you some accommodations that we are applying for our Deaf students. We would like to inform you all again that we are open for suggestions (and praises also) for the improvement of our educational strategies.

   Ensuring the right to education on an equal basis within the mainstreamed system is a difficult task, specially for teachers without ample and continuing training or no insightful exposure  provided during the initial years of the program. Access of students to the regular curriculum, as what we were told by the pioneers, need not to be changed solely for Deaf learners and very little adjustments will be made by teachers. By now we know better, based on experiences, WE DO NEED to adjust! We were caught in a dilemma of how we will make our daily lessons understood, learned and retained by our Deaf students. We also realized that during assessments and preparation of lessons, provisions of simple words, simple directions, choices and even illustration should be provided since all of our Deaf students are highly visual learners. We also eliminated notions of separating Deaf and Hearing students in group class activities since communication is a major barrier in accomplishing an academic tasks.

   Collaboration is essential if students are to achieve the maximum benefit from each stage of their education. As we pursue the Deaf program in our institution, we found ourselves in need to collaborate internally and externally. Internally because as a moderator of the program, we value the opportunity to hear and discuss among our teachers their concerns about their Deaf students, their sign language interpreters and the methodologies that they used inside a mainstreamed class. These does not only refer to academic concerns but also to behavioral concerns and other issues regarding the individuality of our Deaf students. Externally because we seek assistance from experts in the field to provide us professional faculty development seminars / trainings and even to visit model schools that  can give us an idea of how a day will go inside a mainstreamed class. I remember during the initial year of our program where we visited Manila High School, a school that offers a mainstreamed program for the Deaf. Our faculty members and administrators saw how a teacher will model good instructions to a diverse class of hearing and deaf students; we saw how valuable the skill of an interpreter in relaying the information to the Deaf students and s/he being a channel for the teacher; we saw how hearing and deaf learners interact in a classroom environment that need not be clustered as to "deaf only" and "hearing only" groupings; we saw how a Deaf explain his/her answers to the queries to his/her teacher and we also saw how a Deaf become frustrated if what s/he wants to say was not properly interpreted. 

Accurate information about the need of Deaf students to learn is essential to ensure that the availability of educational technologies, teachers' training and educational resources should be provided with the diversity of students that we have. The process of mapping should be undertaken in partnership with local government unit then, but after a ceremonious memorandum signing we are left alone with the program and eventually exhausted of waiting of how are we to go about with the program (since this LGU is the one that insisted in opening a Deaf program here in our institution) the school adopted this program and owned it. Thank God that one of the core values of the institution is to be compassionate. Efforts where undertaken then, faculty members of ANHS and its staff were given a crash course in Filipino Sign Language (FSL), strategies in teaching Deaf students and how teachers and sign language interpreters (SLIs) can collaborate to come up with a rights-based approach in a mainstreamed program. Though, it is ideal that these should have been done, at least, in an annual basis.

   We would like to appreciate our school, La Salle Green Hills (LSGH), for giving us access to adequate educational materials, technologies, funds to invite experts and even send out teachers to learn more about in educating the Deaf. We would like also to appreciate our sister school De La Salle College of St. Benilde School of Deaf Education and Applied Studies, PEN-International and the Nippon Foundation for giving us an opportunity to visit schools in the USA that widen our perspectives of what more can we offer for our program. 

   If all students are to have equal opportunities to learn, attention has to be paid to specific needs. We are still taking measures that the regular high school curriculum that we are using need to adapt few modifications that can be accessible also to our Deaf students learning. All of our Deaf students request our teachers to communicate with them in sign language not only for the purpose of academic concerns but also for an immediate counseling or advise when a SLI is not around. Just like our Hearing students whose English is not their first language we teachers go to their level by communicating using the vernacular that they can understand. Can we not at least consider learning basic sign language? The school advocate and profess that we are a STUDENT-CENTERED SCHOOL. Is student-centered education only centered for those who can hear and for those who wants to learn?

   Another role of the PDL is to evaluate our faculty development, student academics, SLIs skills and develop a rolling program to provide all teachers with training on the rights-based framework. In addition, it can be invaluable to build in a system of ongoing support for teachers by providing them a monthly reading articles about educating the Deaf or even sending them out yearly for a training on Deaf education then to allow for opportunities to share new ideas, challenges, strategies used inside the mainstreamed classroom and solutions to certain issues. One such opportunity given to faculty and staff is their attendance in the 1st FSL Level 1 training last summer 2011. After such training, all of these participants gave their individual project for this school year 2011-2012 and even considering two projects as a group. So we appreciate teachers who opened avenues for Deaf students to express themselves through signs (Deaf poetry initiated by Ms. Domingo and Ms. Berna), gave them opportunity to answer written tests with an interpreter (thanks to Mr. Ducay), modifying a play to be used inside the classroom allowing the Deaf in showing their potentials to communicate stories using their language (thanks to Mr. Lavina, Mr. Bautista, Ms. Aguilar) and even exploring their abilities to lead an organization (thanks to Mr. Daz and Mrs. Katipunan).

   Our school have a key role in putting up policies of inclusion into the day-to-day life of education. One such policy is the Special Reading and Special Filipino classes for Deaf students. It is conceptualized after realizing that most of our Deaf students are having difficulty in the English and Filipino language, since it is not their primary language. The PDL, with the effort  of Miss Domingo, introduced to Special Classes teachers the Dolch Sight Word System wherein one word can be describe in many ways and thereby have several signs to convey the true meaning of a word in a sentence. 

   "All students need to feel welcome and confident of equal treatment in school. Schools need to promote an atmosphere of respect for all learners." Every opening of the school year we orient our students about the different programs, the various policies, introducing the faculty and staff of the ANHS. Even though that the PDL was mentioned still most students do not know why Deaf students are mainstreamed in this school set up. Because of this, a group of teachers and staff (attendees of the first FSL Level 1 training) was given a go signal by Mr. Dayrit to pursue a project of orienting first year to third year Hearing and Deaf students about the Mainstreamed System. This orientation hopes to obtain an accepting culture that ensures understanding of Deafness, treatment with respect, opportunities for interaction, access to how they are going to communicate with each other, and to identify the Hearing and Deaf culture for a better understanding of their diversity.

   Students should never be stereotyped or insulted on the basis of who or what they are. Teachers need to take active measures to involve Deaf learners on an equal basis with Hearing learners. This should happen daily in the classroom like the frequency of recitations, or allowing students to participate in the manner that they can express what they think and even in their  involvement in every school activities. The policies and sanctions of a school, should also be taken into consideration only after careful deliberation of the offense made, with due process and representation, should be the same for both students to ensure fairness.

   Annually the program hold a Parent-Deaf Child Encounter. The hope is to have a better understanding of parents in raising a deaf child. This parenting talk is an opportunity to address the issues, how total support of being a parent play an important role in the life stages of their Deaf child, develop skills in setting a predictable environment, listening and understanding different points of view between other parents of the Deaf and sharing of experiences in parenting.

   Mainstreaming necessitates action to accommodate students' differing academic needs. It is necessary and ideal to provide hand outs for Deaf students to focus more on the interpreter as the discourse is happening inside the classroom. For this we thank our faculty, who continuously provide lesson plans for our SLIs with worksheets, modules and reading materials for our Deaf students. The schedule of Remedial and Special Classes for this school are now considered to avoid conflict thereby solving the attendance concerns of our Deaf students (thanks to Mr. Ducay). Identification of vocational elective courses that provide work skills opportunity such as cooking, baking, electronics and the like. In addition to these, a trimestral scheme rather than a quarter period provides more time for all students in accomplishing academic tasks, specially projects, research papers and others. 

   And lastly, organizational and institutional activities gave way for our Deaf students to showcase their talents in expressing themselves through competitions, dance, theater arts and others. Deaf students cooperate with Hearing peers where they both learn and benefit together in accordance with the events they participated.

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