Tell me about yourself?
Carolyn is deaf, She have 3 children. Dale 27 year old, he is profoundly deaf, same go for her daughter, Amy 24 and younger son Robert who is 16 year old he is hearing! He can sign fluently in Auslan. Two of older deaf children grew up with deaf father (which she was divorce before she had Robert) and Robert who grew up with Barry currently her husband. He is deaf but grew up very oral. Also she was very exciting to say she is now the new grandmother.
I was raised at VSDC which is it used called Victorian School for Deaf Children, little bit of history the original name was Victorian Institute for the Deaf & Dumb, in November 15th, 1861, the Dumb was dropped from the name in 1949 and significantly was the first institution of it’s like in the world to drop the word “Dumb” from its title. From 1949 onwards the school was the Victorian School for Deaf Children. Then until recently the year of 1995 that name was changed to Victorian College for the Deaf.
I have to say I am proudly to pass on my generation to my two deaf children who were also raised at Victorian College for the Deaf and now they both are extremely successfully. Dale just had a baby daughter with his beautiful girlfriend. Dale is a builder just finished his apprenticeship he is now considering doing further study to expand his knowledge into plumbing and brick laying.
Amy is now study full time to become a teacher at Monash University and still working part time at Big W. She had been working in variety places such as child care, shop retails, working odd jobs with Deaf Children Australia. She is hard worker and willing to give up anything to become teacher. She really want become teacher of deaf but she believe that she would want to do an extra year became teacher of the Deaf. She will see how she will go with her university still got another 2 more years before she become a teacher.
Robert is still in high school, doing year 11! He is currently looking for placement to do his apprenticeship he is interesting in doing something with electric field!
Ok, Thank you back to you! Where do you work?
She is currently teacher aids at VCD, She have been working for very long time and it was had been amazing to see how things have change over number of years. It is just amazing how technology had changed from blackboard to smart board, students written work book to Ipad. Also it used to, either student or teacher making announcement by going into each classroom to make a formal announcement but now LCD T.V in each room and making the announcement at the same time. Same for telephone changed to skype where she can ask another staff question from secondary to primary department or in other classroom. She explained it was great to see so many positive things had changed to save time, improving communication skills. Therefore, there is still so many things need to improve in school like staffs improving their signing skills, seeing students academic in literacy and numeracy.
Wow, you seemed go through lot of change, must be exciting to witness numbers of things at VCD. Back to you, growing up as Deaf person what was the most frustrating experience when you were younger and do you still feel your still facing these frustrating now?
There is lot of things had changed, like in the old days we never used to have TTY (Telephone Type Writer) Carolyn or her family couldn’t really afford one! She had lot of cousin living out of states, her dad is from Queensland and he was truck driver back in old days, travelled a lot! Mostly rely on writing letters and post them. But I stopped long time ago due being embarrassed. It was something she would never forget she was been laughed at by her cousin and picking on her due her poor English grammar. It was one awful feeling because it helped her discovered who she is.
like for an example during writing the letters she got to her family and knowing what they are up to. Once that was stopped she was hoping to know more when she visit them during Christmas, or birthday party. It was hard because she was only deaf child in the family and she had no prior knowledge about her aunties, uncles, cousin, etc… when the letter was stopped. Every time she often asked her parents what the whole conservation was about and she would be lucky to get 3 or 4 words from the whole conservation. Worst frustrating is when they all seemed happy, laughing and everyone keeping up with the conservation, she just felt left out and realised she is really deaf especially when she can’t keep up or knowing what is happening in the family. During the week is something she was always look forward to meeting up her friends at school where they all can sign in Auslan. She was able to expressing her true colour.
Funny story that she could remember, her mother (Helen) used always say “Sorry love, I can’t always interpreter for you every time people laugh” or she would say “I will tell you later, when everyone go home” and she actually forgotten the whole conservation. That time Helen only signed very basic, just enough to tell the surface information. When Carolyn turned 16 she had few deaf friends over for her place for the party. When they laugh, Helen asked what are you girl laughing about. Carolyn response “Sorry mum, I can always interpreter for you” This was Helen wake up call and realised how much Carolyn had missed out on. Helen decided to set up a for any mother who have deaf children group. Helen was hoping to learn more about Deaf issue, more sign language but just unfortunately it didn’t go well. But Carolyn is proud to say Helen did learn how to sign through Auslan class after she found out her grandson Dale is Deaf 27 years ago.
Can you tell me your recreation when you first found whenever your children are Deaf or Hearing!
Firstly, with Dale when she first found out that Dale was Deaf. Carolyn was quite upset as she didn’t want Dale go through similar experience as Carolyn went through like for example literacy was quite low, went through difficult time with her family, relying on parents for communication aids like seeing doctors, or other appointment, only received limit of information and main things school was concern where would Dale would go. It was a difficult process but now she has no regret. Felt strongly that raised three beautiful kids.
Positive things about all of us can sign it is always nice where we can sit down together having dinner and we express sign in Auslan and good things about that no one is missing out the conversation and after for a very long time she felt so relax and comfortable. Having dinner with the family it is her favour part of the day.
She also so grateful, VCD still provides education now and huge improvement from old day. Having fluently Auslan sign language as foundation that gave the two kids head start and their English had improved so quickly to compare to number of students who doesn’t sign at home! She does felt so small and jealous because she know her English is not that strong and never had felt so comfortable in writing. But this was something she felt so swollen with pride that none of her children feel they have hit barriers like Carolyn. So to answer the question yes she was upset and really concern but it turned out to be nothing where she felt she made small thing into big deal. They all were raised beautifully and live in happy life!
Robert, her youngest son! She could never forget the joy on Helen (her mother) face. She was over the moon and so relief to hear the good news. It actually never bothered Carolyn but there was one thing where she promised herself not to use Robert as interpreter or interpretering phone conversation. She want Robert to enjoy his life without being in the middle but yes she is not going to lie there were number of time where she does use him to interpreter like announcement at train station and it is handly. But most importantly we don’t rely on him too much to interpreter, now the service had improved so much to compare in the old days. Free interpretering service in Doctors, Hospital. Often Dept of Education provides interpreters for parents and teacher interview.
So, tell me about your currently husband as you didn’t mention about him much
Yes, he is deaf! He grew up in hearing family and hearing school with no support. His English is not very good as well often with the reading where he had to answer the questions, Carolyn sometime help translate in Auslan or Amy explained better and sometime write the answer or typed up the letter for Barry.
His English is improving as they both now do travelling fair bit with their caravan and often bring along novel books that she borrow from VCD library. “It never too late to teach the old dog new tricks”. Barry never realised he was deaf and he wasn’t the only one too. They both meet at some deaf social events, she personally believed Barry learned lot about himself, discovering who he is, accepting deaf identity. It didn’t really take him long, being involve sports events which was very popular in the deaf community, it was also great way to meet new faces and to catch up. Barry did go through difficult time during school, Also he thought he was coping well with his hearing family and knew lot of things, same for television shows but until later living in the deaf family house. It sort of hit him and realised he had missed out so much and one night Carolyn remember he was saying “language was so rich and everyone in the family can express, without having to worry what the easy way to talk to avoid saying the difficult words, now sign language we all can relax and enjoy the evening without be correcting their speech” That was an emotional night for him! It was great to watch him steeping into deaf world and being part of it! Plus his smile on his face just became bigger. Maybe that was one reason why Carolyn married him (Carolyn joked about it)
Now he is mixing both world as he enjoying being basketball referee for hearing club as his hobby after work hours.
Unfortunately, the interview ended here time ran out and I would love to ask her more question about her life and hear all about it!
The difference between good communication and good teaching ( Lytle and Rovins, 1997) has gone on to stress the importance of a blend of both for creation of an effective learning environment in terms of deaf education. While communication is important in teaching, it has to be coupled with the best techniques in teaching to achieve the best results towards deaf learning, as suggested by Akamatsu, Stewart and Mayer (230). Deaf education is a complex subject that needs not just technical expertise, but also deft handling of the sensitivities involved, in making the hearing impaired feel part of the society. However, as Akamatsu, Stewart and Mayer (231) go on to stress, there is more to deaf teaching than a solid background in theoretical knowledge involved. While there is no questioning the importance of theoretical knowledge involved in teaching and training those with special needs, there is also the inevitable need for incorporating flexibility into the learning approach to facilitate effective learning.
Basing its arguments on field interview and on published knowledge, this paper tries to draw a framework of social and cultural contexts in deaf education, considering in its folds, the importance of theoretical knowledge and the need for flexibility in approach, along with need for support systems in terms of a helpful family environment, to help deaf learning an effective phenomenon. Further, the paper also touches upon the changes in technology that have helped in redrawing some of the assumptions associated with deaf learning and lifestyles. Finally, the paper discusses some of the special needs associated with deaf learning from the social and cultural contexts, not just in technical terms and teaching abilities but also on the impact that it could create in the psychological wellbeing of the hearing impaired, highlighting the changes that need to be ushered in to make teaching in deaf learning a contribution that would change lives and bring about a paradigm shift in the way deaf learning and education are looked upon by the society.
The Ground Realities – Lack of social cooperation:
Deaf children tend to be mocked at in school and their inability to be fluent and flawless in English, made fun of, by peers. However, more than what they experience at school, it is the lack of support and understanding that they experience at home and in family that tends to bother them the most. For instance, though family members tend to be cooperative and show understanding to come extent, they cannot always be supportive, as in the case of interpreting each and every aspect of their lives and interactions, due to practical difficulties as well as on account of their inability to empathise fully with the impaired children.
This was evident in the interview with Carolyn, where she experienced, as a child, the kind of neglect from her mother, Helen, in terms of interpreting for her, which her mother realised when Carolyn herself felt neglected when she joined Carolyn in a company of other deaf children. There are also other practical difficulties that deaf children experience when they feel left out among their own family and relatives, not being able to participate in normal conversations.
One of the major changes that have taken place over the years is that there is increased use of sign language in homes these days, even in cases where deaf children grow up in the presence of hearing parents. This was a trend that was not to be seen a few decades ago, as was expressed by Carolyn in her interview. This is also a sentiment that has been shared by Akamatsu, Stewart and Mayer (231) where they discuss one of the major changes of the current generation. The positive change has been that deaf children with hearing parents have the opportunity of growing up in signing environment, which, in effect, adds up to the multitudes of sources of communication and interaction beyond just the school premises. As Carolyn points out, family members also share in and take part in deaf education by interacting with deaf children in sign language at home, as aspect that contributes positively to improved communication skills of everyone involved.
Technological Changes that play a role in social and cultural contexts:
There are a host of technological changes that have been happening in the typical school environment, which go on to reinforce the importance of social structures evolving using the technological framework. Carolyn, in her interview, points out at the slew of developments in the technological arena that go on to positively reinforce the learning environment as experienced by deaf children – the change over from blackboards to smart boards, the substitution of workbooks with iPads, the introduction of Skype Chats for improved communication and interaction towards more effective learning, as well as the enhancement of public announcement systems with the help of individual LCD TV’s for the different rooms at schools are just some of the instances that have been quoted favourably by Carolyn as contributing to improved learning and enhanced self esteem of deaf learners.
When it comes to bringing about a change in social attitude towards deaf and deaf education, there are developments in general aspects of the society that go on to reinforce the idea of support and empathy. Assistance available to the hearing impaired in public places such as transport hubs as well as in hospitals and medical centres goes a long way in mending the image of deaf education and in creating an environment supportive of deaf learning.
Problems with Teaching and Scope for Improvement:
Schools are not just about education and training, but should also pave the way towards providing emotional support to deaf children, especially considering the kind of frustrations that they would experience in their everyday lives, on account of their own feelings of inferiority, coupled with the negative reactions that they may be at the receiving end of in their school and social circles, as was evident from the interview with Carolyn. Calderon and Greenberg (2011) call for healthy social and emotional development of deaf children at school, where they are equipped with cognitive processes and tools that would help them deal with the kind of frustrations, emotional upheavals and interpersonal conflicts that they would invariably be subjected to as part of their everyday lives.
However, as Calderon and Greenberg (2011) point out, it is this aspect that tends to be compromised on, considering the fact that much of the learning activity as well as instructions remain focussed on academic subjects as well as on communication skills, while teacher training programmes tailored towards deaf education do not involve specific training sessions on developing cognitive skills or fine tuning aspects of personality or social development, factors that are crucial in terms of the social and cultural contexts of deaf education.
Further, as Woodward and Allen (1988) postulate, even with regard to the normal standards of teaching for deaf children, there are found to be shortcomings in terms of teachers not being accurate in the usage of signs as they were originally intended to be used by the inventors. This aspect is only further exacerbated by the fact that there also tend to be discrepancies between what the teachers do at work and what they claim to be doing.
It is important that deaf children feel part of the society rather than find themselves apart from it, while they are imparted with the best in class education that would not render them at a relative disadvantage in comparison with the other normally able children. While it is only normal and natural that deaf children might feel themselves out of place and they are likely to be scoffed at by normal children for lack of language and other skills, it is important to train them on communication skills while also placing sufficient emphasis on equipping them with the social and psychological abilities to cope up with everyday life, while developing a sense of independence, self-awareness and problem solving skills. The emphasis, hence, is on teaching methodologies and in equipping the teachers with the necessary training skills, considering the inherent drawbacks associated with dilution of training from what it was intended to be by the original inventors of training methodologies and techniques. It is also important to engage with the parents of deaf children in forming a comprehensive solution and in providing for multitudes of learning opportunities for deaf children through inter-connectedness of schools, families and parents, and members of the deaf communities.
Akamatsu, C., Stewart, A. and Mayer, C. (2002) . Is it time to look beyond teachers’ Signing Behavior? Sign Language Studies Vol. 2, No. 3
Clarendon, R., and Greenberg, M. (2011) . Social and Emotional Development of Deaf Children: Family, School, and Program Effects. Oxford Handbook of Deaf Studies, language and education, Vol.1, 2nd Ed, (pp. 188 – 199), Oxford University Press
Lytle, R., and Rovins, M., (1997) . Reforming Deaf Education: A Paradigm Shift from How to Teach to What to Teach. American Annals of the Deaf 142:7 – 15
Woodward, J., and Allen, T., (1988) . Use of Artificial Sign Systems by Teachers, Sign language studies, 61: 405 – 18
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