Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Puerto Rico Update #3

Numero tres (y quatro since I skipped yesterday).

Tuesday was much the same as Monday, actually. I enjoyed my day, but it was a little more frustrating than the day before. I got to work int he 3rd grade classroom in the morning. There are three students in that class (two girls and one boy) ages 8, 8, and 11. They did a variety of different subjects and when we got to English vocabulary and sentences, things kind of fell apart. It was really frustrating to know both English and to know how the mind of these 8 year old kids works (well...I have a fairly good guess at how they work, anyways) but not be able to place myself outside of myself and explain it to these kids! Its like, how do you describe a "direct object of the sentence" to someone who has only recently learned about kangaroos who live in Australia? Its kinda mind blowing. Its so hard to not use "college words" to describe things that I know. I was totally at a loss of how to tell this one little girl I was working with why her sentence made perfect sense in ASL, but for English, she needed to add in a couple of more words. ASL doesnt have articles ("the", "a", etc.) nor do they have helping verbs ("is", "am"). So to write a sentence that says "The baby's name is called Joey" really turns out to be "Baby name Joey" in ASL (well, at least for the level of linguistics I was working with with this 8 year old. I eventually said "Ok look. You need the word "is". Trust me. I am a teacher and I am telling you write on your paper right here "i-s"." She did but she didnt understand why. That was the frustrating thing for me because I know that if they do not understand why, they wont be able to make these sentences on their own. AHH! Ok someone please teach me how to teach these kids!

After all that, we went into the "library" to type up the story about the kangaroos on the computer. I had both of the 8 year olds and I could not get them to stop messing with the fonts, etc., on the computer. Oh man. I got really mad. Let me tell  you; little deaf kid, when they get mad, their language turns on and they sing really fast and sloppily. Hearing teacher? When she gets mad, ASL goes out the window and all you can think is "stop! stop!" That was a crisis moment in my day because I thought I was really good at signing and then all of a sudden I have no signs to communicate to them their bad behaviour. Most of the problem was that I could not get the kids to look at me. I've seen some of the other teachers take them by the chin and force the kids to make eye contact because when these kids dont want to listen, they just look away. There's really nothing you can do to make them look at you besides holding their head with your hands so they will be forced to look into your eyes. I dont feel comfortable with that. So I simply told them if they dont stop, they wont be able to use the computers. They saw that I was mad and even if I couldnt express myself with myhands, they could read my face and could figure out I was dead serious about this. Thankfully, ten minutes later (of course this is the time when they are actually focusing and typing up their stories...) its time to go to lunch. Oh brother. Well, I did what I could.

The rest of the afternoon went better and I didnt have anymore "communication breakdowns." I got to work with the kindergarten/1st grade class again after lunch. The teacher wanted me to work one-on-one with this one particular girl named "Z" (not her real name...but her name starts with a Z so we'll just call her Z). Z is 7 (she told me she was 8...dont know why still) and she is one of the girls I blogged about earlier who has a younger deaf sister, is deaf herself, and both her parents are deaf. You would think her linguistic skills would be off the charts, however, no. We had the book "The Grinch" and I asked her to "read" it to me. Well, of course she cant read that book because she is 7. I had NO idea what she was saying other than "decorations" and "place". She does not have very much vocab AT ALL so i was not at all surprised to just watch her move her hands. She wasnt signing. She was trying to imitate a language that she can barely speak. And she's 7. Sad. She understands nearly everything anybody says to her, but she has very poor expressive skills. It was not until today (wednesday) until I realized/came up with the idea that maybe she is autistic. Her sister ("N) is 5 and has very good language! Of course N says kid-like things like a 5 year old does, but she can hold joint-attention and has no problem making eye contact. Z on the other hand has me worried. I asked her teacher today (Wed) if she had ever noticed that about Z before and I asked her if she thought she might be a little bit autistic. Her teacher said she'd never noticed it before, but that she'd look out for it in the near future.

Its weird to me because here they do not have tests for the kids. This is a school for the deaf with highly qualified people, but when I ask them if they have ever tested them for XY or Z, they just say "Uhh no." I think PR'ian deaf kids would do so well with A) a school SLP (speech language pathologist) B) certified interpreters (they told me there was ONE woman who was a certified interpreter who worked in the school system, but she died two years ago...sooooo now there are no certified interpreters. WOW!) C) some SLPs who specialize in educational testing. All of these are needed. I say an SLP is needed very badly in the schools because some of the kids are HoH (hard of hearing) and want to speak and sign at the same time. The kids here at ESD are *extremely* willing to use their voice. In fact, all of them do! They know the teachers are hearing, so if they want to get your attention, they will just yell out and you turn around. Its really an effective system, actually. The only problem with this is that you have deaf kids screaming!!! at other deaf kids which will blow your ears out (especially when you are in the car...oh man!) That is extremely ineffective because they are both deaf...go figure...they dont get it. Ha!

Anyways, after Z tried to read me the Grinch (while making no eye contact whatsoever) she had warmed up to me in her own way and was willing to let me help her with her math homework. This kid was great at math! Many deaf people are because it is concrete and numbers are constant. Languages are clearly their weak point, but math and numbers and computers, normally they are pretty good with them. I was blown away because I have never done math with an 8 year old before, but I always imagined there would be a lot more teaching and explaining than what went on yesterday with my experience with Z.

After school, I literally had a headache. Jen asked me "Beach?" and I said "YES!" Betsy and some of the others joined us and we swam and played in the water for about an hour or more. It was great! The waves are huge here and really powerful! They also churn up a ton of sand...bleach.

I had told a couple people earlier in the week that I loved seafood so for dinner Tuesday night they decided I had to go to their favourite seafood restaurant place called "King Seafood". It was delicious! Very, very decadent and so good! I was starving by the time we ate dinner though, because it took them an hour to bring us our food. We were at the restaurant for nearly 2.5 hours. Apparently "island time" trumps all and they take their down time very seriously here. Dinner was great and I had leftovers for lunch on Wed.

By the time we got back to school, it was 9pm. I read for a little while but was too tired to blog. Went to bed at 10:30pm and started Wed!

Today we took the kids to do a hand bell performance in San Juan. It took about 40 minutes to get to the hotel where we played. The kids did great and were very excited to perform. I loved watching them smile and get nervous and congratulate each other. We left first thing after chapel and devotions, performed, and got back to the school at nearly 1pm. After lunch we continued watching part of The Nativity Story movie. I love watching it with the kids because they will say "Watch out because this bad guy will come up!" or "There's gonna be a snake soon! Dont be scared!" They're so sweet! =) There was only about 45 minutes left in the school day so I went with the 3rd grade class and helped them make macaroni angel Christmas decorations. For the most part, after school, I helped JJ and just relaxed a little bit. JJ made me fish and salad for dinner and it was very tasty. I'll have to try her recipe at home! After dinner some of us went to an evening church service. We went there on sunday night too. The service is completely in Spanish, but we have brought a deaf person each time, so Betsy will interpret the whole thing in ASL. Its like listening to an language you recognize and know vocabulary words from, but really would never be able to get the meaning of it (Spanish) and then watching it be translated in ASL at the same time (my 2nd language). ...It hurts my brain, but totally stretches my ASL skills. Actually, it stretches all of my linguistic skills! Its fun! I really like living in "America" for this week but being in such a different culture (I put "America" in scare quotes because PR is a US owned territory...but it feels like a different country just without the extreme 3rd world conditions most of the other non-US territories around here probably face). After church, I blogged and now bed! Goodnight!

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