SignWriting in Albuquerque Directory

Photo right: Students Desi & Jazmine (back row), and Joe & Simon
(front row), open a
box of SignWriting books that were donated to their class....

Teacher's Reports

Cecilia Flood

Teacher & Counselor for the Deaf and
Hard of Hearing, Albuquerque, NM

Web Report #1
Saturday, February 13, 1999

1. Why do you want to learn SignWriting?
Sign Language has been a part of my life for 30 years. It started with one sign at a time when I first worked with Deaf children at a summer camp. Fluency has not been easily acquired but I have occasionally been asked if my parents were deaf. They are not, but communication in a family of 11 required a lot of persistence. I want to learn SignWriting to teach/learn it with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing students with whom I work in a mainstreamed public education program. As a school counselor I have become keenly aware of the impact school based reading and writing competencies has had on Deaf and Hard of Hearing students' self-esteem. Motivation to investigate a sign literacy stems from a comprehensive exam that explored literacy development within Deaf bilingual bicultural educational contexts. The potential written literacy in students' everyday language, the language that meets their communicative needs, warrants further investigation. SignWriting, a way to read and write signs, may not only enhance second language literacy learning of English but may also assist Deaf and Hard of Hearing students to self monitor the 'affective filter' regarding English literacy development. Learning to read and write signs may produce more 'smiles' (evidence of weakening the affective filter) in biliteracy educational contexts. SignWriting will be the focus of my Ph.D. dissertation, a community based action research that will describe how Deaf and Hard of Hearing students experience learning to write using SignWriting.

2. What have been some of your past frustrations when teaching?
"I rarely meet a friend or colleague (in deaf education) who is happy in the service these days" (Stringer 1996 p.149). Explanations for this 'unhappiness' run the gamut; lack of administrative support, inequitable economic compensation, minimal participation and discipline backing from parents, discounting of previous accomplishments, criticism of sign proficiency, blame for student academic failure, over abundance of report writing, IEP goals, end of school reports, parent conferences and so on. Perhaps the more current educational paradigm shift, bilingual bicultural education, has generated the most ambivalence or 'crisis' (opportunity for change or a 'dangerous wind') among deaf educators. Throughout my professional career as teacher, parent educator, instructor of Sign Language and counselor, I too had to deal with bouts of relational and philosophical conflicts which caused a lot of stress. What can be expected is that relational stresses experienced among and between adults will eventually spiral down to the relationships with the students. What is inherently frustrating about working with Deaf and Hard of Hearing students is the belief system that they have been socialized to believe, that learning to read and write is too hard and they'll never be really good at it.

3. Are you hoping that SignWriting might help? If so, in what way?
I propose that Deaf and Hard of Hearing students learning to write the language they use for everyday interaction, that is learning to read and write signs using SignWriting, will enhance their literacy experiences in academic contexts, will effect their self-esteem development, will make them smile more, will promote a cultural and linguistic empowerment, will heighten their awareness of the power of the written word, will increase their metalinguistic awareness and abilities, will contribute to their expressive language development, will validate the language they use everyday, will strengthen and reinforce bilingual skill development, will motivate students in their ongoing English literacy development, will provide opportunities for collaborative biliteracy experiences and will offer insight and provide an informed perspective into the academic literacy experiences of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students. While the above account generates a long list of proposed 'hopeful wishes', my primary hope is that SignWriting will help Deaf and Hard of Hearing students recognize and acknowledge their language making capabilities signified by real true smiles with fully engaged cheek muscles.

4. How would you like to use your web page?
Initially, the web page would be used to post brief descriptions, provide a picture, of what transpires during SignWriting lessons. As we, the project stakeholders (students, teachers, families, researcher/ teacher/observer) become more engaged in the spiraling LOOK, THINK, and ACT research routine (Stringer 1996), we will democratically negotiate how and what will be contributed to the APS SignWriting Literacy Project web page. Contingent on our developing proficiencies in SignWriting and our technological computer-'ease', posting the products of our SignWritng literacy events would be a hoped for contribution.

5. Some additional information about APS sign literacy learners.

Even though Albuquerque does not rank among one of the largest (geographically) cities in the country, it is one of the fastest growing urban communities in the southwest. A community of Deaf and Hard of Hearing students does exist in spite of geographic separation between one elementary program (on the west side of the Rio Grande) and the two other program sites. Most of the students met each other at New Mexico's state school for the Deaf preschool satellite program located here in Albuquerque. The students affectionately refer to those early school experiences beginning a conversation with an opener like, 'remember the little red school?". The trim of the building happened to be red sometime in its history but even with paint upkeep, no matter the color, the school remained, 'the little red school'. The satellite program is now housed in a beautiful new building specially designed for the communication and learning needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing preschoolers. It is located in the 'backyard' of an APS elementary school where the two current APS elementary Deaf and Hard of Hearing programs will combine and be reestablished as one entity. Demographically that will situate all mainstreamed programs servicing elementary, middle and high school Deaf and Hard of Hearing students into the same district cluster which will enhance program continuity and the delivery of professional services. More significantly, bringing all the programs together geographically will allow for the strengthening of a community of sign language users. Perhaps as the SignWriting literacy project progresses within APS, the inquiry focused on the how of a writing learning experience will evolve into 'a search for understanding in the company of friends' (Stringer 1996 p.160).

Stinger E. (1996) Action Research a Handbook for Practitioners. Thousand Oaks, CA.: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Teacher: Cecilia Flood

Albuquerque Public Schools
Special Education-Aztec

2611 Eubank, NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87112

SignWriting in Albuquerque Directory