Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Sign of Diversity

I am very fortunate to have a very diverse classroom of kindergarteners. I have some whose parents are from Haiti, Africa, The Dominican Republic and Brazil.
In addition to English, many of my children speak Spanish, two speak Portuguese and one speaks French Creole.
One child, whose mother is deaf is fluent in American Sign Language. This has presented some challenges with parent/teacher communication and technology certainly helps with that. Text messages, and email have been the norm rather than the exception, and translators for parent/teacher conferences have to be scheduled weeks in advance.
The children have a natural curiosity about how "Jackson" communicates with his mom and I have to admit, I'm fascinated as well.
"Jackson" is a very active and endearing little boy. I watch as he runs around on the sidewalk chasing his friends at dismissal time and when all the other moms are yelling for their children to come to them and stop running, Jackson's mom waits patiently to catch his eye. He instinctively knows not to run too far and to check back in her direction on occasion. It makes me wonder about all the challenges she has to face on a daily basis in raising a child in a silent world.

The other children have experience at least in hearing other languages but for many this has been their first exposure to watching people communicate with ASL. They are fascinated by it and ask a lot of questions. I am still learning too! At the start of the year Jackson told me that he wanted to have a play date with a certain child, so I suggested that he talk to his mom about it. He looked at me funny, then said, "But I don't know how to spell "Matthew"!"
During a parent teacher conference, his mom brought to my attention that there was some difficulty helping "Jackson" complete some of his homework because she could not help him decode and sound out the words. An issue that had not occurred to me. It's been a learning process for all of us, but it's been a welcomed one!
The other day during choice time one little girl asked me if she could use my lap top because the other computers were being used. I set her up and left her to it. She went right to one of her favorite web sites, Starfall. This is a great web site, full of letters and sounds, stories and learning games. After a time, I noticed her concentrating intently on the computer screen and when I realized what she was doing, I quickly grabbed my camera!
I often call on "Jackson" to help me sign the letters when we sing the alphabet song, something he jumps up quickly to do, but it looks like soon he'll have a little competition for that job!

I love that kindergarten children have such a natural curiosity to learn and I especially love it when they are willing to embrace and learn about the things that make each of them unique.

Diversity is a wonderful thing!


nana2mdnjp said...

this actually brought tears to my eyes. Keep up the good work.

Ms. Camile said...

Oh how endearing! I love this post. It really warmed my heart. As a teacher, we can face so many challenges and I see how having an ASL speaking parent could be difficult. But you are making the best of it! Jackson and his mom are so lucky to have an awesome teacher who actually cares about his welfare.