On Tuesday, May 10, American Sign Language (ASL) students at Forman School learned a lesson in Deaf culture.
It was time for the ASL II final exam, and World Languages Chair Brooke Crossman wanted to do something more comprehensive than a traditional test. “I did Deaf Day as part of my final exam in college, and I found it to be eye opening and challenging,” Crossman said. Deaf Day explores “a day in the life of a Deaf teenager in a mainstream setting.” Students were required to wear earplugs simulating a 29 decibel hearing loss from 8:00am to 3:10pm. This meant that they could only use either sign language or personal whiteboards to communicate in all of their classes as well as in social interactions.
“The students were expected to maintain their daily routines and were required and encouraged to participate in their classes,” Crossman explained. “They kept a journal of their experiences and are writing reaction papers documenting what they have learned and how their view has changed.” While she does teach about Deaf culture, she added that it can be difficult to be immersed in it. Deaf Day is a step in that direction and it was clearly impactful for the 12 students involved.
Although Crossman’s classroom was virtually silent on Tuesday, there was a variety of dynamic activity occurring. The group communicated together in ASL, and when students were unsure how to relay messages, they wrote them down. This is just the first part of Crossman’s exam, but the results it are already evident.
Students noted some of the challenges they experienced throughout the day. “When your friends at lunch tell a joke and laugh and you aren’t able to hear it,” Riley Culberson ’16 wrote. Or, “when a teacher says hi to you and you can’t say anything, they think you’re being rude.” Most of all, though, the students began to understand another way of life. “Today really changed my perspective,” Emily McKenney ’18 wrote on her whiteboard. It was “eye opening.”
View photos from Deaf Day here.