Friday, August 12, 2011

A Letter To AG Bell From A Teacher Of The Deaf

(this email was sent to sboswell@agbell.org on August 2, 2011; thanks Gene for your permission to publish your letter online)

As a teacher at the Rochester School for the Deaf, I am both surprised and somewhat confounded as to why the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing would solicit my membership.  I was under the impression that your organization was averse to educational centers such as ours given the bilingual methodologies we employ, the use of American Sign Language as a natural language for students whose learning best occurs in a visual channel, and the critical mass of Deaf children attending one center in the absence of hearing peers.

What could resonate positively on your organization's invitation by including staff from schools for the Deaf to provide you with some sorely needed feedback and institutional change, is at the outset, negative in your mail distribution's catch-all job identification by listing those of us who work within these schools as "Hearing Specialists".  The title that you've used in addressing us, misappropriately categorizes us within your organization's Audist frame of reference, and I can be fairly certain we do not all share your idealogies.  What exactly do "Hearing Specialists" do?  Make people hearing?

We are teachers of the Deaf who employ whatever means necessary to provide a Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing and cochlear-implanted child with whatever means that child needs to succeed in acquiring language proficiency.  If a child's first language is English, that child's first language will be used with her/him by both Deaf and hearing staff members.  If the child's first language is Spanish, then Spanish will be utilized by both Deaf and hearing staff members to reach proficiency in ASL and English.  Likewise for the child whose language is ASL, as that will be the language to bridge towards English parity.  Such is the bilingual framework and methodology at work in our school.

I am a teacher at a School for the Deaf and I work with a band of highly skilled and exemplary professionals who happen to be Deaf and hearing.  My colleagues, both hearing and Deaf, if accepting of your invitation, would serve the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing well in providing it with a more balanced and less self-righteous philosophy about how we go about educating Deaf and Hard of Hearing brethren.

Finally, please be aware that these views are my own and not a reflection of my school organization or my employer.

Sincerely yours,
Gene Anthony DiVincenzo
Teacher of the Deaf

To read more letters to AG Bell, go to http://handeyes.wordpress.com