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Deaf Education in America: Voices of Children from Inclusion
If I didnít understand the work we were doing, like if I didnít understand the directions, Iíd sometimes ask the interpreter,
and if the interpreter didnít know what to do, then Iíd ask the teacher. I had an interpreter in the classroom, but I didnít
like having to look back and forth between the interpreter and the other stuff happening in the classroom.
The experience of receiving an interpreted education seems to be significantly different from the experience of receiving a direct education. Zackís frustration with the pace of interpreting suggests a negative impact on his ability to finish his work on time. Not only does he miss recess, but he also feels singled out, which increases his feelings of embarrassment. Zack experiences ďexposure embarrassment,Ē a feeling that comes when children are aware that they have become the object of other peoplesí attention. For Zack, the pain of embarrassment is constant while in the hearing classroom. In fact, the themes of embarrassment, feeling different, and feeling alienated are strong throughout Zackís interview.
Kyle emphasized another frustration of trying to learn through an interpreter. He explains that he didnít like looking between the interpreter and the ďother stuff happening in the classroom.Ē Other students also voiced this frustration, noting a desire on their part to read the teacherís expression and body language, while having access to the message. Jasmine also understands this frustration and declares that direct instruction is better because ďif you have questions you can ask and get immediate responses.Ē
Jasmine and Julie both commented that the way deaf students learn is not conducive to the way hearing students are taught. Jasmine speaks of the need for deaf students to see, touch, and manipulate things before writing about them. Without this support, she feels her only alternative is to copy from someone else or to fail. Julie also insists that deaf students are more visual learners and benefit from visual demonstrations, rather than lectures and notes. She directly links her declining success in the classroom between middle school and high school to the change in teaching methodsófrom visual and tactile learning to lectures and copying notes.
Several of the students mentioned they had difficulty with written instructions. Julie confesses that she does not understand the homework, which is often based on written paragraphs. Kyle and Tyler also mentioned not understanding directions. In order to appropriately accommodate deaf students, the deaf education teachers need to be active in adapting homework, tests, and projects to make them accessible to the deaf student. Tyler acknowledged this need for a strong deaf education teacher, as well.
When asked ďWho do you ask when you donít understand?Ē some deaf students explained that they turn to the interpreter to find out what to do, but if the interpreter does not know, they might ask the teacher. Perhaps their reluctance to ask the teacher stems from their embarrassment at having a low reading level and not understanding. However, it may also reflect their view of the interpreter as the intermediary between them and the hearing world.