“It’s all about creating community.”
That’s how Bayfield Primary School teacher Deb Ireland feels about her first grade class, and she’s not alone. Today, there’s a movement in education to teach social-emotional skills to youngsters. It even has an acronym: SEL (Social-Emotional Learning). It’s a process that enables kids to acquire the skills to manage their feelings, demonstrate empathy for others, achieve goals, maintain healthy relationships and make good decisions. Creating activities that help students along the path—such as the “morning share” established by some Bayfield teachers—can turn a room of diverse kids into an interconnected community.
This past school year, Deb had a deaf student in her first grade community. How could she ensure that the young girl would be a full member of the group just like any other? A music video, of course!
Actually, the video was the grand finale of many moves Deb made to see that her young student was a part of everything that happened in the classroom.
Bayfield Primary School
Deb first taught the hearing students that American Sign Language (ASL) is a language like any other, and that her students “had the opportunity to learn a second language” over the course of the year and use it with their classmate. She also explained that the ASL student would be learning to read and write English, with a structure fundamentally different than ASL, as her second language.
Deb talked with the class about the variety of learning obstacles people can face—from poor eyesight to behavioral challenges. She explained that everyone deserves to get the tools he or she needs to be successful.
The San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or San Juan BOCES, provided a full-time ASL interpreter, Laurette. Some of Deb’s students enjoyed watching Laurette at work and picked up some ASL terms that way.
Deb researched how to develop an inclusive, bilingual classroom and used ideas she found online, such as vocabulary workbook pages and images of ASL signs to post on objects in the classroom. She showed the class age-appropriate music videos featuring ASL and the light bulb went off.
Fortunately, Deb knew a professional videographer, David, with an assistant eager to help. Ryan filmed the class over a three-day period, and the two gentlemen produced a charming, polished video (see it full-size on YouTube here). Deb hosted a “premier party” for the kids and their parents, published the video on YouTube, and motion picture history was made.
Deb hopes her larger community—Bayfield residents and friends scattered far and wide, hearing and deaf—will enjoy and share the video. After finding resources online to help in her mission this past academic year, it’s important to Deb to contribute to the body of work that serves the ASL community.
The video, “Makes me smile whenever I watch it,” she says. “I hope you smile too. Love those kids.”