Diversity 101

Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award 2013This article isn’t about skin color or national origin. This article isn’t about religious beliefs or social norms.  This article is about the two people in my group of 155 who I think about every single day because they are so very different from every other student in my group.

J. arrived in the U.S. 2 months ago from El Salvador.  I found out yesterday, he’s here because his father died and his mother is trying to regroup back home. He doesn’t speak a word of English, comes from a culture that doesn’t demand education be a priority and lives with an aunt and sister who make demands of him that a 14 year old should have made upon him.

K. is totally deaf, doesn’t read lips and has an interpreter. She has a social life outside of the classroom, but her classmates haven’t a clue what to do with her because they can’t connect to her.  Neither can I actually.  Well, yes, I talk to her, her interpreter signs and we manage to have a conversation. But she can’t join the discussions.  Neither can J.

Its moments like this, as a teacher that I hate that I never took American Sign Language classes when I had the opportunity or that I fell asleep in Spanish class, because I really would rather be in French. (Parlez vous?)  I am not aware enough to connect with these two and have been struggling to figure out how to fix that.

I’m going to try something.  They both have My Big Campus accounts.  I can type up things for K. , show videos with captions on, have her text me homework or type up things in class. Several of her classmates want to learn sign language so they can talk to her.  There are a couple of Hispanic students who have volunteered to translate for J.  One said he’d even translate things I write for him.  I’m not even sure what grade level he is actually on.  How do I get someone around here to figure that out for me?World of Diversity

Sigh.  Our battle cry in the district this year is to be more diverse, to recognize that the community is changing and growing and become more blended with many different flavors of human.  Here is my opportunity to connect on a deeper level with two people to whom I can only smile at and wave. I feel like an idiot doing that, because I want to TALK to them.

I just downloaded an ASL app.  I’m going to find my old Spanish for Dummies cds.  I can do this.  I can be diverse.  Wish me luck.  I’m going to start finding resources to use with my two new students.  Any suggestions out there?