Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Going Public

Wikimedia Commons photo by Justin Brockie
Raise your hand if you've ever been terrified to go public -- to introduce him to your parents, to speak in public, to start a blog?

And yet how often do we expect our students to share their ideas, try new things, or take a risk, all without fear or hesitation?

I have given myself a taste of my own medicine, and it's been good to remember how hard it is to do the things we ask our students to do all the time.

One of the gardeners I work with in our community garden is deaf. She had her hearing long enough to learn to speak, but she's never learned lip reading. So we've been getting by with her talking to us, and us writing to her. It's a functional solution, but not equitable, and definitely not inclusive.

I decided to learn to finger spell. Of course, "there's an app for that." I've been trying to spend a few minutes every day practicing with the app, and sometimes on my morning walk, I run through the alphabet or spell things I see.

But I was terrified to try it with my deaf friend. To be the rank beginner at the feet of the expert.

Finally, this past weekend, I jumped the hurdle. I told her I was learning. Her smile glowed and crinkles showed in the corners of her eyes. I asked for her patience as I got better. She nodded enthusiastically.

And that's all it took. I just had to get past my fear of failing and give it a try. She is thrilled that I am making an attempt to communicate with her on her terms, and she is patient, encouraging and helpful.

Just like we are with our students.


  1. Mary Lee,
    Always true, don't you think?

    "I just had to get past my fear of failing and give it a try. "

    Heartwarming story,

  2. This is how I feel when I talk Spanish to the kids and teachers at school. And I know your friend appreciates that someone is trying to connect with her!

  3. What a special story to reach out into her world and connect. "Going public" is scary, but as I recently learned once you take a little step amazing doors can be opened.

  4. There you go - we bring our own life lessons into our classrooms, and to our students. Modeling at its very best, Mary Lee!

  5. So hard to be a beginner! It always helps me when experts at something will remind me that they, too, started, at the same place. You go with your finger spelling, Mary Lee!

  6. You're the best, Mary Lee!

  7. What a wonderful thing to do, Mary Lee. Why does it NOT surprise me that you'd think to do such a kind and interesting thing? (And see it as another way to learn something cool, too!) :)

    Your story is a good reminder for me as school is about to begin. For the students who will arrive on those not so distant shores, the new classroom will be a strange, scary, and (potentially) wonderful country.

  8. What a wonderful story Mary Lee. We are always growing aren't we?

  9. Starting a blog sounds a lot easier. :-)I have always wanted to learn to sign. Finger spelling, well I can do that some, but not great. (I acted in Miracle Worker in HS.) Third graders would love to learn some of this along with you, I bet. (I love to watch my friend's class sing and sign!) How wonderful that you are doing this. And how kind your friend is. A beautiful story, Mary Lee. I love how you will find out more and more from doing this. And think about all the brain activity. Just talked to a friend this weekend who is teaching his 16 month old to sign a bit. More, please, thank you, plus a few more and while he does not do the signs correctly he can communicate this way as well as with words. Him mom is a 2nd gr. teacher who loves poetry, btw! Janet F.

  10. What a sweet thing you are doing to include your deaf friend. I learned some sign language long ago and was nervous to try it with a true deaf person. I learned it to use with religious prayers and songs. But like your friend, this person was just so pleased that I even tried. She accepted me and taught me more signs. This is more than about risk taking with your own words. It's also about risking vulnerability to be open to and connecting with others.


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