Where did the days go?

The last entry I wrote was in August. That’s almost 6 months ago. For yet another time I let “busyness” hijack my plans. Although, was I really busy? Or maybe the right question is was I busy with what was important to me?

I know I got things done at work. I know I was serving my community. I was present at school activities of my children. I lobbied for issues on social media. Yet somehow, I still feel I didn’t get the important things done. 

What are the important things? When I think about it, it’s building relationships and “wasting time” with people who are important to me like my aging parents, my husband, my daughters. It’s being mindful when I read emails and being present in the moment when I write my response. It’s setting aside time for myself, to take care of myself and get fit, read books, take up a hobby. 

You know those three books I posted a picture of in my last post. They remain unread. 

Maybe I’ll start with that. 

Is there still hope?

A post also known as CUKH Symposium on Sign Bilingualism Day 1

Ok so this is a very late post on the Symposium I attended back in June. My grand idea was to write about what was discussed during the daw when I got back to my room in the evening but my brain was crammed with so much information that all I had the energy to do was eat and sleep. (But I’m pretty sure I got some sightseeing and shopping inserted in there somewhere…)

I said in the first post about this Symposium that I would explain what sign bilingualism is and when the sessions started I was very confident that I had a definition for it that was universal. During the afternoon of that first day I realized that the symposium I attended had a different definition than the one I have. Bear with me as I explain as clearly as I can what our definition of sign bilingualism is over in the Philippines the definition of bilingualism as I know it, and the definition they had in Hong Kong as I understood it from the first presentations of the symposium.

Bilingualism among Deaf learners, as I know it, refers to Deaf people being able to communicate in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) and in a written language like English or Filipino. Over at Benilde we say that our Deaf program adheres to bilingualism because we attempt to develop the communication skills of our students in FSL and in written English. (We also teach them written Tagalog but I have to admit this is more difficult than teaching English…and that is already tough as it is!)

Here in Hong Kong bilingualism refers to signing in Chinese Sign Language (CSL) and speaking in Cantonese. Being able to write in Cantonese is referred to as Chinese literacy. I have to admit I had a hard time wrapping my mind around this but that’s just because back in the Philippines the signing schools don’t teach students to speak and the oral schools don’t teach students to sign.

The first day of the symposium was a half-day session that focused on the theme of Language Input.

The first two presentations of that Day One were a bit hard for me to follow…

(Note: The speakers are the people at the podium. Those standing conspicuously under the PowerPoint presentations are the sign language interpreters.)

Bencie Woll talks about why sign language is good for your brain...mostly in the context of Deaf children with cochlear implants.
Bencie Woll talks about why sign language is good for your brain…mostly in the context of Deaf children with cochlear implants.
Does early sign language input make a difference in deaf children with Auditory Brainstem Implants? This is the question that Chris Yiu answers in his presentation.
Does early sign language input make a difference in deaf children with Auditory Brainstem Implants? This is the question that Chris Yiu answers in his presentation.

It was the last two presentations that got my attention and, in a way, left me disheartened.

The third presentation was by Rachel Mayberry who talked about how infant language prepares the child’s brain to read. The lecture was a bit technical with images of the brain being presented in various scenarios like when a Deaf person who learned sign language early was given a question to answer versus a Deaf person who learned to sign late, at about 7 or 8 years old, answering the same question. (Let me just say how grateful I was to be seated beside Rochelle who is a science teacher. I believe I understood most of the presentation because of the explanations she would whisper to me when I probably looked perplexed.) Basically what I got from this presentation is that Deaf people who learn to sign at a later age have a harder time with reading comprehension in adolescence and even later in life. And that is the same for their comprehension of signing as well.

Rachel Mayberry presenting how infant language prepares the child's brain to read.
Rachel Mayberry presenting how infant language prepares the child’s brain to read.

I teach at a tertiary-level institution where the majority of our Deaf students learned to sign late…later than the age of 7 and 8. So the whole time I was listening to this presentation I was thinking, “So what the heck are we doing? If our students are at such a disadvantage why in heaven’s name are we working so hard when whatever we do won’t bring them to the level acceptable in society the workplace?”

The fourth, and last presentation for the day was by Qun Li, Gladys Tang, Chris K-M Yiu, and Scholastica Lam and they discussed the literacy development of their students in the co-enrollment program (SLCO). What I got from that talk is that the receptive vocabulary ability of Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing children are similar to that of hearing children but their expressive vocabulary ability is different. That means that I can expect them to understand words from what we have them read in the same level as hearing children but they will not be able to express themselves using words of the same level. Which is a bit hard for me to believe because the students that I teach have great difficulty in reading at the same level as their hearing peers. Or is the SLCO Program able to develop receptive vocabulary ability because the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing students have hearing classmates? If that’s the case then I think this way of teaching is worth looking into.

So is there still hope for our Deaf learners to read and write and learn at the level of their hearing peers? How much work will it take for them and for us who teach? What are we doing wrong? And what should we be doing to teach them right? So many questions that left me a bit disappointed, and a bit frustrated, but I’d like to thank that I also felt hope, and inspiration, that we can still make a difference in Deaf Education, albeit we need to work much, much harder than the norm.

And that was it for our first day. I hope I can still post about the sessions after because it was a jam packed Day 2 and insightful Day 3. That’s what happens when you put writing off for months and months. 🙁

In Hong Kong…and Not For Shopping!

A post also known as CUHK Symposium on Sign Bilingualism Day 0

Yesterday I arrived in Hong Kong with a group of teachers from De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde who work with Deaf students in the College. We’re here to attend a symposium on sign bilingualism (I can hear some of you already asking, “What’s that?!” Patience, friends, I will get to that in my next post. 🙂 ) at the Chinese University in Hong Kong from June 19-21.

A corner of the HK Airport. I really hope when the PHL airport has been constructed they put some green in it too.

We were scheduled to come a day early so we don’t have to rush from airport to symposium which would happen if we arrive on the day itself. Thank you very much to the very considerate person who planned this trip for thinking more about our well-being than the expense. 😛 This also means we had some hours to spend walking around Hong Kong! Hooray! I know, I know, some people think of Hong Kong as a shopping destination…or Disneyland…but if you travel with the group of teachers I was with, and one in particular who would probably marry Jose Rizal given a chance, more interest goes into historical locations and seeing the sights that tourists usually don’t look for. We were going on an adventure! Yun lang nga, it felt like we walked the length of a full marathon. 😀

Reminds us of LRT Line 2.
This MTR line reminds us of LRT Line 2 back home.
Finally able to sit down on the MTR...yun lang we get off at the next station.
Finally we were able to take a seat…yun lang we get off at the next station. 😛
They say a building goes up in HK every year or two.
They say a building goes up in HK every year or two.
One of the side streets we came across with shops lined along. I found it interesting that they built on the side of the mountain and didn't flatten it for convenience.
One of the apparently many side streets of HK and I found it interesting that they built this and thought to preserve the mountain instead of flattening it for convenience.
This answers my question on how pedestrians walk all those flights of stairs. :)
This answers my question on how pedestrians walk all those flights of stairs. 🙂
Finally at Rednaxela Terraces!
We have reached Rednaxela Terrace!
Finally! Mrs. Jose Rizal of SDEAS visits the site of Rizal's clinic in Hong Kong. :)
Finally! Mrs. Jose Rizal of SDEAS visits the site of Rizal’s clinic in Hong Kong. 🙂

Interesting fact shared by Ms. Febe…Rednaxela Terrace was supposed to be Alexander Terrace but when Rizal wrote down the name for the Chinese sign maker (sorry, sorry, I have no idea what the title actually is and sign maker sounds close enough) he didn’t say that it should be read from left to right. And because the Chinese read their texts from right to left…well, the rest is history. 😉

Strolling down Rednaxela Terrace, looking for the door of Jose Rizal's clinic.
Strolling down Rednaxela Terrace, looking for the door of Jose Rizal’s clinic. We found it but for some reason my picture of that won’t upload. 🙁
Headed to the port to take the ferry back instead of the MTR.
Headed to the port to take the ferry back instead of the MTR.
This is the HK Ferry. I wonder how the Star Ferry is like back home.
This is the HK Ferry. which I found to be spacious and clean. I wonder how the Star Ferry is like back home.
Look! Look! :)
Look! Look! 🙂 It’s like I was transported to the past…except for the buildings.
This used to be the site of the Water Police Station.
This used to be the site of the Water Police Station.
And because everyone needed a few minutes to recharge we sat by the fountain. (And almost dipped our faces in the water...hehehe.)
And because everyone needed a few minutes to recharge we sat by the fountain. (And almost dipped our faces in the water…hehehe.)

I see these lovely people often enough in school but don’t really have a chance to get to know so I was doubly blessed by the opportunity to listen to stories, know what they are passionate about, and just be with them. Being present to one another, after all, is important to building relationships. So at the end of the day, despite my feet that felt they were going to fall off, I can say that I had a grand time. 🙂

Just some of the people I am with on this trip. Missing in the picture are Ms. Tech, JX, Raphy and Vicky.
Just some of the people I am with on this trip. Missing in the picture are Ms. Tech, JX, Raphy and Vicky.

Tomorrow we get down to business. I’m excited to be at a symposium, would you believe it! I haven’t been to a professional development activity specifically for Deaf Education in quite a while (doing administrative work sometimes bogs you down…that, and not wanting to leave three children for days at a time) and I’m looking forward to learning new stuff. 🙂

Only The Positive Goes Through My Door!

Today a friend pointed out that I was micromanaging at work. Let me tell you how grateful I am for this person’s presence because he really does tell it to me straight. Not too many people do that anymore.

So apparently he noticed it because my aura is so different from what it usually is. Read: STRESSED! So I am going to turn things around. Tomorrow, I let people deal with the things that they should be dealing with in the first place. I allow them to make their mistakes and stop myself from catching them when they fall…especially when they don’t tell me they were planning on making a jump in the first place! The new rule is that you don’t come to me with a problem without a suggestion or solution to accompany it.

Image

I’m just going to turn you away. 😛