My name is Douglas Jackson. I work with deaf elementary students in El Paso, Texas. I have done this for most of my twenty-odd year career, except for a three year stint as the coordinator of a law-related education program and some glorious summers as a teacher of gifted and talented students. I was a 2000 Disney American Teacher Award Honoree. That is how I met the wonderful and kind Lynda Van Kuren of the CEC, who has asked me to share some thoughts with you during what educators ought to call May Madness.
I have been reading most of the blog entries for the past school year, all the while wondering what exactly I could contribute that be worthy of such company, let alone serve as the culmination of this year’s opus. And I should tell you that despite my deep regard for data-driven, issue-oriented, research-based discussions of the classroom, my own inclination is toward stories, analogies and parables. I will attempt to share some of these as the year winds down.
Let me tell you about a project that I am currently finishing with my students. Every year I do a Powerpoint presentation with my fifth grade Regional Day School Program for the Deaf home room. These Powerpoints are designed for my students to present to adult audiences out in the community, generally about a subject that concerns them. They also practice by presenting to other classes.
The first one back in 2004 dealt with the rights and responsibilities of deaf people in our system of justice, particularly the importance of interpreters at all stages of the process. It was the product of the annual mock trials we have been doing in the 243rd District courtroom of Judge David Guaderrama for the past thirteen years. My students presented it to a meeting of the El Paso Bar Association. To see the presentation, click on this link, http://wps.prenhall.com/chet_heward_exceptional_8/0,10904,2414970-,00.html, then click on 'Featured Teacher' on the left navigation bar.
The students did so well that the following school year we did a Powerpoint for a group of medical students on the rights and responsibilities of deaf people in medical situations, again stressing the importance of qualified, certified interpreters in what can be life and death situations. We have done these presentations ever since. Our current presentation is on Deaf Artists, and we will be presenting this to a Lions Club meeting later this month.
These presentations have become a tradition, something students look forward to at the end of the school year. In addition to developing their communication and presentation skills, the students are becoming more adept at and more comfortable with the kind of technology that will be critical for their futures. But after months of telling my students that people like Martin Luther King, Jr. or Cesar Chavez can say things that change the way that people think, it is very gratifying to observe when they stand up in front of a room full of adults and realize that they themselves can follow in those footsteps.
Everybody needs something bright and shiny to look forward to at the end of the non-stop series of daily marathons that is a year in the life of a special needs educator. This is my ‘bright and shiny’. I would love to hear about yours.