'HELP' and 'WORK WITH'
It seems like I am posting thoughts for discussion and the like every year in February. I don't know what it is so special about February.
I recently went to a work session held by a local school board. The reason for my attending that work session was to provide support in keeping ASL (American Sign Language) as a foreign language course available for students at the High School. Of course as the economy is evidenced, everyone at all levels are going through some kind of crisis. Cuts need to be made in order to keep the schools open (Indiana is planning on a cut of $300 million to its education). As a result of this cut, options are considered and since ASL was introduced last into the foreign language department, it will be the first cut out (and the only one).
Several reasons mentioned at the work session to have the board reconsider eliminating ASL from the school's curriculum:
- It is a language used locally after English and Spanish.
- Job opportunities for students who are interested in working in their fields using ASL. It could mean that they would be teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, doctors who can communicate directly with their patients, a co-worker, or someone who uses a service/store. Knowing ASL doesn't mean that one automatically becomes an interpreter. (Anyone want a challenge interpreting for me?)
- A few mentioned that taking the class allowed the students to become a family and be able to use the language pretty much daily.
- Deaf and hard of hearing students at the high school will benefit from learning a language that is natural to them. Most deaf and hard of hearing children enter school at the age of 5 with little or no native language (even with extensive training as opposed to natural acquisition).
- Deaf and hard of hearing ASL users will be able to communicate effectively with students who use ASL in the community; reducing the need for paper and pen and confusion in communication.
- One recommendation was to eliminate one or more of the 5 languages offered at the high school (With Spanish and ASL, they offer German, French and Japanese) to be able to keep ASL. Other options were to reduce the number of teachers in one or more languages and keep ASL (only one teacher anyway for this language, while others have 2 to 3 teachers).
I am sure you're wondering why I have strayed from the title of this blog. There were a few things mentioned at the work session that had gotten me (various adjectives). The first is the mention of deaf and hard of hearing people (I will use 'deaf' to apply to both from this point on)'s use of English or lack thereof. There is a demand for interpreters to 'help' deaf people because their English sucks.
Primary reason why deaf people (generally)'s English is not so good is because they did not have access to a natural native first language. That's a fact. It can't be disputed. Most deaf children enter school with the minimum language skills needed...sometimes even below the minimal language skills. The system is designed to satisfy the adults rather than focus on the needs of the children.
Ok, what's the point? HELP is the point. Help is a fantastic social tool where one can get assistance in doing something; but often, help is not used as a teaching tool. It can become a crutch, an attitude that says 'do it for me', and becoming dependent on others to do stuff for them. It can be intentional or not. Most often it is not intentional because again, lack of communication, lack of responsibility, lack of encouragement (or pushing) or a sense of pity (you can't, I'll do it; as if doing a service to meet your community service obligation).
I wonder why it is so hard to WORK WITH. Communication can be a primary barrier; however, if no one can do the work, then that would be the problem. WORKING WITH is an educational tool that encourages independence, skill development and sharing skills. We can help each other by sharing skills rather than being superior to the other (thus the HELPING attitude).
For me, let's use interpreters as an example, interpreters are there to WORK WITH me in providing communication access. They are not there to HELP me do my job, to take my classes, or to be a vocal person (when I'm not talking).
WORKING WITH someone reaps benefits for everyone. Skills in communication, job performance and interpersonal behavior develop to where the next time some one works with another person who is diverse from the person, the ease and ability to work with someone is achieved.
It is time efficient to work with someone rather than helping. Working with someone enables communication, comprehension and skill development. Helping enables repetition and aggravating frustration because someone is not learning, it also creates complacency. Initially it does take time to work with someone but as time goes, we all can work together fluidly rather than be jerky puppets repeating information or doing the same thing that helping enables.
It is natural for humans to be partway being closed or open minded about the world at large; however, the trend moves closer to being closed minded when it comes to helping. "They can't do it because they ....", you can fill in the blanks. Working with creates an open mind through education, mistakes, attitude changes and coming to terms with self-realization in the progress.
The world is richer for the ability to work with rather than helping. Helping is okay as long as it is in a WORKING WITH progress.