Archive for the ‘Meredith Peruzzi’ Category

Two Deaf Schools

July 28, 2010

This week, I visited two schools for deaf students in Japan. The first, Special Needs Education School for the Deaf, University of Tsukuba, was located in Chiba prefecture; the second, Tokyo Metropolitan Chuo School for the Deaf, was located in Tokyo.

The two schools are very different in operation and purpose. The Special Needs School covers all ages, from infancy (in mother/child programs) to vocational training after the high school level. The Chuo School is junior high and high school only. High school students at both schools are taught with sign language or simultaneous communication, but at the Special Needs School, children are taught in an oral/aural method all the way through junior high. This helped me understand why so many students here at the Tsukuba University of Technology speak – even if they attended a deaf school, they might have been in an oral program. (When I asked how students pick up sign language if they’re in an oral program, it turned out to be exactly how American children picked it up during the years of ASL being banned in classrooms – from older schoolmates, and those who had deaf parents.)

The schools were also different in terms of how they prepare students for the future. The Chuo school prepares all of its students for university study. Some come to the Tsukuba University of Technology, where I am; others go to hearing universities elsewhere in Japan. The Special Needs School, though, has two tracks. One is a college prep track, and the other is a vocational track. Within the vocational program, there are two options – art and dental technician. The dental technician program teaches students to make crowns, retainers, dentures, and other products. It looked fascinating, but I couldn’t help but wonder if the students in the program wanted to be there. How do you tell someone they’re not college-bound? Then again, maybe that isn’t a negative thing the way it is in the US. Maybe the students are perfectly happy to be learning a trade. They were all busy working, so I didn’t have the chance to ask them.

Both of these schools were in suburban environments. The Special Needs School has a dormitory, because they draw students from all over Japan; the Chuo school only has local students. And yet neither of them seemed to be near major entertainment options or even public transportation, so I wonder what the students who live there do for fun?

It was quite interesting to visit both of these schools, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do so during my internship in Japan.


How do you explain?

June 23, 2010

Here in Japan, I am helping out with ASL classes being taught at the university level. Part of my job is to make sure that students are using proper sign form – not closing fingers when they should be spread, palms facing the right way, etc. So I watch hands a great deal, and I recently noticed that one student was alternating hand dominance. I asked her which hand she wrote with, and she replied that she is left-handed.

Today she came for a private tutoring session with me (lots of students sign up for them), and I wanted to cover the idea of dominant vs. non-dominant hands in sign language. I had confirmed already that the concept exists in Japanese Sign Language, so I thought it would be a simple matter to explain it to the student. What I didn’t realize, though, is that she was raised orally, and has only been learning any sign language for about a year.

How do you convey this concept to someone who doesn’t know sign language at all? Or rather, how do you do so, when you don’t speak their language? I’m sure it would be a simple matter if I could tell her in Japanese, but that’s not an option for me. I’m honestly not sure that she understood any of what I told her; I tried to leave her with the message that she should use whatever hand feels most comfortable. If that means switching dominance, that’s fine too – some people are just more comfortable that way, and while it’s a little jarring for someone who is watching, it’s no worse than a slight spoken lisp – certainly still understandable.

But she indicated that she’s not just using what feels comfortable, she’s copying what she sees from others. I suspect this applies to JSL as well as ASL, though I wouldn’t be able to recognize it in the former. So I do want her to understand the concept, but is it worth asking someone else for help? Does she even care, or want to know? Having taken ASL linguistics classes, I feel it’s an important topic, but she may very well prefer to be oral and not care too much about sign language. Should I explain it? Should I ask for help explaining it? How do you explain something like this?

That’s my latest pondering from Japan!

NTUT and Gallaudet

May 27, 2010

Hey everybody! I am at my internship in Japan, and I thought I would tell you a little bit about the differences between Gallaudet and Tsukuba University of Technology.

The academic culture is a little different here. In the US, it is usually easy to get into a college or university, but you have to work hard to graduate. In Japan, it is very hard to get in, but once you are in, you will definitely graduate. As a result, classes seem more laid back than at Gallaudet, and students chat with each other a lot of the time. Side conversations are not tolerated at US universities! It’s easy for an American to observe these classes and say “those students aren’t learning anything” but I think it is just a different academic culture. When students answer homework questions, they are almost always right! So they are learning, but in a different way.

Gallaudet is very strongly sign-oriented; there are oral people who talk, but everybody signs as well. NTUT is very much a mix of communication styles. Not all students are fluent in JSL; there is a class (similar to Gallaudet’s NSP) for students who need more JSL exposure. Some hearing teachers sim-com, and call out to students rather than waving to get their attention. Of course teachers know who can hear them and who can’t, but it is very strange to me to be at a deaf university with so much talking! I don’t speak any Japanese, so I am not doing much talking at all. I did give a short presentation today, and the teacher doesn’t have very good ASL skills, so I used sim-com and she interpreted my speech into JSL for the students. My throat hurt after that because I never talk here!

Most of the staff here is hearing, there are only a few deaf people who work at NTUT. At Gallaudet the faculty has a much greater percentage of deaf members, and there are deaf staff as well. When I see two adults walking around talking to each other, I know they’re hearing. At Gallaudet, even hearing people usually sim-com to each other!

Classes here are 90 minutes, and there is 10 minutes “passing time” between classes. Classes start at 8:50am and the last ends at 6:00pm, I believe, though not everybody has classes in every slot.

They don’t have a wide variety of majors here. Gallaudet has a few dozen programs to choose from, but NTUT has two: synthetic design, and industrial information. You can read details of the programs here.

Only a few students do not wear some type of hearing device. Most wear BTE hearing aids, and just like at Gallaudet, they come in a range of colors, sizes, and styles. A surprising number of students wear ITE hearing aids, the kind that fill the shell of the ear and are usually skin colored. (Except Japanese skin is not the same color as Caucasian skin, so it’s a little off.) There are very few ITE wearers at Gallaudet…I have only seen a few. Here there are many more. Conversely, only a few students here wear CI’s, and many more wear them at Gallaudet – or at least have had the surgery, even if they’re not wearing the device! (Then again, maybe it is just easier to tell at Gallaudet because of Bald Day every year?)

I am really loving my time at NTUT and I am learning JSL as fast as I can. It’s funny though, when I sign “thank you,” in my head I say “thank you” and not “arigato.” I’ll write more soon!

My Summer Internship

May 5, 2010

I can’t believe I haven’t posted this already! Prepare yourself for lots of posts from me this summer, telling you all about my internship in Japan!

Originally, the internship was for someone else, but that person was unable to do it. So the Career Center asked my major department (Deaf Studies) for nominations. I was one of three names submitted, and I got the internship!

My first reaction was that stuff like this never happens to me, because I don’t seek it out. If you want something, you have to go get it! But I don’t, so I just stay home most of the time. Well, this one fell in my lap, so I’m going to Japan!

I will be tutoring deaf Japanese college students in English and ASL, and they will teach me Japanese Sign Language (JSL). I have the movie “I Love You” so I have watched that, and so far I can say deaf, hearing, what?, and yes. That’s it! So I am going to a country where I don’t speak the language, and it will be quite an adventure!

I leave on May 13th, a week from tomorrow. NEXT-WEEK THURSDAY oh wow! I will be sure to keep everybody posted!

Why I Love DC

April 14, 2010

Here is a recent essay I wrote for We Love DC, a popular local blog. You can read the original here or just check it out below!

I always thought that people who weren’t native to a place didn’t really identify with it – that if you asked somebody where they were from, they’d name their hometown. I grew up in the DC area, so whenever someone asked where I was from, I’d always say “here” – this has always been my home, and I can’t consider myself “from” anywhere else. I’m a Washingtonian because I’ve always been one.

So I assumed that DC was “my city” and that people who moved here didn’t necessarily feel that they were Washingtonians. Until I started reading We Love DC, and realized that even transplants love this town and feel a connection to it. People who like to move from city to city may not identify with DC, but anyone who makes their home here is a Washingtonian.

So DC is my city, but it’s also your city, our city, and everyone’s city. Tourists flock to DC every spring and summer because they want to see where their tax dollars are going, where their senators and representatives live, and all the famous monuments and buildings that grace their money and their history books. Across the nation, civic pride is personal – the Statue of Liberty belongs to New Yorkers, and the Golden Gate Bridge belongs to San Franciscans. But the Washington Monument and the White House belong to all Americans, and I love that they come to experience DC because America means something to them. It’s not so much “welcome to my home” as it is “welcome home.”

And I love that what those tourists are coming to see is part of my daily landscape. Not everybody in Los Angeles drives past Disneyland every day, but as part of my commute I drive past the White House, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, and the United States Capitol (I used to drive past the Pentagon, too). I’ve been driving this route for years now, and I am totally serious when I say that these landmarks touch me every time I see them.

I love it when out-of-towners come to DC to protest, too. Sometimes it causes traffic delays, but I’m okay with that because it’s part of the joy of living here. DC is home base for protests and rallies of every stripe, and it’s precisely because of the unique political nature of the city. Nobody holds a “March on Chicago” when they have an important cause – they come here. This is where you can capture the nation’s attention, this is where you can make a difference. DC is about effecting change, we are ground zero for making your world better.

We’re also ground zero for honoring people. I love the lead-up to Memorial Day weekend, when motorcycles start appearing on our highways and streets. I have absolutely nothing in common with the people who come to remember our POWs and MIAs, but I love when Rolling Thunder comes to town – they have a conviction, a sense of duty, and they bring it to DC every year. And despite the fuss over the Tom Hanks-endorsed WWII memorial changing the landscape of the National Mall, we find room to honor everyone. The Air Force memorial might be just across the Potomac, but it’s still part of the celebration of men and women who have done something for America.

There’s so much to love about DC: I love the Truth Truck, the Easter Egg Roll on the White House Lawn, the motorcades, the swarms of students in matching shirts, the cabs in every color of the rainbow, Braddock’s Rock, the Old Stone House, the Canal House, the friezes on EPA-East, softball games on the west end of the Mall, and that a little panda could melt the heart of everyone.

And I love how we’re growing. I’m a student at Gallaudet University, which is adjacent to Trinidad and just north of the Atlas District. I curse the construction on H Street every time my car hits another steel plate, but the H Street Trolley is going to make a big difference to a neighborhood that’s been struggling nonstop since the 1968 riots. Eastern Market is growing too: it’s better than ever after the renovations following the fire in 2007.

When friends from elsewhere mock the District, I tell them not to make fun of my city, my hometown. I got especially defensive when I saw the New York Times write about our nightlife, saying it had “finally come of age” – as if my city was only about politics and didn’t know how to have a good time! But when it comes down to it, it’s not my city, it’s America’s city. A recent study says DC is the fourth most liberal city in the nation, but by nature we have conservatives and liberals here. We’re everybody, and that’s why I love DC.

We Are Not Zoo Animals

March 26, 2010

Yesterday I heard that a Deaf Culture class from another university would be coming to visit Gallaudet today, and some of us in the DST major were asked to have lunch with them. It was short notice, so only a couple of people were available…I was the only one who showed up. Except I showed up to the wrong place…we had been told to meet at the cafeteria, and they ended up eating at the Marketplace. Whatever – I got over there.

It wasn’t a Deaf Culture class. It wasn’t an ASL class. It was an Anthropology class called “Language and Culture” and they were studying Deaf culture. And they didn’t sign at all. So…I did a lot of talking and listening. Not my favorite – I get enough of that at home – but they were all really sweet and I wanted to help them out if I could, so I talked and listened. (My voice was worn out by the time we were done!)

Like I just said, they were all very sweet, very curious. Every single one had at least ONE question, and the teacher had a LOT of questions. But…they didn’t really know much about Deaf culture. Or deaf people for that matter. I was asked if deaf people like to watch TV. I said yes of course, we watch it with captions. “Oh, really? Deaf people like TV wow!” I said…we’re just like you. Questions like that came up constantly – do deaf people use different cell phones than hearing people because they text so much? (No, we use Blackberries and iPhones and others…just like you.)

The teacher told me they read Inside Deaf Culture and Deaf in America, both by Carol Padden and Tom Humphries. Deaf in America was published in 1988, so I asked if they had ever heard of videophones…nope. I explained that most Deaf people don’t use TTYs anymore, we use sign language, it’s better, faster, etc.

The feeling I really got, though, was that coming to Gallaudet was like going to the zoo for them. Wow, look, DEAF PEOPLE! Look, they are SIGNING! Now, do not misunderstand me. Every single one of them was polite, funny, friendly, curious, and very sweet. I really enjoyed the hour or so that I spent with them. But…we are just us. We are deaf, we are hard of hearing, but we are not zoo animals. I realize this was an anthropology class, but…don’t study us like researchers. We are people. That is my real advice for anybody studying Deaf Culture who comes to Gallaudet. Would you have the same types of questions if you went to Chinatown in NYC, and talked to the Chinese people? “Do Chinese-Americans like TV?” Think about your questions. If you ask thoughtful questions, we will be happy to answer them. But get to know us.

So Far, So Good

February 3, 2010

Hey folks! My semester is going really well so far. I was a bit nervous about two of my classes because they require a lot of independent work – both my Capstone class and my Senior Thesis class are pretty much entirely self-directed. But as it turns out, that doesn’t mean you’re flying solo. I’ve been getting some really good guidance from both professors, and I feel like I’m actually making progress!

My other classes are going well too. So far US Women’s History is great, I love the professor (Donna Ryan) and I love her teaching style. She knows how to let you have a discussion, and how to rein you back in when things get too off the point or carried away! My sociology professor (Jeremy Brunson) does that masterfully too. Unfortunately we’ve only had two classes so far…I wish it was more often than once a week! I’ve finished the first major assignment, though, so it’s going well.

I know I’m graduating soon, but I just want to say that I love Gallaudet…I wish I could stay forever!

December Graduation

January 8, 2010

I’m expecting to graduate in December now. This is going to be insane.

I have only four more classes to finish my degree: ASL 301, DST 402, DST 498, and GSR 300. Technically I can do all this in one semester, but I will need another 12 elective credits to graduate, so I have to spread it over two semesters.

Of course, I’ve also been planning to do an Honors Capstone all this time. That’s normally a three-semester project, but I want to graduate in two. So I got special permission from the Honors director to do it! This is going to mean my summer will be CRAZY busy…that’s the “third” semester. I’ll have to take the classes as independent study,

But by this time next year, I’ll have graduated. I won’t get to walk until May, when I’ll join the rest of the class of 2011 onstage, but I’ll be saving a ton of money by not doing another semester. I also feel better about finishing in seven semesters rather than eight…makes me feel like my time at Western Maryland wasn’t a complete waste!


November 15, 2009

For my Disability Studies class, I’m reading a chapter on bioethics and the deaf community, written by Dr. Theresa Blankmeyer Burke, who teaches in Gallaudet’s Philosophy department. The chapter includes this:

So far, I have posited a fairly strict duality between signing Deaf community members and the dominant mainstream culture, suggesting that research aimed at eradicating deafness is typically seen as good by members of the dominant culture and that this same research agenda is seen as harmful by members of the signing Deaf community. In reality, it is not quite so simple. Those who occupy liminal space, such as hard of hearing people who sign, or culturally Deaf people who wear cochlear implants or hearing aids, must also be attended to. [emphasis added]

Wow, I never thought of it before, but that is a really validating statement for me! As I’ve been working to understand myself as a hard of hearing person, I’ve been trying to understand my place in the hearing and deaf communities. I have observed people at Gallaudet say that “hard of hearing” is a medical term, you are either Deaf or you’re not, and I guess by that definition I am Deaf – and indeed, I’ve had people tell me that I am Deaf and I should reject the “hard of hearing” label and just let myself be fully Deaf. But to the hearing community, I am “almost” a hearing person…I just need a little help like watching you when you talk or having some things repeated. So I feel like I can’t reject the “hard of hearing” label because I don’t have the same difficulties communicating with hearing people that other Deaf people do.

But there it is in black and white from Dr. Burke: a hard of hearing person who signs. In the middle. Here is what Wikipedia says about liminality:

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) The liminal state is characterized by ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent, bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition where normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed – a situation which can lead to new perspectives.

Yes. That is me. Neither hearing nor Deaf. In the middle, ambiguous, indeterminate. It feels good to understand this.

I Can’t Go to France

November 2, 2009

Malheureusement je pense que je dois quitter l’idée d’aller au France pour une mois l’été prochaine. Je pourrais y aller avec une programme de Gallaudet mais le voyage coûte plus que $5000 et aussi si je quitte l’Amérique pour si longtemps qu’un mois, je manquerai plus que $4000 du travail et j’ai besoin du cet argent pour la reste de ma diplome. C’était vraiment une super chance et j’aimerais bien y aller mais les coûtes sont trop haut pour mois. Je dois me rester avec la satisfaction que la France ne peut pas disparait et peut-être un jour je peux y aller.

J’ecris tout cela avec mon français inutilisé depuis plus que dix ans alors si je me trompe et quelque chose ne marche pas en Google Translate, je suis desolée et excusez-moi.