The Lone Wolf and the Handless Maiden

No,  this isn’t the final blog by any means but it is getting close to the end of this class.  My major project turned out to be a monster.  In fact, it got so monstrous that my good natured husband said that if he went to Calgary this week,  I’d never even notice that he’d left.  Dunno know if he really is going to go, but I will definitely look up from my computer monitor if I see the car pull out through the corner of my eye.   

Why did this media literacy project turn out to be a monster?  Several reasons.  First, I think it has to do with having to work in two languages,  one of which is a visual spatial language which means tons of video footage.  I’ve always had to deal with video footage in my classroom but this became overwhelming because I was hoping to “crack the code” for struggling adolescent readers.

Secondly,  I wanted so much to come up with a solution that would transform DHH struggling adolescent readers from passive, dejected, disengaged learners who had resigned themselves down deep within themselves to be linguistically, mentally, socially and emotionally deficient because others saw them that way.  I do think that multimodal learning holds great promise for this group but I don’t see any real concerted effort amongst the academics (both Deaf and hearing) or teachers of the deaf in terms of exploring what this means and how to do this.  There are flashes of insights,  anecdotes and stories, some research studies but not enough with which to develop a comprehensive approach concerning digital citizenship, digital literacy, and multimodal literacy.  

Thirdly,  I wanted to pull the art and literacy initiative in this as well as the offline business of making art, exploring inner worlds, and developing capacity to think metaphorically is also a huge part of this puzzle.  

So what did I come up with?  A lot.  Too much.  I do think I might be onto something here but I can’t be the lone wolf anymore in this province slogging away on this alone.  I need community and I just don’t have enough connections with anybody, including the academic community to really look at this issue.  I think those connections will develop in time but I think that there has to be more of us working on how to address the needs of language deprived d/Deaf adolescents.  This issue is not going to go away because of the struggle to ensure early identification and intervention,  to provide early childhood education,  philosophy neutral counselling,  the balanced provision of oral only and ASL approaches,  and to address the lack of qualified and trained interpreters and ongoing professional development.  There is so much to do and so few of us who are truly seized by the urgency of preventing the loss of minds,  that is, the holocaust of destroyed minds as Ladd (2003) would say.  

The deprivation of language amounts to the deprivation of agency.  Most deaf education researchers are fixated on why and how d/Deaf children don’t pick up language (the old “falling on deaf ears” bit) while there is just not enough of us that can look at it from a different perspective.  The research on critical pedagogies, multiple literacies and multimodal literacies,  participatory reading,  remixing, and the use of media in the classroom can serve to break the stranglehold of interpreters and teachers spoonfeeding many hapless d/Deaf children to maintain the charade of keeping up with hearing children at the same grade level.  These well meaning professionals are, at the same time, unwittingly depriving those same d/Deaf children of language by not providing a social milieu through which they can pick up language.  This is also a systemic issue where administrators are equally complicit because of their audiocentric privilege. Too many of us are relying on ideology, old research, colonized research and puffing ourselves up with being scandalized by how little d/Deaf children seem to know and how far they have to go.  Confronting this puffery from within is probably one of the most valuable insights reinforced by this class:  the idea that all of us have impartial knowledges,  are part of a community learners (instead of having knowledge siphoned into us) and learning and language development is essentially a social activity.  

Because I’ve survived most of my life being the “lone wolf” and surviving by my wits through reading,  I found this class to be the most difficult and frustrating because my classmates kept referring to videos that were not closed captioned and I could not make any comment about their comments because I couldn’t view the videos that were posted on their blogs.   I felt like a dog (wolf!) chasing its tail.  

So the major project was a lone wolf thing, and I felt frustrated, angry, and cynical.  But I am more convinced than ever, that if accessibility issues became everyone’s concern,  I could then begin to be a part of a community.  I don’t want to be thrust back into the lone wolf existence anymore.  I am currently teaching my DHH students,  the story of the Handless Maiden story, and I am struck by how the young maiden,  upon having her hands chopped off,  choose to leave her parents who promised to look after her by supplying her with the safety, security and a life of wealth (but with no hands).  

handless maiden

Photo Credit: <a href=””>Jack E AY</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”″>cc</a&gt;

She decided to throw herself upon the mercy of others,  upon their goodwill,  to seek community,  to seek a life for herself among people who would pay attention to her needs.  It’s a big step indeed,  moving from doing everything alone because of the audiocentric world out there, to going out in a world that is bigger than audiocentric privilege. I just have to trust that the world is bigger than audism which is  the valuing of speech and hearing over visual spatial language.   I have to believe that I am not a deaf person with a deficit.  Like the handless maiden,  I have something to give the world.  The good news is that I have become more determined to stop being a lone wolf,  and to become a handless maiden.

The irony of being handless is not lost on me.





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