Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reasons for Choosing Public Policy and Advocacy as a Specialization

Well, it is funny because before I chose this specialization in Early Childhood Education MS program, I did not know that there was such a specialization. I was actually looking – even at a tender age of 58 -- to begin a new professional career as a classroom teacher. I was told that I would need to be a teacher currently in a classroom, which I was not. I was sorely disappointed, and started to look at other options. This specialization came up, and I thought that it was right up my alley.

Ever since, when I mentioned my graduate studies in Early Childhood Education with a specialization in Public Policy and Advocacy, my friends would exclaim how a perfect an option it is. I feel very blessed to be studying something that I have been doing all my life. My mother is my role model; she was a fighter before there is the “advocate” label. As a four-generation deaf family, we are accustomed to asking and advocating for our own communication needs. As a mother of two deaf children who attended public schools without any specialized programs, I advocated for their access issues and was, if I may add, pretty successful at what I did to ensure that both of my children received top-notch education through sign language interpreting services. Through my personal experiences, I realize that I could contribute to the field with a more professional base of knowledge. I really need to learn how to become more engaged in public policy that impacts deaf children and their families.

Louise Sparks-Derman (Laureate Education, 2011) defined advocate as someone who speaks for the voiceless. That resonates so much for me. I wrote the following during the second week of my first class, Foundations of Early Childhood:

It was a thrill to watch the video, The Passion for Early Childhood, in this week’s Resources and listen to how each of the five speakers discuss their love for the field that we all are engaged in now.  Each one of them said some buzz phrases that resonate so much with my professional and personal goals. “Self-identities.”  “More just world.”  “Opportunity to give back.”  “Civil rights issue.”  Louise Derman-Sparks, Professor Emeritus at Pacific Oaks College, (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) ultimately outlined the essence of early childhood education, “…that the preschool years are critical; they are the first, most fundamental period where children are in fact noticing who they are and are noticing the attitudes of the stereotypes and the discomforts…that the teachers have a tremendous influence on their self-identities.”  She (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) also believes that we need “to fix the injustices that existed in the world.”  Renatta M. Cooper (Laureate Education, Inc. 2010) commented, “I see early childhood education, all education, really, as a civil rights issue.”
The civil right issue is keenly highlighted in Deaf education.  Deaf preschoolers are “noticing the attitudes of the stereotypes and the discomforts” when their teachers try to make them into something that they essentially are not.  In most American preschools for Deaf children, the focus is on learning to talk when it would be more beneficial to learn American Sign Language and focus on being Kindergarten-ready.

Those reasons outlined above are why advocates are essentially important in the early childhood field.

I have learned some great stuff – such as cultural diversity, communication & collaboration, and equality & equity -- about being an effective advocate from some of my previous classes. I am particularly interested in the public policy aspect where I hope to learn how to become a part of the both state and federal public policy. By that, I mean, how can I influence public policy that would change the landscape of early childhood education of young deaf children? Can I become a staffer within the public policy system? How do I influence public policy to ensure that it benefits the infants and toddlers and their families? Public policy about deaf children is entrenched in an ideological belief that deaf children must hear to acquire language and in their intentional ignorance of what deaf children can achieve through a visual language.

Is that a good reason to become an advocate? I think so. I will tell you another reason: I love what I do as a volunteer advocate.


Laureate Education, Inc. (2010) The passion for early childhood. Baltimore: Author

Monday, October 19, 2015

End of our Communication & Collaboration Class!

As I complete my seventh class and will be moving into my concentration of public policy and advocacy, I will hold dear those colleagues with whom I interacted through our discussion posts and blogs. I have learned from those who are presently in the classroom and the issues that they encounter. I can see the love that you have for the children and the dedication that you have for the families to become/remain engaged in the school. I wish each and all of you best of luck as you all venture into your program of concentration. Please email me at if I can ever be of any help to you.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Adjourning Stage of Team Development

I have to say that I had never heard about the last stage of team development that is adjourning. That’s probably because I haven’t had an opportunity to lead a team development. Although I have personally been engaged in the first four stages of team development, I also had never heard labels being given to each of the stage: forming, storming, norming, and performing.

I had been the Vice President of California Association of the Deaf, and was re-elected at the conference last month. In January 2016, we are going to have our Board retreat where we will have our team development, and I probably will experience my first adjourning session with the outgoing Board Members whom I will miss dearly. BUT, the new incoming Board members are as dynamic, and I will be honored to be working with the new Board for the next two years.

Although I haven’t had the privilege of an adjourning stage with some of my groups, I could see how I would benefit from an adjourning session. We could identify our own individual strengths and tasks that we enjoy. That way, each of us can have a prescribed role for the next time we have a task to accomplish. We would likewise identify our group problem spots and work through our differences so they would not happen again if we are to assemble as a group for another purpose. With the identified weaknesses, we could elect to solicit the support of someone with that particular skill.

Abudi, G. (2010). The five stages of team development: A case study. Retrieved from 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Conflict Management

I have been thinking of a recent disagreement, or conflict, that I am currently or recently experiencing either in my personal life or with a colleague. I have to say that, in recent years, I haven’t had a disagreement or conflict – except for normal spousal spats. I am guessing that this might make me a competent communicator.

The most “recent” conflict was when my son was in middle school about 11 years ago and having issues with his sign language interpreter that was not qualified to work with him because of her language and interpreting abilities.

The issue was that there was no one in the school district office who was able to evaluate her sign language and interpreting skills. When I offered that I was able to assist in that respect, they responded that they did not allow parents to become involved with the interview and selection process. I tried to convince them that all I would be doing was to affirm their abilities, not selecting the candidate. They would not hear of it.

We had a series of Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings where there was a sizable number of people involved. We would be going back and forth, and it was an exasperating process. Two things happened that did resolve the conflict.

My husband helped me to identify the scope of the issue and recommended that I focus on gathering information related to the issue. I researched the regulations of 504 that stated that the Deaf client had the right to select the interpreter of their choice – because not all interpreters are qualified to work with different deaf people with different needs. I copied and highlighted the section and sent it to every person who had been involved with my son’s IEP.

At the next meeting, there was a new member of our IEP team, a newly hired Vice Principal who did not utter anything at the meeting. Somehow the Special Education Director was still resistant to making the decision to replace the unqualified interpreter. I kept telling her that we did not want to go to due process and that we would win hands down. The meeting got heated, and the interpreter started to cry. The Special Education Director looked at my son and said, “Look at what you did; you made her cry!” My son did not flicker because luckily I groomed him not to react to anything they said.

I think the Vice Principal saw enough to make her own conclusions. Right after the meeting ended badly, she came up to me and asked if I could sit down and explain the history of the issue. I explained to her that there was no one qualified in the entire school district to evaluate the interpreting abilities of the sign language interpreter. She got it, clearly. Before I knew it, she had the interpreter replaced and arranged for me to meet all of the candidates and recommended a few for the district to select. They also added a provision that the interpreter would be given a one-month and three-month probation.

Ever since, the school district would be most cooperative with our family’s access needs.

I cannot say what we did that clinched the solution of the conflict. My husband coached me how to conduct myself by sticking to the “facts” of the issue: the qualifications of the sign language interpreter and the deaf client’s right to replace the interpreter. That nearly did not work. The new Vice Principal made it happen. The question now is why she was able to make it happen and not the Special Education Director.

I do not recall any situation where I was able to work out the disagreement with another individual because we both worked together and resolved it. It would be more that I used my legal rights to let them know they would be out of compliance; and they would then comply. That’s also why I wondered about the nonviolent communication (NVC) or the 3Rs.

While I totally and wholeheartedly agree with their principles, I do not recall a time when their principles worked for me.