DAY 8 … the National School and our last Full Day

First thing I would like to do before writing the blog is thanking McDaniel College and the Deaf Education faculty, especially Dr. Rust, for making this trip to Dominican Republic possible.  We, the McDaniel College students, would have not gone on the trip if it were not for them.

Anyways, on Friday morning we went to Escuela Nacional de Sordomudos which roughly translates as Deaf National School.  The McDaniel College group was anticipating what lies in this school after going to the two previous schools.  Worn out from a long week of Dominican Republic excursion, we could not stop being awed by the size of school’s three-storied building and the number of its student (which were close to two hundred).  After a brief meeting with the Directora of the school, we were split into three groups, Deanna and Emily worked with toddlers and kindergarten kids, and Max took the lead in teaching one of high school class with Jamie and Katie. I lead the twelfth grade students with Travis and Rachel.

I tried not to compare the students at Escuela Nacional de Sordomudos with the other students we met, but the senior students were amazing.  Some of the students have already been familiarized with the history of the Dominican Republic, which made the lesson on heroes flow smoothly.  A few of the students mentioned some of key figures that were not included in the lesson, and the students seem to have the basic concept of what heroes are all about.   The twelfth grade students could teach the heroes lesson on their own.

An interesting similarity occurred at each of the schools we visited. The students sat still in bewilderment when the topic on Deaf heroes was introduced.  It is as if those students have not been exposed to the concept of Deaf people being heroes.  The key figure of American Sign Language, Laurent Clerc, along with an introduction to actress Marlee Matlin, and Deaf baseball player, Dummy Hoy, were completely foreign to the students.  I could see the pride of being Deaf kindled in their minds.

The lesson on heroes progressed quickly leaving time for my group to do entertaining hand-shaped stories.  Each student was able to produce three or more different signs related to the hand-shape illustrated on a card. I certainly have picked up plenty of new Dominican Republic signs by observing various signs by these twelfth graders. The students enjoyed creating a story with their hand-shapes, too, related to the concept of heroes. Creating a story containing specific hand-shapes was no easy task, but the students enjoyed the lesson and were amused by the comical sequence done with the signs even though the experience was new and somewhat awkward.

Unaware of what the other McDaniel College students had done, we briefly met during the recess period to compare notes. Thanks to the recess period, we were able to meet virtually all of the students in the school.  The recess was fairly short (only twenty minutes long, unlike other school).  I have met some diverse range of students; especially one particular student who had a cochlear implant and will seek enrollment into Gallaudet University.  I am certain all of us wished the recess period was longer in order for everyone to get acquainted with the students at the National School.

After recess, I was placed in a first grade classroom to present the same lesson on heroes.  Needless to say, some of the first grade students were antsy and the only way to make them sit still and focus on the lesson was to present the Deaf heroes portion of the lesson and the hand-shape assignment.  The experience of providing a lesson to the students at Escuela Nacional de Sordomudos differs from the other schools due to the fact the students were arranged into homogenous groups based on age and/or grade levels.  The students appear to be more educated due to this organizational structure.

After waving adios to the students who were leaving on the school bus to go home, we went to a super store, Ole’, an equivalent to our Wal-Mart or Target.  We ate our typical Dominican Republican lunch there and did a little shopping.  Eventually, the majority of the group went downtown to the old section of Santo Domingo, which was not far from our hotel.  A few of us, myself included, decided to take a nap prior to having our final dinner with our new friends we met during our stay such as Hector, Tommy, Eric, and Paulina, and their spouses.

After dodging the rain by walking some blocks to a relatively nice Italian restaurant, we sat down at a cramped table with table sitting for seventeen individuals. We were close enough to share our humorous and heart-warming tales in three different languages (American Sign Language, English, and Spanish).  Despite the fact the dinner was exceptionally delicious; we could not get enough of the fellowship that we experience.  It was almost as if none of us wanted the night to end.

We went to the great yogurt place known as Bon for the third, but probably not the final time, after posing for a group photo session outside the Italian restaurant.  Almost everyone scrambled over to the yogurt shop in order to partake in a tasty, fruity yogurt/ice cream treat.  The place was less crowded and provided excellent lighting for everyone to communicate in sign language.

After the farewell at Bon, everyone either crashed in their hotel room or attempted to win a few thousands peso at the hotel’s casino.  The trip experience was such a great experience for everyone, despite pangs of feeling homesick.  Some of us have already decided to return next year.  To be honest, I felt honored to be part of this trip and I would be willing to pay for my own trip next year. I was fortunate enough to be part of this trip due to a generous grant from the Vernon fund. The excursion was unique and almost indescribable.  This newfound experience is difficult to explain – one must simply go on the trip in order to understand the unique experience that transpired.

Muchas gracias por leer mi blog. Tenga un buen día!




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