A Whackadoodle discussion regarding my student’s desire to write a school board proposal asking the school board to add American Sign Language to their K-12 core curriculum.
“How do you write a proposal?” she asked me out of the blue.
“Well,” I said, struggling to get my thoughts in order. “I suppose it depends on what you want to propose, and who you want to propose it to.”
“I want to send a proposal to the school board asking them to add American Sign Language to their K-12 core curriculum.”
“Wow,” I could help but say. “That’s a big ask. What brought this on?”
“My grandfather has moved in,” she sighed. “His hearing has gotten so bad that he’s practically deaf. It’s so frustrating for him, and for us. Plus, he keeps losing his ear thingies. I mean those hearing commercials keep bragging about how small their ear thingies are–almost invisible. That’s right. They are invisible, so they are also too easy to lose.”
“So you want to teach him sign language?”
“Actually, I have taught him a little. The little I know that is. We are working on the alphabet, so we can finger spell. He has learned please, thank you, food, now, understand, good morning. Simple words like that. I even turned him on to this great website called handspeak.com, which helps non-ASL speakers to learn. The problem is that I don’t know enough, and it’s hard for him to remember. I was just thinking how wonderful it would be if everybody had to learn at least the basics of the language when they were young enough to remember it.”
“When did you start learning it?”
“I had this teacher who taught us the finger movements for the letters at the same time we learned the alphabet. She also taught us the days of the week, the months of the year, our numbers.” she smiled remembering. “She even taught us how to sign ‘more cookies please.’”
“That must have been in the first grade.”
“Actually, I think it was kindergarten.” she corrected. “Anyway, later I read a book about Helen Keller, and in the back of the book there was a this diagram of the ASL alphabet. Everything totally came back to me. I have known my ASL letters ever since.”
“And how did you learn the ASL words?”
“I don’t know a lot. That’s why I wish ASL was offered as a course. I did have this friend in high school who was deaf. When she found out that I could finger spell, and that I wanted to learn more, we became fast friends. I even took this book out from the library where I could look up words, and it would show me pictures of how to sign them. She used to tease me about how bad my accent was.”
“And now you want to write a proposal to the school board.”
“Yes,” she nodded. “And I need to know how to write one.”
“Well, I would not start by writing one, that’s for sure.”
“What do you mean?”
“I would start by attending that school board’s meeting with one question in mind.”
“And what question is that?” she asked skeptically.
“Do you have a preferred format for school board curriculum proposals, and if so where can I find a sample?”
“So I get a sample, and then copy the format?”
“What if they don’t have a preferred format. What if I can’t get a sample?”
“Well,” I thought for a moment. “I do know of this great website called template.net. They have free ready made templets for just about everything, including over a dozen sample school board proposals.”
“So, there is not just one way to write a proposal,” she concluded glumly.
“There is seldom just one way to do anything,” I agreed. “But the templets give you a great place to begin.” I tapped my pencil on the table as I watched her. “Tell you what. You select the templet. You write the first draft, and I promise to help you collect research and edit.”
She smile at that. “So why don’t you write a proposal,” she asked at last. “I know how much you want to change how schools teach civics, and I know how much you want logic and critical thinking to become part of the curriculums. So why haven’t you written your own proposals?”
“Perhaps because I am sixty, and I know how much time it would take. I couldn’t just submit a proposal. I would have to follow through. I would have to attend meetings. I would have to build a coalition, perhaps even create a petition and get parents and teachers to sign on. If I wanted ASL in the class rooms, I would also have to reach out to the ASL community to see what they think of my proposal, and see if they want to get on board. Perhaps even give me advice on how to implement the proposal. No thank you. I leave that work to you.”
“So you are choosing your battles,” she said after a moment.
“Yes,” I nodded. “And right now, by battle is tutoring you.”
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