What do you think of once you see the title ‘Safe Space’?
A safe space is safe as long as people within that space respects those who are within that space. Whether they agree to disagree, ask for better understanding or acknowledge that there is difference in who we are.
My classroom, I have noticed, is often a safe space for students. I tend to have different kinds of people; whether they be people of color, LGBT, a person with disability or bilingual. I attended a professional development presentation on campus where I realized that I tend to not send students of color outside of my classroom for the slightest thing.
While my classroom is a safe space for students, it is not one for me. How can a classroom not be a safe space for someone like me?
I teach American Sign Language and I am deaf. Naturally, I do struggle with students speaking in the classroom where I practice 90% or more use of target language with pictorial and written English supplemental information. One thing that has been constant, students thinking that I cannot tell if they are speaking (there are some exceptions…) or I am faking my own deafness (vibrations!).
I deal with a wide range of people who hear on a daily basis, approximately 80% of my time. It can get tiring and frustrating, at the same time excited, especially when someone tries to sign back or efficient communication.
I consider my classroom my own personal safe space where I can teach students about ASL, Deaf culture and the people who live within this community. Yet one thing that could make a personal difference within this space that can be transferred out to the real world…is the consistent use of spoken English.
This includes signing and speaking at the same time, which is deteremental to the ability to understand ASL, especially when it is signed. Like learning any language and I can share this from my personal experience learning French, it is not enough just knowing vocabulary and grammar, it is the ability to be able to converse in the language one is learning – at any level.
When a simple policy of not speaking English but signing or using other communication method is established, there is a reason for that – language wise; human wise or for real world application. Is it a wonder that my safe space is also threatened? How can I encourage consistent safe space for my students?
I wonder if it is the same for those who are like a fish out of water – marginalized and minority people teaching in majority population locations.