It's a 'silent night' at WHSAbout 100 Woodbury High School students conversed with members of the deaf community last week during a "Silent Night Deaf Event."
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
As many high school teachers will admit, it can sometimes be difficult to get a student to be quiet.
American Sign Language teacher Kristin Kohner is trying to do just that with the second annual Silent Night Deaf Event she organized and held Thursday, Nov. 19 at Woodbury High School.
“Some students spend thousands of dollars to immerse themselves in the culture of the languages they have learned, but for ASL students the culture is right here,” Kohner said. “It’s so important for students to immerse themselves in the culture and learn.”
During the event about 100 students, from WHS, East Ridge High School and Park High School, and 25 deaf community members came out to socialize with each other in a completely silent environment.
Students who attended, both ASL students and students with no prior training, were able to speak with each other and deaf community members through ASL. They also played deaf culture-related games and ate food donated for the event.
“With ASL being at the heart of the deaf community it’s important for students to foster their skills but at the same time it’s community building,” Kohner said. “It’s so important that they meet and converse with people in the deaf culture — it’s vital to have deaf role models.”
Since students are required to not use their voice at all during the event, it is on them to feel comfortable enough to communicate using sign language, but white boards were made available as a last resort, Kohner said.
Kohner said one of the biggest benefits of participating in a deaf event like this, particularly for the students just beginning to learn ASL, is to better practice their language and apply it to real-life situations.
“Since it’s impolite for them to talk or whisper, it’s amazing how much students are picking up by the end of the night,” Kohner said.
During the event students had a little extra incentive to not speak. At the beginning of the evening students received a name tag that would be entered into a drawing for prizes at the end of the night, but if anyone caught someone talking they took their name tag away.
Kohner said she intends to continue with this event she believes it is a beneficial experience for students, as well as the local residents who are deaf.
“Everyone is learning from one another,” she said. “The community members really enjoyed sitting down and talking with the students and were very impressed with how much the students were willing to put themselves out there and ask questions.”