How do you say hello in American Sign Language? How do you argue a point convincingly? These are just a couple of the questions that many Hanover High School students are investigating this year. Thanks to a new partnership with Massasoit Community College, students have the opportunity to take courses at the college level for both high school and college credit. Two of these classes, American Sign Language and Philosophy, have already proven popular among Hanover students.
For senior Nick Jones, American Sign Language provides a chance to explore his avid interest in linguistics. Right now, in fact, Nick is studying six languages: American Sign Language, Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and English. Learning ASL is unique, Nick said, because the language is composed of hand movements rather than verbally spoken words. In addition, ASL involves expressing oneself with the eyes as well as with the hands to convey meaning.
Nick’s ASL class has about 25 students, and runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the high school. (Students have directed studies the remaining days) The teacher, Glenna Caliendo, was born Deaf, but is both verbal and very skilled at reading lips, according to Nick. She also wears a cochlear implant and is thus able to discern sounds around her. Unlike the majority of Deaf adolescents, Nick explained, Ms. Caliendo attended non-Deaf public schools growing up, meeting with a speech pathologist until the age of 18 and learning to read lips. Actually, it was not until college that Ms. Caliendo became familiar with ASL. Nick has already learned much about the language from Ms. Caliendo, including grammar and vocabulary, and he has also learned about the culture of the Deaf community.
“Unlike most people, I was aware that there was a Deaf community, but I didn’t know a lot about it,” Nick said. “They also don’t consider being Deaf a disability, and neither do I. They are truly like everyone else. They just can’t hear. But that benefits them in the sense that they are exposed to this entirely new culture that will embrace them with open arms.”
In the future, Nick looks forward to learning more vocabulary as well as performing skits in ASL at the end of the school year. Already Nick has been able to use what he has learned to communicate with and assist a Deaf person at a job outside of school.
Like the ASL course, the Philosophy class runs three days per week at the high school, and includes 12 students. For senior Lauren Gelly, philosophy has long piqued her interest.
“I took a philosophy mini course over the summer and AP Gov last year and I was excited to revisit the topics of logic and structured argument,” she said.
Lauren enjoys learning under her current teacher, Joshua Cabral, who has helped the students learn how to debate and ponder important philosophical questions. According to Lauren, the course has taught her more about herself and her peers. The class offers a unique learning opportunity as she is in class with a group of people with whom she normally doesn’t interact, she added.
Philosophy students have already talked about how to form solid arguments and about stream of consciousness. Right now, they are concluding their study of logic and how to frame an argument. Lauren’s favorite topic so far has been learning how to disprove someone else in an argument.
Lauren, Nick, and the other Hanover High School students enrolled in American Sign Language or Philosophy seem to have already learned much valuable information that they can use in high school and in the outside world. The partnership with Massasoit, which will include courses later this year in ASL 2 and Creative Writing, is part of the HHS Connect initiative, according to Principal Matthew Paquette.