Arts & Culture, Campus

Sign Language Co-Curricular: King’s Academy Students Open Their Ears to the Deaf

When students entered the Co-Curricular Fair booth in the beginning of the year with huge excitement, they found out several new activities for this year, including Lacrosse, Gardening, Coding for Smart Phone Applications, Mixed Media Painting, Sculpture, CPR & First Aid, Entrepreneurship, and more.

Students were stopped at the very moment they were about to leave the tent, as their eyes were fixed on the panel of one particular co-curricular: “Sign Language.”

The new co-curricular was founded by Mr. Timothy Loh, who just joined King’s Academy this school year, teaching History 10 and middle-school Chinese.

There is an unsolved mystery regarding the behaviors of the members of the society in the modern day world. People don’t want to be ignored and belittled just because they are not better than others; however, they tend to look down on people who seem to not have better conditions than them.

Why would they want to treat others in a way that they don’t want themselves to be treated with?

“Learning the (sign) language makes the students learn a lot of things,” said Mr. Tim. “Throughout the program, students can learn that language doesn’t necessarily need to be verbal. Also, it is a way to show appreciation for the deaf community.”

With the support of the school administrators, Sign Language was first launched in August 2017 as a major co-curricular. Meeting three times a week, the students attended each session for an hour and fifteen minutes.

Mr. Tim believes that the Sign Language co-curricular provided a magnificent opportunity for the King’s Academy students to learn that the society has the responsibility to empower the deaf community and give them equal rights as others, such as the right to receive proper education and the right to be treated equally without any discrimination.

The professional teachers from The Holy Land Institute for the Deaf provided lessons that focused not only on learning the language, but also on exploring the deaf community in Jordan. The principal goal of the co-curricular was to allow students to be exposed to sign language and deaf culture, raising importance of the language and leading them to understand the fact that the deaf people are not disabled people, but instead are precious members of our society.

The Holy Land Institute for the Deaf  was first established in 1964 in Salt by the local Arab Episcopal Church, with the aim of providing an opportunity of education for the deaf community, whose members were often marginalized and neglected by the society. It has been actively running for more than 50 years, assisting the deaf students and adults in learning the language that would facilitate their communication skills.

When he joined the institute in 2014, the first of what would be three separate stints living in Jordan, Mr. Tim’s main purpose was to conduct an ethnographic research, in order to figure out what deaf education was like in Jordan as well as to analyze the general situation of the deaf community in Jordan compared to other countries.

His interest in Sign Language began when he was in grade 11 at his high school in Singapore. He had a chance to participate in the Creativity Action Service, a required community service program in the IB Curriculum.

He first started to take sign language classes at the Singapore Association of the Deaf because he needed them to complete the curriculum. However, after interacting with the deaf community for some time, he was fascinated by their distinct and separate culture, which transcended Singapore’s diverse ethnic groups.

His passion towards sign language and deaf community followed him to his college life. In Georgetown, he co-founded an American Sign Language and Deaf Culture Club with his two other friends, who had direct connections with the deaf community through their siblings.

“It was pretty successful, taking into consideration that we were the first ones to start something new and unfamiliar which was often neglected by the community,” said Mr. Tim.

However, the program was limited by restricted access to resources. In fact, they did not have any professional teachers, and the school was not very supportive of their program. Interested in learning more about the deaf community in Jordan, he also joined other several volunteering services after college which were held in Singapore, United States, Jordan, and Egypt.

After being associated with the deaf community in Jordan, Mr. Tim wanted to teach the international students about the importance of sign language and its connection with the deaf community culture. Then, after trying to find out a way to achieve his goal, he became a teacher at King’s Academy last year.

Surprisingly, Mr. Tim wasn’t the first one to come up with the idea of initiating a sign language co-curricular at King’s.

“It was a happy coincidence,” he told me. Even before Mr. Tim started his career at King’s there was an ongoing conversation between Ms. Rana Matar in the Learning Center and Brother Andrew, director of the Institute, about starting to have sign language classes in the school.

According to Mr. Tim, the fall co-curricular program was pretty successful, with all ten students in the program passing the exam taken at the end of the year. The test contained materials that the students learned in class throughout the term, and certificates were given to those who passed the exam.

Most importantly, Mr. Tim said that the instructors were very pleased to share their talent with the students, and were very heartened to see that the students were putting authentic effort to learn the deaf culture and sign language.

Seyoung Jang ’19, one of the students who participated in the program said that he could feel the “burning passion” of the teachers, which motivated him and the other students to approach the course with true love and interest.

As the attitude of the society towards the deaf community tends to be very condescending and patronizing, the Sign Language program has the potential to open the doors for them.

Most importantly, the co-curricular teaches the King’s Academy students a prominent condition of becoming a global leader, which is the ability to accept the difference of others, rather than to ignore or denounce them. Sign Language is an excellent opportunity for students to open their ears and listen to the stories of the people who had been marginalized for unfair reasons.

“Sign language and deaf culture are closely interlinked, that one can’t be achieved without the other,” he told me. “My future dream is to see students having a fluent conversation through sign language.” Mr. Tim is hoping that students will make the best out of the amazing opportunity they have and become passionate in the culture as much as he is.

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Senior student in King's Academy who writes about subjects related to football in the professional, various co-curricular activities, as well as traveling.