Thank You for Your Joy, by Mary Hickox
Now just over a year as a teacher with Baby Fingers, I find myself reflecting on how beautiful my time has been spent in my various teacher settings. Language is one of my favorite gifts of this world, one I truly hope to never take for granted. I have always loved learning new languages, refining my prior knowledge, expanding my horizons and my personal skill-set. It is a blessing to be able to share my love for language, particularly the beauty of American Sign Language with you, our Baby Fingers families. It is expressive, ever-changing, and forces one to be fully present and aware. Therefore, I would like to thank you all for not only being willing to provide your children with new tools for communication, but also for opening your world to the beautiful and brilliant culture that exists beyond merely the language. Thank you for bringing joyous, musical, walking, tumbly toddlers and infants into a room, and participating. Thank you for practicing at home and for sharing your successes. Thank you for praising your child and for allowing them to sign their version of “more”, and actually giving them more! Thank you for helping make my job so gratifying every time.
As a military kid, I grew up in a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic home; my first language was a mixture of English, baby gibberish, and ASL. My parents believed in accessibility, not to mention they soon had 4 other children, making it very necessary to find effective communication. Sign Language provided a foundation for each of us to consistently learn new languages, as well as the basis for us to thrive early on with expressing our needs and feelings. Every time you venture to class, you equip your young one with tools they will use for a lifetime, and perhaps they may find themselves loving it enough to teach it!
Therefore, walk with me as I share a very special moment I had in class a little over a month ago. A brave elementary school student waltzed into my class, dressed to the nines in a suit and tie, prepared with a hypothesis — does teaching babies sign language help reduce tantrums? His personal experience told him yes, but when faced with a situation where someone refused to teach their child ASL, he was determined to find proof. This little man observed with rapt interest, and even engaged some of the children. While most kids spend their first Science Fair experimenting with dirt (and trust me, I love dirt/mud/bugs/plants! Absolutely nothing wrong with outdoors and said experiments), this student had been driven to prove the effectiveness of a language that extends beyond simple “words”. When I got to see his final project, I was touched by his attention to detail, his admiration of the culture, and his care to create a foundation of proof, in hopes of changing a conversation and perspective. Even though I had not taught this child directly, he had already embraced how empowering learning and teaching language can be, and was determined to share this phenomenon with everyone he could.
I am grateful every day for those moments; the ones where you meet someone who you just know might change the world for another. So, even as I sit, reviewing our curriculum, I cannot help but think grateful thoughts. Grateful for time, for care, for the genuine interest of young minds, and for your willingness to be silly and sing and sign the ABC’s with me.