Submitted by Oswego County BOCES
What began as a project examining nonverbal communication etiquette has culminated in acknowledgment for the Oswego County BOCES teacher who spearheaded the effort.
Looking to bridge the communication gap between local businesses and hearing or speech-impaired customers, Tammy Seymour, a BOCES teacher of the deaf for 27 years, launched the project in December 2011 with four of her students at Mexico High School.
As part of the venture, students Cody Cowen, Joshua LaCelle, Brianna Gillett and Char Purchas visited more than 40 businesses in the Mexico community, speaking to employees, managers and business owners to learn how businesses are serving the deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired population.
Each business that participated in the project was asked to complete a brief survey and describe an experience when an employee felt frustrated because of a communication breakdown with a customer. All responses were documented and compiled by the students.
“This was meaningful to my students,” Seymour said. “All of the students had experienced communication hiccups when frequenting businesses, so they were eager to participate in hopes of making a difference.”
Not only was the project meaningful for the participating students and businesses, but it was significant for Seymour as well, as the project was documented and published in a book by Dayna Laur released earlier this year.
“Authentic Learning Experiences: A Real-World Approach to Project-Based Learning” incorporates Common Core Learning Standards and documents ways to engage students in critical thinking by teaching skills such as research and collaboration to improve student learning.
Seymour’s contribution, a two-page synopsis of her project with her students in Mexico, details how the assignment helped students transform and become more confident individuals. Seymour said the transformation was evident as the students strengthened their communication skills and revisited businesses for different phases of the project.
Through the project, students created a nonverbal communication brochure that detailed some of the methods in which deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people communicate, including American Sign Language, gestures, finger spelling or texting.
Other phases of the project included the creation of a DVD in which students acted out some of the correct and incorrect ways to communicate with a customer who is deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired; the creation of an “I love you” American Sign Language symbol into a notepad for each participating business, which provided the necessary tools to help a deaf, hard of hearing and speech impaired people engage in conversation; and the creation of a personalized “Kit to Go” for each business that participated in the project.
“The students learned their strengths and supported one another,” Seymour noted. “As we revisited some of the businesses, we witnessed change … It was a positive experience for everyone … When I visited some of the stores (once the project ended), it was great to see that the businesses had followed through with some of the suggestions we made to make communication easier.”
The publication of Seymour’s work was just the icing on the cake, capping off a months-long project that had a communitywide impact.