Human Connection with a blog and “Without Words”, the play

In/Visible Theatre’s Without Words has been more than an idea for a while, but now this production based on A Man Without Words is becoming more concrete daily, with people beginning to show up, in Boone, North Carolina, including me.  I’ve been wondering about the theater’s potential to change attitudes, opinions, and to provoke feelings, thoughts, and, hopefully, new behavior. It seems so much greater than a book or film.  Why is that?  My answer to that question has already been stated: “…people showing up.”

Theater’s power is engagement.  Not only do people show up to engage for weeks beforehand, exploring new ways to communicate, others show up for the performances to continue the exploration and the engagement.  This process is dynamic, changing with each member’s participation on or off stage, trying out bits of life with old, new and changing avenues to use all our senses, feelings, thoughts and dreams.

It pulls us back to a time when we first appeared on the stage of the world, and all we could do was watch, then learn how to feel, listen, make faces, walk, mimic, and laugh or cry at others’ faces.  We learned how to move our hands, bodies, tongues and lips to add to our facial expressions; our most powerful tools were tantrums, feet stomping or jumping in the air to show our glee.  We are all acting.  We just forget that most of the time, until Shakespeare and others remind us.  Those reminders, often at the theater, enliven us, touching that foundation of connection of our first years of life.

Without Words, hopefully, will do more than point to connecting, and BE transforming.  The story of two people meeting and changing each other, and their lives, is a part of Without Words; and, about the power of connection, the hows and whats of connection.  It is possible to watch a film or read a book, quite alone, observing “them.”  A great film or book may pull you in, but too many allow you to stay on the outside.  Without Words, if it does its magic, will pull us all in, to learn from each other, to engage in the dance that is “we.”  My wish is that we will all be transformed by seeing that there is no “them.”

Join us and we will celebrate being we.

If you can get to Boone (July 24/25), check out appsummer.org for tickets.

 

Alternative Living, Thinking, Economies: Alter-ism

In Oklahoma, on March 28th, I showed up to a teachers’ workshop along with about 75 other people.  The speakers, one Deaf and one Hearing, gave an excellent presentation, including the importance of a whole language, engagement, planning, team teaching, and seeing each student’s set of skills and needs. People took note: “start where the student is.”

Hundreds and thousands of people have pointed to the need for student-centered teaching or client-centered therapy or child-centered parenting or citizen-centered governing.  It’s such an old concept.  If it were a pair of shoes we would only see bare feet by now.  Why, then, do we need to hear, read, see or talk about it over and over, again?

That is a perfect seque to talking about myself.  I want to see me, tell you about my starting point, my opinion, my new, unique and brilliant perspective.  I want everything to be about me.  That desire doesn’t change when I become a teacher or a therapist or a parent or the president of the United States. Other-centered anything is a foreign concept to my ego, and always will be.  I, fortunately, am not only my ego.  The bigger-than-ego Susan, the Self that is connected to all of life needs to be reminded of otherness, many times, in order to counter that persistent ego who keeps whispering, singing or screaming: “me, me, me.”

War, fighting, competition, fear-based governing, bullying, violence – of any kind – is not called “alternative” ways of being.  They all grow out of that “me, me, me” mentality which immediately leads to “us-them” and “those people,” escalating to “enemies.” Alternative anything deals with otherness.  It is only when I contemplate the other as part of “me” that my thinking can be more creative and inclusive.  Do we need the Latin word?  Let’s talk about other thinking, other economies, other living.  Most people would agree we are not doing very well on many fronts.  Let’s try the other road.

Why not try an alternative?   Alternate (take turns with the other)?

Other ideas?

Thinking of others who may not have any funds, I am choosing to practice the gift economy – giving books, DVDs, and my time to building community and supporting education with ASLTales books/DVDs, A Man Without Words – book and DVD (short documentary), and NOW (trumpet and drums and hand waving): Without Words, an ASL/English play, celebrating what we can learn from OTHERs.  What can we learn from a languageless man?  What can we learn from Deaf people who use more of their cerebral cortex for visual information processing than hearing people?  How can we see what we can’t see?  Hopefully, the stage can launch our imaginations, and our journey to an alternative way of learning and being.

May Without Words inspire and transform, give us an alternative pair of glasses, and move us from “me” to “we.”  I am on my way to North Carolina where I will be helping to recruit and support Deaf actors, consultants, dancers, an ASL master or two, and a few token hearing people. : )  I can’t do it.  We can. The gift economy involves giving in all directions.

Give the gift of support of a Deaf actor and/or some expenses for a day or two or a week. Give the gift of an hour or three of ASL interpreting. We are over half way there.

We have a matching grant to match your dollars up to $1500 until May first. Let’s do it.

Give a gift at the button to your left, and help build an alternative world where we are they and they are us, an alternative reality, beginning on a stage in Boone in July.

For sharing stories to build community,

susan

Oklahoma was a great success

And, afterwards, so was my trip to Arkansas where I held a great niece who was less than one day old.

Traveling and holding a brand new baby is the excuse I offer for not posting more often.

Stay tuned – I have unpacked now, for a few days, in Tennessee, and will post soon.

ASL Tales’ Multilingual Storytelling – Powerful Tool for Learning

I’m on my way to a teachers’ conference, and wrote this, in preparation.  Whether in education or in communities, stories are always better than just information giving.
Multilingual stories include many more people and families.  If you would like an ASL Tales book/DVD set and/or ideas on how to use them with a variety of students, write me.  Let’s tell stories together[To help buy books for teachers and schools, donate on left.]

Storytelling is the most powerful tool in education, and has been in cultures around the world, since the advent of language.  Indeed, language may be the result of the human need to tell stories.  Many scientists think that signing was the first human language.  If true, this would explain the fascination and the strong attraction to visual storytelling.

Experience is the best teacher.  Stories are vicarious experience; they allow us to experience through the storyteller.  Fairy tales and fables contain wisdom and group experience of our ancestors, that is, culture.  We are right in the midst of facing choices and problem solving with the characters.  Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  ASL Tales makes fairy tales accessible to children who have been traditionally left out.

Stories are student centered, engage affective and social intelligence as well as analytical thinking, and cross disciplines.  Educators for centuries focus on the need for narratives.  Although different terms have been used, such as: discourse analysis, whole language, or constructionism, they all point to stories.

ASl Tales is unique in providing frozen text, created to honor both languages, English and American Sign Language, at the discourse level.  In other words, ASL Tales honors the power of the story.  The writers and the signers are telling stories as if a hearing or Deaf child, respectively, were sitting in front of you. Each story is readily accessible, and present linguistically rich opportunities.  With spoken translations, hearing children, English speakers or English learners of many languages, can also access the ASL story, creating the additional benefits of  exposure to a new language, and learning through multiple senses.

By using two different languages, accessible at the same time, bridged by the illustrations, and spoken translations in up to ten different languages, ASL Tales’ multilingual storytelling reaches a much broader range of learners and levels.  Metalinguistic and metacognitive thinking* is triggered by the observable differences of the expressions of the two languages.  This helps struggling readers or English learners with decoding and comprehension.  More advanced students are challenged to see deeper meaning and can work inductively/deductively between languages.

These differences also relate to cultural differences as language and culture are always married.  The same story with different expressions encourages awareness of cultural differences, a springboard into more stories and multicultural discussions.  Two different storytellers with many translations is a needed message to include everyone in the classroom or family, regardless of differences.

By centering on the child, stories can address many disciplines or meet many standards at once.  By providing many languages and different sense modes, ASL Tales can include many more children.  How many disciplines and many levels and different  kinds of learners could be addressed could take a book to cover.  Let me, instead, simply open the door into the realm of possibilities of reaching many students and many objectives:

For young children or older kids who missed this important foundational skill, the identification of feelings is made easy with visual language.  Context in the visual story offers even greater accessibility to developing this skill, a prerequisite for self-expression, communication and empathy.

While it is fairly easy to see how a story could help a child with reading, for older children, and looking specifically at math standards, how could a story be relevant?  One Common Core Math Standard reads:

“When constructing viable arguments, students justify their conclusions, communicate them to others, and respond to the arguments of others.”

The study and learning of literary objectives involving character development, points of view and prediction of plot outcomes, also contain the same skills needed to argue and justify conclusions.  Overlapping with both literature and math are the following social and emotional or relationship management skills:

Respect others (e.g. listen carefully and accurately);

Understand other points of view and perspective;

Identify social cues, verbal and physical, to determine how others feel;

Predict others’ feelings and reactions; and,

Manage and express emotions in relationships, respecting diverse viewpoints.

The above example shows the story’s ability to cross over from literature to math to interpersonal objectives. Einstein saw the power of fairy tales, the power of stories.  ASL Tales provides the power of multilingual stories to bring storytelling to children who are often left out.  Now we can tell stories to the whole village.

 

* Metacognition research shows (Louise Rosenblatt, 1978) Aesthetic, reader-centered, affective, interactive education, with an engaging personal connection, creates reader responses more than factual, text focused, informational cognitive presentation.

2015: A New Year, New Day, New Post and Planning Meet Up

Happy New Year, ALL.   We are already beyond a dozen days of 2015.  Counting time (I learned from the once languageless man, Ildefonso) is so arbitrary.  Everyday is new and we can begin again, and any time in the day, we can begin yet again.  Who will I be today?  According to the Buddha, I am what I thought yesterday.  Let me share with you the mission stated from the beginning of this web site:

We are our stories.

Every language carries a collection of stories, that is, a culture, a unique perspective. SusanSchaller, et al. uses storytelling’s power to connect people and teach us about ourselves. We work toward including everyone by bringing together stories from many languages, cultures, and through different senses and media. Our work is sharing and making new stories out of every person’s story, to complete our story and ourselves.

The most important bit of the above mission is “et al” – “and others.”  Of course I or one person could not do the above.  I need all of you to add your stories, languages/cultures and personal experiences/insights.  I can begin.  I can offer my experience, my culture, and the gifts of windows into others’ stories, languages and cultures, and, even, the window into a “languageless” man’s world who changed my life, and brought me to this place, time, and sharing with you.  Hopefully, A Man Without Words, the book and/or the short documentary, inspires and/or engages you, encouraging you to add your story, your perspective, to offer another story that inspires, engages and encourages another, then another, connecting us in a chain of stories, using our differences and diverse “clothing” to unite us in the universal truth: we are a “we,” not “I” and “I” and “I.”

I can begin with what I thought/think is a good idea.  I traveled, and am traveling to individuals, teachers, parents, students, and general audiences to demonstrate a multilingual storytelling tool – a book/DVD set.  Up to 10 different translations can be chosen as conduits to the masterful written English storytelling and visual “Deaf” storytelling of American Sign Language.  But, all I can do is show you, and tell you how I think it can be used for teaching empathy, multiculturalism, reading, writing, communication and a love for learning.  Then you need to use it, experiment, add your ideas and tell me and others your success stories – how it helped five-year-old hearing Cathy to read, Alexis to identify emotions, or José to understand English better (or how your hearing students saw that signing isn’t just vocabulary, and their fellow Deaf students taught them about visual communication, giving them insights into their own language).

Inherent in any mission are the goals.  In the above mission, storytelling unifies, accepting others’ and their stories includes, and teaching through others’ stories brings us to understand ourselves.  These goals are, however, as elusive as the mission, if they are not translated into specific objectives: the specific ways, and the targets, players and tasks. I am only one player, and I failed to do anything this last year.  There were successes, and they always included other players, a team, an “et al.”  We attained something.   Invite me to your town, home, school or community group so we can work together and make more progress.

According to Buddha, I am what I thought yesterday.  My mission statement of yesteryear included you all, but many times I acted on what I thought was a good idea, and leaped ahead without you.  Today, I would like to think of me with you – a team. If today, I think as a “we,” tomorrow we will be together.  Please join me in 2015, in team building to build a community that includes everyone and all stories.  Help us plan better objectives, better ways of connecting, to encourage us all through our stories.

The meeting is now open.  We look forward to reading your response in the “reply” box below, AND to your contribution as a blogger on this site.  The name “susanschalleretal.” makes no sense without you.  Your response below is private until it is approved for the site, so you may also write me privately with any feedback, suggestions or if you would like a book, DVD or multilingual ASLTale book/DVD set.

Announcement:  If you have any Deaf (or CODA) theater or ASL consultant friends, please refer them as we – a Deaf/hearing team – are working on a bilingual/bicultural play to premiere this summer, in Boone, North Carolina.

me-2014