Elbe School – Cultural School
When I enter the spacious and invitingly bright foyer of the Elbschule in Hamburg Altona for the first time, Full of joyful expectations, I am amazed at the cheerful children’s voices. What it sounds like in a school. Since the Elbe School is mostly attended by deaf children, I had imagined communication here much more silently.
I put my foot in my mouth before I even take a step into the reception hall of the school – In front of the door, besides me, a gentleman, about my age, is waiting to be admitted. He waves at me with one hand, waving happily and smiles at me very friendly! Do we know each other? I just nod back in a cautiously friendly way, I find this familiarity a bit strange. Soon after, It is clear to me that this waving combined with clear eye contact is the normal “Hello!” of a deaf person. I fell like a plonker. At the next meeting I laugh and wave back cheerfully, grateful for this second chance.
I hope I can be forgiven for my naïve assumption, as I had not yet had the pleasure of getting to know such a school with its cheerful, motley student body and its friendly and competent teachers. It is far from only gesticulating. Also, not all children are completely deaf, but hear very differently well or less well with the help of appropriate hearing aids.
I’m really looking forward to create miniature collages with some children of the 4th/5th. class. The art teacher in charge invites me to work in her group with a total of seven children. At the recognized cultural school , constantly changing cooperations are organized with various artists, among others. Through the most diverse cultural and artistic suggestions also from the musical field, the children are supported in understanding the world with all their senses.
Mrs. Hair Clip
When I first get to know each other, I get a different name from the children, because the sign for “Mrs. Hohlweg” is simply too elaborate. For the duration of the following six-week project, I am the “woman with the hair clip” – a finger on the cheek for “woman” and two fingers and thumbs on the head tapped together for “hair clip”. Fits and is fast. I also try to wear the hair clip for the duration of the project, so that I do not have to be rechristened again. Sign language is very imaginatively oriented towards external appearance alisinings. After all, written words, names and terms are only word images for a deaf person and thus much harder to remember and recognize than in connection with their respective sound. There is also a sign for miniature collages, as I learn – the signs for “small” and for “many” are shown one after the other.
Let’s go: Collecting and sifting
The weather plays along with our first hour of work and we all go out together into the park opposite to collect some finds for the miniature collages to be designed. Here, too, it’s as lively as a normal school trip. However, as soon as the children talk to each other, they are completely in conversation to exchange gestures. Shouted or waved instructions do not always arrive immediately. I feel a little awkward in the conversation with the children, because I don’t know a bit of sign language. I can only show, interpret, tap and rejoice with laughter and gesticulating when a remarkable find is collected again. The teacher interprets as best she can!
Garbage or nature?
Subsequently, the finds are sorted into the two categories “garbage” and “nature”. A hearing child has certainly heard the word “nature” several times in his first years of life when reading aloud, in conversations or watching television and has learned along the way what is summarized under the term nature. If you are deaf, you need examples to look at and, ideally, to touch and move in order to memorize things. The concept of “nature” as a very abstract concept is explained with examples. Trees, animals, plants – they all belong to nature. The signs for these examples are shown.
Integrative learning wants to be prepared
The children always exchange ideas about the peculiarities of the finds in pairs, the opposite person will describe as much as possible what the closer characteristics are, which is their own favorite piece – and we also wonder how much garbage can be found everywhere on the paths.
I understand that art lessons at the Elbe School, like any other lesson there, must be interdisciplinary. It is not only about artistic design, but also about reading, writing, expression, biology… all in exchange with each other.
In the preparations for the lessons together with the educator, I realize how meticulousand and in which small units a lesson is planned, in order to always offer variety and various incentives for the most concentrated participation possible.
“I have the didactic gaze and you the artistic one!”
I assist, make suggestions and marvel at the always up-to-date display boards and name and term cards that the highly engaged teacher prepares anew for each lesson. “I have the didactic gaze and you the artistic one!” I think it is no more appropriate to sum up this productive exchange. We complement our ways of looking at everything and take a new look at everything together. What may sometimes seem a little too “sloppy” or superficial to the teacher here and there, I may call very expressive, simple and accurate. In any case, I find our joint work very fruitful for both sides and I am enthusiastic about the results of our project. Just in time for the open day, the works are completed and proudly presented by the children.
That was fun!
Working with the children was very inspiring. I got an insight into completely new learning concepts for me. The difference between didactic and artistic observation has become more comprehensible to me. I got a little push to express myself more clearly and clearly with my body language. And I got a new name. This kind of thing only happens to an Indian after an initiation, I thought so far. This, too, was a new experience. It was great! Happy to return!
Greetings and have fun learning
The woman with the hair clip