Reflections from someone who is still trying to figure it all out.

by: dr.shel.b.

U·ni·fi·ca·tion /yoonəfəˈkāSH(ə)n/ noun — the process of being united or made into a whole.

Untitled design

We are a fractured bunch, us folks in deaf education, and it seems that while we have been putting tremendous effort in trying to “fix” all the problems in our field, we have neglected one of the biggest and most important ones, playing nice… 


Now, I will be the first to admit that when I stumbled into the field (disclaimer, I am a white, middle class, hearing woman; very aware my intersection of privilege as a professional in a field that is grossly underrepresented by the people it serves),  I held what I like to call a “purist” view, immersing myself in Deaf culture, embracing and constantly striving to perfect my ASL skills (even trying to avoid those “pesky” initialized signs that folks in my social circles found oppressive), and shunning all things cochlear implant and assistive listening technology.

Then something happened.  The more I immersed myself in the Deaf community, the more I began to realize that things existed on a spectrum, and that each individual person had their own unique experience and identity within the spectrum of language, communication, assistive technology, and culture.  I began to realize that there was not one right answer or one right way. 

I began to realize that those who had a different view and different approach to educating and communicating with deaf children were not my enemies.


I realized that when I opened my heart and my mind, that those who I perceived as my enemies, could actually be my allies, and that when I embraced a more holistic perspective, I could make deeper and more meaningful connections with my students, colleagues, parents, and even the Deaf community. (It only took me 17 years to figure that out, so, there’s that).

The crazy thing about our field is that we sometimes forget who it is all about (hint: it’s the kids) and we sometimes obsess on our own philosophy and ideology, forgetting that every Deaf person is an individual, first and foremost, and what I, as a professional believe is right, may not be exactly right for someone else.  My job as a professional is to become an expert in a specific area and to be one of many resources for my students, parents of children who are deaf, teachers of the deaf,  and most importantly, the Deaf community.


It is also my responsibility to make sure I understand the field as a whole, to make sure I recognize my own personal biases and the biases of others, and to make sure that I do my best to give the whole picture, every, single, time. (not just when it is convenient).  It is my responsibility to change my discourse to one that is inclusive, understanding, and respectful, no matter how much I agree or disagree.  It is my responsibility to learn from the research and to evolve.


People, we have so much work to do. SO. MUCH. WORK.  As a founding member of  The Radical Middle, I have made it my professional mission to tear down the walls that exist in our field. After 100+ years of battling out who is “right” and who is “wrong”, it is high time we started talking together, working together, and respecting each other.  Only then can we start moving forward.

So, here’s to moving forward.  Here’s to the start of shifting the discourse.  

Note: This blog is a work in progress on my professional identity and in changing the way we “talk” to one another.  It will feature a collection of posts authored by myself and other stakeholders in the field (hearing, deaf, and everyone in between).  All views and perspectives will be represented in an effort to provide a balanced perspective. 


Follow the “check yourself before you wreck yourself” rule. I am not here to censor anyone and we are all entitled to our own perspectives and beliefs (I will, however, remove any comments that are purposefully confrontational, discriminatory, inflammatory, or that personally attack an individual).  All I ask is that before you hit the “return” key, that you remember that not every person may have the same knowledge-based and experience as you, and to please  ask yourself the following:

  • How does this comment help others understand my position/view?
  • How does this comment foster productive discussion?
  • How does this comment help us move forward?
  • How does this comment lead to a solution?

Have a question you would like dr.shel.b to answer or a suggestion for future content?  Post in the comments below or send an email to

Other places where you can explore/participate in the “Radical” mindset: