LA Johnson in NPR:
A group of small children sits cross-legged with their teacher, Steve Mejía-Menendez, on a round carpet. He’s a pre-K teacher at Lee Montessori Public Charter School’s campus in Southeast Washington, D.C., and although I’m here to meet him, I almost don’t spot him because he’s eye level with his students.
Mr. Steve, as he’s known here, is talking a few students through a geometry lesson when another student approaches to ask an unrelated question. This kind of distraction happens all the time in classrooms around the United States. Mr. Steve doesn’t lose focus. He uses American Sign Language to say “wait” — palms facing up, fingers wiggling — and the child waits quietly. When the lesson arrives at a natural stopping point, the student is invited to ask his question, and Mr. Steve silently responds by nodding his head along with his fist, which is sign language for “yes.”
Blink, and you could miss the whole interaction.
This isn’t a school for students with hearing disabilities, but Mr. Steve uses ASL as part of a broader approach to minimize noise in the classroom. And it’s noticeably quiet. No one is talking louder than what’s often referred to in Montessori schools as “the hum.”