CSD Core Webinar: Realities of Deaf Education



The Webinar & A Resources for Deaf Education

Video Transcript

Hello everyone. I want to make sure we’re all set, so welcome to the California School for the Deaf Core webinar.

We are excited to have our first webinar of this school year and we will have more coming.

My name is Katherine Licht. People know me also as Trina, and the “T” next to my nose is the name sign. Just to let you know, I am white with blonde hair, wearing a blue long-sleeved shirt. We are happy to have a special guest with us today; her name is Rachel Zemach. She is also white and is wearing a blue shirt with a necklace and has short red hair.

I will introduce her in a minute. Our topic today is about her book, The Butterfly Cage.

We are excited to welcome Rachel Zamach.

My first question for Rachel is what inspired you to write this book, The Butterfly Cage?

Rachel’s Book Inspiration

RZ: Hi, thank you so much for inviting me. There are so many things that have inspired me to write the book. There are so many overlapping reasons why I had to write this book.

When I was in my 20s, I decided I would write a book but I didn’t know what the topic was going to be. By the time I became a teacher, it was later in my life, and my personal journey had encompassed a lot. I started teaching at a mainstream school, right after I got my Deaf education credential.

I was so excited and so optimistic about starting teaching, but my Deaf identity was pretty weak at that point. However, in the 10 years of teaching in a mainstream school environment, teaching a Deaf class of Deaf students, there was a huge shift internally for me, from deaf to Deaf.  

I also went from optimism to despair. I was shocked at what I saw happening in the school’s Deaf program. 

In my eighth year of teaching it became clear to me that I needed to write a book about it. One student—I don’t want to go into too much detail now because I want you to read the book and once you read the book you understand it, but I don’t want to ruin that for you—what happened to this one student compelled me to write this book. Another thing was that I found out I had cancer. I didn’t know what my time frame was, or how much time I have left, so I said I have to do this, I can’t put this off. When Paddy Ladd came to the California School for the Deaf in 2013, he did a presentation, which I attended. He said there are so many books about Deaf people written by hearing people; however, where are the Deaf books about Deaf people written by Deaf people? 

He said, “There are so many books about Deaf people written by hearing people; however, where are the Deaf books about Deaf people written by Deaf people?”

Dr. Paddy Ladd

He looked us in the eyes and told the audience “you need to write your book,” which gave me goosebumps. It just hit me. I had just started teaching at the California School for the Deaf, so it wasn’t great timing, ha. But all of those things kind of came together to compel me to drop everything else and focus on getting the book done. 

This is Trina: Wow, that’s quite a journey and heart-touching about cancer as well, and all those reasons for writing the book. But we thank you so much for writing it; it’s really invaluable. My next question is, how can this book become a resource for parents and teachers? How can they use this book?

This is Rachel: So, for parents who are trying to decide where to place their kid, whether to have them attend a mainstream school or a school for the Deaf, I think this book really shows what the differences are between those two educational settings and what that can look like, you know, in a very first-hand, intimate way. Some students started with me in the mainstream school and then transferred over to the school for the Deaf, so readers see the same individuals in both settings. 

The impact that has on them is evident. I think parents don’t know what’s going on in their local mainstream school. It’s not the parents’ or family’s fault; they don’t have any idea of what’s going on and they just trust the school, trust the school staff to do the right thing for their child. 

They have confidence that these people have Deaf education degrees and know what they’re doing, so they drop off their child and think it’s fine, whereas that is really not the case. There’s a lot of dysfunction and even some harm, that I saw going on in the schools, due to the unconsciously oralist mindset of the administrators. I really wanted to open the curtain and let parents see what’s going on so they can make an informed decision for their child’s education and not put off that decision. 

Children cannot afford to lose any time, lose any years of education while the parents are figuring it out or coming to the realization like, “Oh wait, maybe the school is not really serving my child.”

Children cannot afford to lose any time while the parents are coming to the realization, “Oh wait, maybe the school is not really good for my child.” They can’t afford to lose a month of education and language exposure, they can’t lose weeks or days without it negatively impacting their futures, long-term. So, I wrote this book so that parents could see inside the closed doors of a school setting.

How Does this Book Help Educators?

This book can help educators in mainstream schools to understand where the breakdown in language is happening, and why, and how to bridge the gap. They will also learn what NOT to do! Teaching can be a very lonely, very isolating job,  ESPECIALLY if one is Deaf among hearing staff. You can feel very set apart from the Deaf world. I remember going through hell, on my job, feeling very demoralized, and I wanted to provide support and strength so that Deaf or Deaf-positive teachers can feel stronger going into work the next day and know that other people are experiencing the same thing that they are at their workplace.

As for educators who teach at Deaf schools, I wanted to remind them that some Deaf teachers  are working in the mainstream where they’re serving 85% of the Deaf students. And they need your support! They need Deaf school staff to reach out and try and have an influence, at their schools where they are so outnumbered, in their POV of ASL or Deaf pride being positive things. 

Personally, I feel any Deaf child anywhere is our responsibility, and those in the mainstream have way less resources, support, language competence or exposure to direct communication. And staff in Deaf schools may get too comfortable, and forget that or feel its not their domain. Yet those kids (and staff) badly need our help.

Some of the students may not survive their struggles. It is a serious situation. I wanted to shine a light on that for the educators in Deaf schools to encourage them not to just be in their bubble and become complacent. And to make them aware of what’s going on in the local mainstream schools, and how dire it is.  

“Some of the students may not survive their struggles.”

Trina: I agree. I wanted to ask if you could pick one classroom example or experience, something that happened maybe during an IEP meeting, where you’re trying to explain to the parents or educators what’s going on. Is there something from the book, or a challenge Deaf education that you could share?

RZ: Ah, I have so many, there are so many things that I saw, so many stories; the list is endless. Which do I pick? That’s tough. Overall, certain things that Deaf educators in a Deaf school would see as positives are seen as negatives in mainstream schools. For example feeling very positive about your Deaf identity or having strong signing skills, some see those as positives. Whereas educators in the mainstream schools want to get rid of those elements. 

They really believe that what they’re doing is best. They feel the child should fit into the hearing world, by passing for hearing and speaking, using listening devices, getting by in their classrooms, and appearing to be doing well. This often underestimates the mental fatigue, the uneven burdens on the students, the lack of real academic progress or success and the lack of connection to the Deaf side of themselves. All those things are seen as less important than fitting in. 

In this way, their belief system clashes directly with that of many Deaf adults. So there’s a lot of conflicts that can happen on campus. Here’s an example. In my book there are many examples, this is just one.

The IEP Effect

I had an administrator who liked to wean Deaf students off of their ASL interpreters. So sometimes if a deaf student was mainstreamed into a large class the administrator would decide that the student didn’t need the interpreter, maybe because they weren’t looking at the interpreter 100% of the time. 

They’d write this down on the IEP “we will wean the student off their interpreter in three months.” Families don’t understand whether this is right or wrong or what the student really needs in a school setting. They’ve never been deaf themselves and they are rarely actually INSIDE the school to see how it functions. There’s no quality control in that environment, there’s no input from the Deaf professionals to say, “Oh wait, no, no, no, that’s not the right thing to do at all (if our goal is education.”) Schools just kind of plow ahead and do what they think is right.

One of the stories in my book is about two Deaf kindergarten girls who were very bright. In my class, I was focusing on strengthening their American Sign Language skills which were just emerging, and also teaching them reading, writing, and math. I was following the state standards for math for them. This story focuses on one of those girls. She was picking ASL up super fast even though she’d had no previous language, and she was picking up math fast too. We had only three hours of class every day, and that time was precious. What worked for her was small group lessons in ASL with a Deaf teacher and a lot of visual supports like demonstrating things visually. With that method she and her peer learned super fast.

I ended up taking a leave of absence from work for a few weeks, and when I came back, it was jarring. The administrator had made a lot of changes to the student’s schedules, including mainstreaming these two Kindergartners into a class full of hearing students. So that one girl that I mentioned, her IEP was coming up, and I went to meet with the teacher of the mainstream class she’d been placed in. 

But She Can Say Yellow!

She was a young, new hearing teacher and I said, “Oh, how is my student doing? I’ve been teaching her math, how is she doing with math?” She said the time my students were in her class was math time, and she taught by doing a large math circle with multiple math activities daily. I asked, “Oh, is (the students’ name)  in that group?” “Oh no, she’s over here by herself on the other side of the room.” I said, “What is she doing over there?” “Oh, she’s drawing, she’s coloring,” the teacher said. I said, “ Why isn’t she learning math? Why isn’t she in the math group” ?

The teacher said, “Oh, we tried that, but it didn’t work, and so now we’re having her draw.” “Oh, but you know,” she added,  excitedly. “She did say the word yellow.” I was so shocked. It was completely off base. I’m like, “The word yellow? What does that have to do with math?” I didn’t see any connection. She’s like, “She was able to speak the word yellow perfectly.” I’m like, “Yeah, but what about the math skills?” And the teacher said, “Oh, I’m not teaching her math.” And that was her perspective, because the administrator had told her that my student was in the class for social and linguistic reasons, not academics.

Trina: Sorry, the interpreter had a frog in her throat. So we are trying to give her a chance to start over again. Sorry, we only have one interpreter today, and so that’s a challenge that we face. In addition to the stories that Rachel tells in her books, the interpreter crisis is an issue. We don’t have enough interpreters in our community right now, so we appreciate the interpreter who is interpreting by herself. Sorry for that disruption. I think she’s got something to drink, and then we’ll go back to Rachel to finish her story.

A Different Perception

RZ: So that student, how the mainstream teacher looked at her and how the administrator looked at her, was completely different from how I perceived her. I saw her as competent and smart, with an ability to learn math and get on track with her hearing peers if she was given intensive instruction with sign and visuals and small group, direct instruction in ASL.

I could see that she could thrive, whereas they saw that she needed to learn how to speak. To me, that was a waste of her time, putting her in a corner to draw and color. That spoken ability superseded everything else, and the teachers were super excited about that. It was really tough and heartbreaking to me, because it reduced my time to teach her actual math and language skills and I knew she wasn’t getting that at home either.. 

There are a lot of incidents like that. The speech therapy, the occupational therapy, the mainstream teachers, the principals, they don’t have a background in Deaf education. Yet in that environment, there was no sense that a Deaf person might know more about what a Deaf child needs and to respect their opinion, or ask for their opinion. It was actually the opposite. 

“They wanted to prioritize spoken language.”

They were in the majority. It was easy to dismiss the Deaf perspective, since it was in the minority, and as a result there was no counter balance, and it was a dangerously dysfunctional  environment for Deaf and hard of hearing children. 

When I spoke up, I was often squashed, my perspective was squashed. That’s where I decided, okay, I have to write a book, that’s my last resort.

This is Trina: So your experience, all that you saw as a teacher and all those situations and challenges, those experiences you saw, do you think only you saw that, or do you feel like that is just happening in mainstream programs all over the place? Do you think that other teachers have that same experience?

A Common Experience

This is Rachel: Unfortunately, I think it’s a very common experience. If I thought it was just my experience, it happened to be my specific school, or it was only something about my personality, and I had these conflicts, then I wouldn’t have written the book. If it was just about me, that wouldn’t make sense. 

But what I saw, for example, students who transferred into my class from other school districts, I saw those IEPs and I looked at the IEPs, and they were sometimes even more dysfunctional and ignorant than our IEPs. So it was clear that they were coming from an even worse school system. It’s not really their fault; they don’t have the experience, they don’t have the background, personal or professional. 

So, a Deaf student shows up at their school and they just kind of make it up because they don’t know what to do and they don’t know what they don’t know. They look at the kid and say, “Okay, he seems happy, so we’re doing great.” Some schools are better than others. I think there are some public schools that are doing a good job for Deaf students, but they are unfortunately very few. 

There’s a lot of programs that are very similar to the education system I was in. And I think if there’s a person with a strong Deaf identity who’s very proud of being Deaf and uses ASL in the school system, they are going to clash with the existing system.

Since I wrote the book and the book has been out, I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me. “Oh my gosh, that’s the same experience I had,” they say. One woman said, “Wait a minute,” she was kind of upset because she said, “you wrote my story. I wanted to write my story.” Unfortunately, it is a very common experience for Deaf educators out there.

Language Deprivation

Trina: So, with that in mind, the different stories and examples that you write about in your book, how can we as readers discuss more about language deprivation, oralism, audism? Those are three major themes that show up in the book throughout. How can we continue the discussion about those themes? Do we protest? Do we need to do some self-reflection? What is it that we can do to continue the dialogue?

This is Rachel: I focused just on one school in my book, but I hope people who read the book really do start to do some self-reflection to check themselves and their belief systems for hidden audism, and also look at the program and their school. And if there is no Deaf program, go visit another school, go visit different programs. 

I want parents to scrutinize their kids school more and challenge the school more, and be unfortunately a little less trusting and a bit more suspicious of the school situation. I hope families maybe can see, “Is this my school the same as what Rachel’s describing in her book, or is it different?” If it’s different, great. If it’s similar,, then that should bring up some concerns, and they need to roll up their sleeves and do something about it.”

People in the Deaf community would be appalled and shocked at some of the things that go on in mainstream schools. One example is this: we had an interpreter in the mainstream classroom with five Deaf students. After a while, I found out that the teacher, who had 15 hearing students and five Deaf students in that classroom, tended to do a lot of group activities. 

At first, I thought that’s great, the Deaf get to be in a group together with an interpreter, that’s wonderful. But then I found out that no, that’s not what was happening. The teacher was doing what she thought was correct for the Deaf students. But she would put one Deaf student in each of the groups, so they were by themselves with hearing students, and there was only one interpreter, for one group. Meaning that the four other Deaf students had no access. They were trying to get the interpreter’s attention, wanting help understanding what was being said in their group. 

The interpreter was torn, but had to follow the orders of the teacher, who followed the belief system of the administrator. For the fifth grade students it was traumatizing, and I’m sure often humiliating. Imagine being Deaf and trying to fake it with a group of hearing kids at that age, the interpreter unavailable. That kind of situation occurs a lot, there. 

“Parents may have no idea about what’s going on, and I don’t blame them for not doing more.”

I want to raise awareness about situations like this because we need to know what we’re dealing with. Parents may have no idea about what’s going on, and I don’t blame them for not doing more. Teacher st Deaf schools are unaware how bad, how awful, things at these places often is. While hearing, general ed teachers just have no clue. I want this book to be a wake-up call to both parents and educators. That’s my hope.

Trina: Yeah, your book was really helpful in understanding those different experiences that happened to you personally and your students, and to allow us to really discuss and compare situations. How can we be involved and improve that? My last question for you, so just letting you know for those of you watching, you are welcome to ask questions. We will have Q&A time. I’m going to look at your questions and sign them to Rachel. So my last question is, what do you hope your readers do after they finish your book? What do you want them to do next?

RZ: I think there’s a lot. I think the average hearing person on the street, who has no experience related to Deaf education or Deaf people, would assume, “Oh, these Deaf kids are great, they’re in school, they’re doing fine, our education system works for Deaf kids.” They would just assume that it must be good. Why? Because they’re seeing more positive Deaf role models in media, and American Sign Language is in the news. We are much more visible, so it looks like Deaf people are thriving. Maybe they’ve heard about cochlear implants and think, “Oh okay, that seems great.” But the average person’s assumptions are often incorrect.

Raising Awareness

A lot of bad advice can be given to families and parents in medical offices or school settings. So, if I can get this book out there and have hearing people read it, I think they would have some protection against potential harm if they ever have, or work with, a Deaf child.

To kind of change that assumption that, “Oh, everything is fine.” If there’s some controversy or discussion about the book, “The Butterfly Cage,” if maybe they find out about the book on the radio or in a podcast, I hope that the average person would become a better ally of the Deaf community.

And think twice about making the assumptions that they make, that these students, these children, are going to be fine, trust the doctors, trust the schools. Right now, I feel like the Deaf community knows about the book and the response has been incredible, and a thing of real beauty, but I also want hearing outsiders to read it as well, so that they are not victims of their own ignorance.

“But I also want hearing people who know nothing about Deaf education to read the book as well, so that they are not victims of their own ignorance.”

Also, If everybody learned American Sign Language at any age, hearing, Deaf, hard of hearing, whatever, if everybody learned it, the impact on the Deaf community, the Deaf students, would be huge. There would be no barriers. Right now, there are barriers constantly, but if those barriers were to go away, and everything would change. That is my huge wish

One administrator was at a conference, the Cal Ed conference, recently. She just came up to me and said, “Oh, I’m running a Deaf program, it’s quite a large program for Deaf students, it’s been total communication.” 

Positive Impact on An Administrator

She’d been trying to figure out what to do. She read my book, and as a result she decided to go with a bilingual ASL-English approach instead. Wow. So, I’m hoping there will be more people out there like her, reading the book, and who are open and humble enough to take that in, to really take in the message from the book and make real change. 

“I also want everyone to learn American Sign Language.”

The Q&A

Trina: Wonderful, thank you. We have some questions in our Q&A chat. I’m going to go ahead with the first question that’s a little bit related to what you were just saying. One question is, our school district is really looking for experienced teachers to teach our Deaf students, but we have not had qualified applicants in the last three years. Part of the problem is that some of the universities providing Deaf and hard of hearing credential teaching credential programs in our state have closed. How do we attract Deaf and hard-of-hearing teachers,or students, when our school is too far for families to go to the California School for the Deaf?

RZ: It’s tough because the way the system is set up, hearing people are the ones making decisions, and a lot of universities are shutting down or programs are shutting down within these schools. 

I hope people who are watching this webinar fight to make sure that schools and programs stay open. I know here at the California school of Deaf, it’s very difficult to get enough of a living wage to be able to live in the Bay Area, so those are challenges. 

But you’re on the right track trying to hire qualified Deaf education professionals. That’s wonderful. Already a lot of mainstream schools put barriers up; they purposely prevent teachers who are Deaf from getting jobs. 

Maybe offer a stipend so that people from other areas come to your area. Hearing people can be wonderful allies if they have the right perspective and approach. 

Trina: Parents and administrators, teachers: If you are too far from the school for the Deaf, you can certainly reach out to the school for the Deaf and ask for help and resources and support for your program, so that you can do what you can. I suggest reaching out. Right now, here at the California School for the Deaf, the staff really wants to support teachers in the mainstream programs. So, reach out to them, be persistent, or reach out to other Deaf schools. Be persistent and keep doing your research, keep finding videos, books, have guest speakers, anything you can do to really expose your students to Deaf role models and such. So, good luck with that.

Yes, the California School for the Deaf CORE, which is the curriculum Outreach Resources and Education department, is here to support you. You can check out our website to get more information on the resources that we have regarding STEAM education challenges. We are here with you.

Why – The Butterfly Cage?

My next question is, how did you come up with the title “The Butterfly Cage”?

This is Rachel: I was considering the title for several years, and nothing felt quite right. One day, the name “The Butterfly and Blood” came to me, and I was like, “Oh, that’s great. I like that name.” I was really thrilled with that title, and I was telling other people and friends of mine, and editors, and the people involved in writing the book, and those in my social circle. I said, “I think ‘Butterfly and Blood,’ I think that’s a good title,” and half of them were like, “What?” They hated that title. They’re like, “No, no, no, that’s not the right title,” and the other half were like, “Oh, okay, yeah, I love it.” So, I was kind of torn, so I had that in the back of my mind like ‘’I need to still look for a better title.” So, I was waiting for it to come up. Then one day it did, and this time, I didn’t care what anyone else thought. it felt perfect. 

“The butterfly kind of epitomizes the Deaf student…”

The butterfly epitomizes the Deaf student, so they start off as a caterpillar, and you know, if you expose them to ASL, they can turn into this beautiful butterfly, using sign language and flourishing. And the school system is the cage thait keeps them in a cage until they can somehow escape and thrive. So that was where the title came from. I didn’t want a boring title. I didn’t want “Teaching in the Mainstream Schools.” One editor encouraged me to do that, and I was like, “No, no, I don’t want that. I was determined to find an interesting title.”

Trina: Rachel, that title, “The Butterfly Cage,” makes a lot of sense. How can we convince the SELPA directors to consider the California School for the Deaf as the correct placement for Deaf and hard-of-hearing students?

RZ: Wow, that’s a very important question, and maybe the most important question here. Let’s see, a short answer is to give the SELPA directors my book, have them read the book, haha! There’s one student who shows up throughout the book, and he shows up at the beginning, and he shows up at the end a lot.

And I consider that student kind of the canary in the coal mine. He’s the thread throughout the whole book. And sometimes, I just wanted to shake the administrators and the SELPA directors and just wanted to say “Wake up! Can you just imagine somebody who is dear to you, a child in your life, somebody who you love a lot? Could you imagine if they were this student, this boy that I’m referring to in this book?” 

When you read the book, you’ll understand what I mean. “If that was your son, would it be worth it to keep your child where they are, if they were suffering? 

For the staff, is keeping your job worth a child’s losing their future ability to go to college, find lifelong friends, belong to the Deaf community, thrive in careers and life? Is it worth it to potentially lose a beautiful human being as a result of those practices? 

I think SELPA directors don’t know what they don’t know. They’re used to thinking in terms of budgets and finances, and they listen to administrators who are hearing but they don’t listen to Deaf professionals and administrators. So, there’s a lot that they do not know. 

We talk about racism, sexism, ageism; as a society, we are aware of those. We’ve had exposure to those concepts, whereas society is completely unaware of audism. 


They’ve never thought about it. That’s another purpose of my book. I want people to be discussing audism; to wake people up to that concept and have that in the back of their mind. It’s tough that a lot of school districts are focused on saving money instead of focusing on the needs of the students, or they’re focused on their power, they’re focused on following the hearing majority, and I really want to shift those things with my book.

Trina: Yes, here’s a question somebody wants to know if you’ve promoted this book to organizations like The Chronicle of Higher Education. I know it’s not related to elementary education. However, organizations like this, that are out there other than CD, is this something you’ve considered?

This is Rachel: I’m still learning how to promote this book the best I can. I’m on my own here. It’s a big endeavor, it’s a big learning curve that I’ve been figuring out. There’s a lot that I haven’t done to promote the book, but I want to, I’m willing to, I’m ready. When marketing a book, there are different avenues, and those avenues are endless for marketing the book. So, I’m trying to do what I can. However, I like that idea, that’s a very good idea. I should.

Trina: Here’s another question about your book. The question is, will this book be printed in other languages, like Spanish?

This is Rachel: Yes. I want this to be printed in Spanish. Most of my students were from Spanish-speaking families, and many of them did not have English competency, and the book is pointless if I can’t get it into the hands of those families. I want them to have access to this book. So right now, I am looking for a translator. I want somebody who knows about Deaf issues and has fluency in both English and Spanish. Definitely, and I also would like to make an audiobook 

Trina: Wonderful, thank you. I know there are more questions here. I’m going to save those questions, and we will respond by email because we’re running out of time. I want to take the last few minutes to thank you all for attending the webinar today. CORE is here to support you and provide resources. 

Feel free to contact us anytime; we have a wealth of Deaf education resources. Our next webinar will be in January. I thought this would be a good time to talk about a new curriculum that maybe school programs would like to adopt. 

So, thank you again for watching, and happy holidays. Thank you, Rachel Zemach, and thanks to our interpreter who is providing spoken language. Thank you, have a great day. Bye.

Rachel says: Bye, thank you for letting me come. It was an honor.

Show Notes

The Introduction

  • Welcome to the California School for the Deaf Core webinar!
  • Conversation between: Katherine Licht (Trina) and Rachel Zemach

Rachel’s Inspiration for Writing “The Butterfly Cage”

  • Multiple things inspired Rachel to write the book, like an onion with many layers.
  • She wanted to share a personal story about her experiences as a Deaf teacher..
  • Her initial excitement about teaching Deaf students in a mainstream school quickly turned to despair.
  • She witnessed many concerning situations in her classroom and on the campus over the years.
  • One student’s experience in particular, everything she’d seen, and her own cancer diagnosis compelled her to write the book.
  • Inspired by Paddy Ladd’s presentation about the need for Deaf books written by Deaf people.

How “The Butterfly Cage” Can Be a Resource

  • Helps parents decide between mainstream and Deaf schools by showing the differences.
  • Showcases real stories of students in mainstream environments.
  • Encourages parents to be informed and question the effectiveness of their child’s school.
  • Offers support and empathy for educators working with Deaf students in mainstream schools.
  • Aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by Deaf students in mainstream settings.
  • Encourages collaboration between Deaf and mainstream educators.

Challenges in Deaf Education Shown Up-close

  • Conflicting ideologies between mainstream educators and Deaf educators.
  • Mainstream educators often prioritize spoken language over ASL and Deaf identity.
  • IEPs can be misused to prioritize spoken language over a student’s actual academic and linguistic needs.
  • Example: Deaf kindergarteners mainstreamed into a hearing class where they are regularly denied access to math instruction, and put at a table to color instead.
  • Deaf educators are often disregarded or silenced in mainstream schools.

Commonality of Rachel’s Experiences

  • Rachel believes her experiences are common among Deaf educators in mainstream schools.
  • She witnessed similar situations with students transferring from other school districts.
  • Many schools lack the experience and knowledge to effectively educate Deaf students.
  • Some mainstream schools are better than others, but many lack proper programs and support.
  • Rachel’s story resonates with many Deaf educators who have faced similar challenges.

Continuing the Discussion on Language Deprivation

  • Rachel encourages self-reflection and scrutinizing of school programs for Deaf students.
  • Parents should be more critical and question the effectiveness of their child’s school.
  • Collaboration is needed between parents, educators, and the Deaf community.

What Rachel Hopes Readers Will Do After Finishing Her Book

  • Challenge assumptions about the success of Deaf students in mainstream schools.
  • Raise awareness about potential harm unintentionally caused by medical professionals or educators.
  • Encourage hearing people to become allies of the Deaf community and learn ASL.
  • Increase understanding of the challenges faced by Deaf students in classes and schools designed for hearing students.
  • Encourage proud Deaf identity and ASL fluency in mainstream schools.


  • The webinar concludes with a Q&A session.


Additional Notes

The Caged Butterflies: Deaf Education in a Hearing Environment

A Journey to Change

TL: Did you feel like your story needed to be heard because it could make a real difference? 

RZ: That’s exactly why I wrote my book – to shed light on the realities of mainstream Deaf education, a world often hidden from sight. A culmination of both personal challenges and professional experiences opened my eyes to a huge need for change.

The Spark of Inspiration: Writing to Illuminate

Finding Purpose Amidst Life’s Challenges

RZ: I knew in my twenties I wanted to write a book. But it wasn’t until I had been teaching for a while that I realized it would be about Deaf kids in public schools.

Shifting Perspectives: From Optimism to Reality in Deaf Education

The Reality of Teaching Deaf Students in Mainstream Schools

The wide-eyed optimism I had when starting my teaching career slowly faded as I came face-to-face with the system’s inadequacies. My book delves into the challenges mainstream education faces in supporting Deaf students with integrity, and obstacles to empowering them with tools they need for success throughout their lives. 

A Call for Change: Empowering Parents and Educators

Empowering Decisions: A Guide for Parents and Teachers

My book is more than just my story; it’s a resource. For parents navigating the complex world of educational options for their Deaf child, this book offers valuable insights. Educators will also find it a helpful guide in understanding the unique issues and needs of their Deaf and hard of hearing students, demystifying them and learning how to meet their needs more adequately.

The Butterfly Effect: Transforming Deaf Education

The Impact of a Teacher’s Fight for Deaf Identity and Inclusion

My book details real moments from my classroom and the school campus, to illustrate the broader issues plaguing mainstream Deaf education.

Challenging the Status Quo: A Common Struggle Across Mainstream Programs

Beyond Personal Struggle: A Widespread Issue in Deaf Education

My experiences weren’t unique. They highlight much larger problems – systemic issues that transcend individual narratives.

Towards a Brighter Future: The Role of Awareness and Action

From Awareness to Action: The Road Ahead for Deaf Education

My book opens a conversation about critical issues like language deprivation, oralism, and audism in Deaf education. It emphasizes the importance of  advocacy, collabortaioncollaboration and proactive change for a brighter future.

Rachel’s Hope: What Readers Can Do After the Last Page

Beyond the Book: Fostering Change and Understanding in Deaf Education

My hope is that my book sparks a movement. I want to raise awareness among the general public, encourage widespread ASL learning, and inspire administrators to embrace more inclusive, more Deaf-friendly educational approaches.

The Butterfly Cage – A Metaphor for Transformation

The title, “The Butterfly Cage,” is a powerful metaphor. Deaf students, brimming with potential, are often confined by a system that hinders their growth. Systemic and attitudinal change is essential to unlock this potential and allow them to soar.

My Quest for a Better Future

Join me on my quest for a better future for Deaf education. Engage with the themes of my book, advocate for improved educational practices, and support initiatives that promote inclusivity and a sense of Deaf pride. Together, we can create a world where Deaf students can thrive.

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Rachel Zemach - Light skinned woman with brown hair in a purple shirt with flowers on it.

An important book written from the heart about the educational challenges of deaf children

“I had the privilege of interviewing the author on my podcast, “The Art of Medicine with Dr. Andrew Wilner.” I would highly encourage anyone who knows a deaf child or who works in the public education system, especially special education, to read this enlightening, thoughtful and well researched book. It is likely you will view those who are hard of hearing and deaf very differently. It certainly opened my eyes to how much better we can do in our education of deaf children.”

– Andrew Wilner, MD


Black cover of The butterfly cage. Title and Author name are in yellow.  There is a painted butterfly on the front drawn by Nancy Rourke. It is colored in shades of blue, yellow and red.

The Butterfly Cage

‘In “The Butterfly Cage,” Rachel Zemach fills that gap, and then some! Writing from the perspective of both a Deaf student, and long-time Deaf teacher of the Deaf, Rachel enabled me to finally gain some real insight into the severe impediments to learning that we educators create for our Deaf students…’
Woman in a library holding the Butterfly Cage book by Rachel Zemach.

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