1 November 2022
Last week and two weeks ago, I completed the 14-day writing challenge. In my final post of the challenge, I shared that I need to work on creating my own accountability for daily writing outside a limited-time challenge. As luck would have it, November is “Academic Writing Month” or #AcWriMo so I have some incentive to keep going.
Here’s what I’m going to do. I’ve made a writing log. Here, I’ll track any writing-related activities including database searches to find relevant articles, reading new articles, drafting something new, and final polishes to an abstract about to be sent off. A blog will not result from everyday's efforts but sharing this now is part of my accountability plan.
Today I’m going to work on writing a sort of script for an upcoming conference presentation. This is both to help me get a sense of what I want to talk about and to help the interpreters prepare. If I have time, I may try to work on an abstract. I’m sure a lot of my academic writing this month will be related to homework 😉
And like I said before, I don’t necessarily have to start and finish something in a single day. It’s enough to get going. The same goes for you too. What project, big or small, could you start today?
14-Day Writing Challenge: What I've Learned
28 October 2022
Welcome to the final day of the 14-day writing challenge. What a ride it’s been! Don’t worry, I did my writing yesterday but not in blog form. In my final post for this series, I’d like to share what I learned and how I will try, truly make a concerted effort to build in daily (or mostly daily) writing habits.
Is this pace of blog production sustainable? Definitely not! But, the accountability of the challenge – knowing people would check in on me, leave encouraging comments on my daily check-ins – helped me tremendously. My most common excuse for not writing is, “I don’t have time.” But I didn’t magically have more time this week than I normally do; I made the time to write! This means that the time is always there but I have to commit to making writing a priority that can’t be usurped by grading, course prep, administrative tasks or anything else.
I don’t have to produce a blog a day and indeed, blogging isn’t the only form of academic writing there is (that’s just how I manifested my writing for most of this challenge), but 30 minutes per day would allow for a blog every week or two. I don’t have to write, film, edit, and post all on the same day. One thing I love about this particular writing challenge is that it’s time-based. I don’t tend to do as well with things like “1000 words a day” challenges for at least two reasons: 1) not all “writing” is adding words. You have to read to write and sometimes you have to edit and revise, which can result in word loss, not gain. 2) There’s no word-counter for ASL writing. So if I’m working on something in ASL, how do I know whether I’ve met my “word goal”? I don’t. But if the goal is time-based, anything that is part of the writing process, from idea conception to publication (whatever “publication” means), counts as “writing.” That framing helps me get more wins, which encourages me to keep going.
Now the question becomes, “how can I create my own accountability for daily writing outside a limited-time challenge?” Maybe I just answered that question! Going a bit off point for a moment, but I promise it’s related…I used to hate doing puzzles. I think it’s because I associated progress only with putting pieces together and instant gratification of finishing a puzzle quickly. During COVID lockdown, I learned that there’s more to puzzling than just putting pieces together. Sorting, re-sorting, sub-sorting, is all part of the process. Ultimately that leads to putting more pieces together. Also, you don't have to finish a puzzle the same day you start it. I’ve learned to find satisfaction in the steps that lead to completion, however long it takes. Perhaps this is how I should frame my writing. I don’t have to finish the day I start, but not starting guarantees I’ll never finish.
So, here’s to writing and everything that’s involved in the process, 30 minutes at a time.
26 October 2022
Welcome to week 2, day 3 of the 14-Day Writing Challenge!
I got up at 4:30 this morning to give myself some extra time for academic writing. This morning I worked on portions of an IRB proposal for an upcoming research project and later today I’ll be developing slides for an upcoming conference presentation. All of this counts for the challenge, but what I want to talk about here, briefly, is mentorship!
I’m in an interesting position right now because I’m both a mentor and mentee. As program coordinator, technically I’m responsible for all Deaf Studies majors and minors, but I do mentor other students more closely. Outside Sacramento State, I recently mentored a doctoral student through her culminating project and I had another Master’s student defend their thesis proposal. I also have a deaf doctoral student mentee through a program designed to encourage deaf researchers. In my certificate program at Gallaudet, I’m the mentee, and I recently connected with a mentor who will guide me through my capstone project.
Given this dual role of mentor and mentee, I’ve been reflecting on my mentorship as a PhD student. I kept waiting for mentorship to happen. My peers would tell me they had meetings with our mentor and I would think, “why don’t I have meetings with them?” Turns out all I needed to do was ask. Once I learned to ask for mentorship, for guidance, I got it!
For all you students out there, whatever stage of your academic career and whatever you envision for the future, if you find yourself wanting mentorship, all you have to do is ask. The resource we were directed to in my own class is from Idealist but you can probably find others by Googling, “How do I identify and connect with a mentor.” Still not sure who might be a good fit? Let me know. I’ll try my best to help.
Time Management as Self-Care
25 October 2022
Welcome to week 2, day 2 of this 14-day writing challenge. Today I want to talk about self-care. I have a number of posts in my Dr. Z’s Tips about time management. In them, I describe how explicit schedule-setting is one way to manage your time. Today I want to talk about time management as a form of self-care.
About a year ago or so, I started putting everything on my calendar. I mean everything. I put when to do emails, when to have lunch, and when to walk the dogs. This has done two things for me. One, it made me stressed to visually recognize how busy I am. At the same time, that was also validating. Second, it’s helped me to prioritize what I absolutely must do and what can be postponed or completely removed from my schedule.
I don’t know what time management techniques work for you. If you’ve got a good thing, I don’t want to throw it off too much, but I do want to make a suggestion for how your time management is framed. Your time is valuable. Rest is valuable. Doing things for pleasure is valuable. As you think about your time management, think about how you can frame it as taking care of yourself. Maybe this means blocking out time that you’re not going to put anything on the calendar. That’s fine! Maybe that means canceling a meeting that could be an email. Or maybe it’s not even scheduling a meeting for something!
The point is we’re all busy and may always feel like we need a few more hours in the day. While we can’t actually have more hours in the day, we can carve out a few minutes here and a half hour there by reframing and reprioritizing the things on our calendars.
This week, I’m working on taking an actual break for lunch – disengaging from work for 45-60 minutes. I’m also making time for my daily writing!
What could you make time for if you frame time management as self-care?
Letters of Recommendation
24 October 2022
Welcome to week 2 of the 14-Day Writing Challenge, after two days of R&R (sorta). Today is a special day because this is my 50th blog!
Why not use this auspicious day to talk about something super important: letters of recommendation!
Every semester, I get asked by at least 1-2 students to write letters of recommendation. The most common request I get is for our local interpreter preparation program, but I also get students applying for various graduate programs. But recently, two things happened related to letters of recommendation that have inspired me to talk about this.
First, I read a Twitter thread by someone who experienced a lot of rejections until she experienced a lot of successes. Turns out a lot of this has to do with letters of recommendation!
Second thing, a student asked me for a letter of recommendation for a super prestigious fellowship. It has a webpage specifically for letter writers to write a letter targeted specifically to what the scholarship committee needs to know. This, by the way, goes well beyond what I usually ask for in order to prepare a letter.
I’m going to keep this one short because the Twitter thread says it all way better than I could, so I’ll just summarize. When you ask someone for a letter of recommendation, make sure you plan ahead. The more you tell your letter writer about the job/scholarship/program you’re applying for, the better letter they can write. Not sure what they need to know? Look at the website for whatever you’re applying for. Look to see what qualities, characteristics they’re looking for in an applicant. Then, tell your letter-writer how you have those qualities and characteristics with specific examples.
Faculty are busy, but we want to help you move on to whatever’s next in your academic or professional journey. If you take the time to outline what dream job/scholarship/program needs to know about you, we can put it into prose. Just give us at least a month to do it 😉
Doctoral Degrees & DEI
22 October 2022
Welcome to the last day of week 1 of this 14-day Writing Challenge! Today I want to talk about different kinds of doctoral degrees and how they relate to DEI efforts in campuses around the country (and maybe other countries, too!).
The first PhD was awarded in Paris in the 12th century. This was the original doctoral degree. You might be thinking, “but hey, wait, what about physicians!” Well, physicians weren’t always called doctors and while the entry level degree for physicians in the US is a doctorate (either medical doctor (MD), or osteopathic doctor (DO)), many countries follow a different system. To become a physician in the UK, the entry level degree is often the MBBS or “Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery,” yet physicians are still addressed with the title “Doctor.” Today, there are a zillion types of doctoral degrees including
Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)
Doctor of Engineering (DEng)
Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Doctor of Science (DSc)
Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT)
Doctor of Chiropractic (DC)
Doctor of Social Work (DSW)
Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD)
What does this have to do with Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in universities? A lot! I’ll explain.
Universities are trying to ensure diverse and equitable hiring practices. Many have established programs to make a concerted effort to do this well. For example, Sac State established the Diversity Hiring Fellows Program for which I was a fellow in the inaugural cohort. One thing we talked about during our meetings was how to cast a wider net in job searches and make sure no applicants are excluded based on marginalized experiences. For example, some doctoral degrees are offered online or mostly online, making them well suited to parents who can’t uproot their family to go to the perfect fully in-person PhD program. Many of these degrees are also shorter. For example, the SLPD at both Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions and at Northwestern are about two years. The EdD at Rockhurst takes 2 years and is fully online. Baylor’s EdD is mostly online and takes 3 years. The Psy.D. (Doctorate in Clinical Psychology) at Pepperdine takes a total of 4 years to complete (as opposed to 5-7 for most PhDs in psychology).
Another factor is admissions requirements. Some of these less-considered degrees have lower admission requirements. For example, GPA and MCAT scores for DO programs are lower than those for MD programs. But physicians complete the same residencies and can work in many of the same fields. Why does this matter? Because not everyone is a superstar in college. Some folks are still finding themselves, learning how to function as an adult. Or maybe someone became a parent early and was raising a child, working a job and going to college. The strain could lead to a lower GPA but that doesn’t reflect their intelligence and potential as a physician.
As universities undertake DEI work, they should have conversations about these non PhD, non EdD degrees and how they may align with DEI goals. For instance, if someone is unable to complete a PhD due to geographical and financial barriers, including the need to keep working (e.g., because PhD funding is insufficient), these less-discussed doctoral degrees may be more feasible.
Dismissing an applicant because of a non-PhD doctorate is potentially dismissing someone who would have been a great fit for the institution!
“But only PhDs train you in the rigorous research needed to succeed at an R1 school!” First of all, how many R1 jobs are there? Lots of PhDs (hey there!) don’t end up at R1s and they’re fine. So why not consider what people with these other degrees have to offer. Maybe they won’t fit at an R1 (but maybe they would!).
“But people without PhDs won’t have what it takes to get tenure!” I disagree with this blanket statement. Some PhDs don’t get tenure! It’s not a given. Likewise, university hiring committees should take a serious look at applicants who have a doctoral degree in the right field for the job, have the teaching/research/service experience. Many universities need to ramp up their mentoring game. Have official programs to support junior faculty through the tenure process. I’d be willing to bet that with the right mentorship, most folks with doctoral degrees could get tenure.
Are you on a search committee this year? Are you writing vacancy announcements? Instead of specifying that applicants must have a PhD, consider a phrase like “a doctoral degree in [whatever field].” This will welcome applicants with non-traditional degrees and this will help you to cast that wider net. You never know what you’ll catch!
20 October 2022
Welcome to day 4 of the 14-day writing challenge. If you’re wondering if I’ll produce 14 new blogs in as many days, no, definitely not. But, I’ll keep up with my commitment to write for at least 30 minutes every (work) day and see where that gets me 😊
Today I want to talk about the word “verbal.”
Dictionary.com defines “verbal” as “of or relating to words,” “consisting of or expressed in words (as opposed to actions),” and “based on the use of words (as opposed to other activity).” Mirriam-Webster defines “verbal” also as “of, relating to, or consisting of words,” “consisting of or using words only and not involving action,” and “of or relating to facility in the use and comprehension of words.”
Did I cherry-pick the definitions from the list? Guilty. I left out the definitions that specifically use the words “spoken” or “oral.” Let’s talk about it!
Despite these definitions, most lay folks would probably include “spoken” or “oral” in their primary definition of “verbal,” this to the point that many describe their ASL dominant child as “non-verbal” or say things like “my deaf child is non-verbal but they know ASL.” To be “non-verbal” and “ASL dominant” is a contradiction in terms. While they don’t use the oral pathway to produce language, signed languages are in fact verbal. They “consist of…expression of words (as opposed to action)” and they “relate to the facility in the use and comprehension of words.”
Worse still, many speech and hearing professionals perpetuate this misconception (maybe not maliciously; perhaps they misunderstand the term too) by saying things like “if your child wears their hearing aids, they are more likely to acquire verbal language rather than needing to rely on sign language.” (I’m not getting into the “need to rely on” issue today…).
Worse still, there’s a certification for speech-language pathologists and teachers of the deaf through the Alexander Graham Bell Association called Listening and Spoken Language Specialist Certified Auditory-Verbal Therapist (LSLS Cert. AVT). Teachers and SLPs at oral schools for the deaf often boast this credential. Those with AVT certs are positioned as opposite proponents of ASL, but wait, something doesn’t seem right…
When AVTs are pitted against ASL specialists or bilingual SLPs or ToDs, parents, who may be new to the experience of navigating early intervention and deaf education, might hear that word “verbal” and think “oh, I need to do the ‘verbal’ one if I want my kid to talk.” What they might mean though is that they want their child to communicate linguistically. That’s what ASL is, a way to communicate with language. Use of “verbal,” relying on its most commonly understood (but incorrect) definition, serves to other ASL and makes it seem less than, inferior to oral languages. As I discussed in my post yesterday on so-called “baby sign,” that’s not the case. ASL is just as verbal as English, Dutch, Pasto, Igbo, and any other language used anywhere in the world.
Here’s my call to action! If you are a service provider, especially one who works in deaf early intervention, or anywhere within special education, please ensure that you are not inadvertently perpetuating the misconception of the word “verbal.” Use it correctly. If a family you’re working with uses it incorrectly (e.g., “I don’t want to do signing. I want my kid to be verbal.”) offer a gentle correction. Likewise, if you’re with colleagues, maybe those who work in other areas of early intervention but not specifically with deaf children, and they use “verbal” incorrectly, offer that gentle correction with an explanation. Maybe even direct them to this blog 😉
Here’s the bottom line: Let’s all do our part to help the world understand what “verbal” means. This, along with (so many) other actions, can help ASL and other signed languages to be perceived as equivalent to oral languages.
"Baby Sign (Language)"
19 October 2022
Welcome to day 3 of the 14-day Writing Challenge! Today I want to talk about “baby sign.”
This is a problematic term for a lot of reasons. The most obvious (to me) is that it’s belittling. For no other language can you find a course on “Baby [name of language].” There’s no “Baby Spanish,” or “Baby German,” or “Baby Finnish.” It’s insulting.
Perhaps more importantly, offering courses in so-called “baby sign” serves to do three highly problematic things. Firstly, it uplifts a coopted industry wherein (usually) white (usually) women teach signs appropriated from natural signed languages to the hearing parents of hearing children without explaining the context of the language from which they were stolen, then earning a profit off of teaching something. This is not only exploitative but it also hurts deaf people who are qualified to teach the actual language of ASL. Secondly, it serves to make signed languages second class languages because “baby sign” is something that is dropped once a hearing child starts using oral languages. Third, adding the word “language” to “Baby Sign Language” mistakenly gives the impression that it’s an actual language, rather than a tool some hearing parents use with their hearing children to develop communication before oral speech develops.
Offering “baby sign” classes perpetuates the misconception that signed languages are inferior to oral languages, merely an accessory that can be distilled to a few basic signs that babies can learn until they start speaking orally.
I want to share the course description for two community colleges which offer so-called “baby sign.”
The official course title is “Baby Sign Language.” The course description says that, “This course focuses on Baby Sign Language vocabulary, alphabet, handshape, movement, palm orientation, structure, and grammar. Students will learn core vocabulary, comprehension, and grammar in American Sign Language to understand its structure. Students will also be introduced to the history of the Deaf community and its culture, as well as be exposed to community resources for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing populations.”
This is perplexing because other than the name, this sounds like an introductory level ASL class. So why not call it “Introduction to ASL.”
I urge anyone who works in a sign language program that has a “baby sign” course on the books to consider the impact of this course on the community you’re probably trying to uplift. If you want to teach ASL for parents who want to learn ASL to use with their children for the purposes of becoming bilingual, that’s great! Call it something like “Infant- and child-directed ASL” but don’t call it “baby sign” and definitely don’t call it “Baby Sign Language.”
Audiologists & Audism
19 October 2022
This is a topic I’ve wanted to tackle for a while but just haven’t gotten around to it. Day 2 of my 14-day writing challenge seems to be the perfect time.
Today I want to talk about audiologists and ableism. And the timing is perfect because it is also National Audiology Awareness month!
A while back I had a student who noted the contentious relationship between deaf people and audiology and stated that if were to become an audiologist, she’d be perpetuating ableism. I don’t think that’s necessarily true, though.
Some deaf people love to use listening devices. Sometimes they even get new listening devices for various reasons. Audiologists can work with these deaf people, not to push an assimilative "be as hearing as possible" agenda, but to give them what they want. Or maybe a deaf person getting hearing aids for the first time since they were a kid because they love music. If a deaf person says, "I want to hear music as best I can" an audiologist should use their training and skills to give them that.
Maybe someone decides after a long time to get one CI. They're not sure if they'll use it to understand oral language but you're there to guide them through candidacy for the CI, help with mapping, and help them learn to hear whatever they do want to hear as best they can with their new device.
This isn't perpetuating audism. This is reclaiming sound as not something that belongs only to hearing people. Deaf people can enjoy sound too, and many do in various ways. As an audiologist, you can help them reclaim sound in a way that's meaningful to them!
Sadly, many audiologists do perpetuate audism either explicitly or implicitly. Just by being part of the field, those who recognize this chasm can help repair and redirect it.
Happy National Audiology Awareness month!
The 14-Day Writing Challenge
17 October 2022
Today starts the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity 14-day writing challenge. The goal of these challenges, which they do several times a year, is to establish consistent writing habits as an academic. This is something I’ve always struggled with, so I desperately need this incentive!
In my first two years as faculty, there was a program where faculty could sign up for protected writing time and go to a quiet room with snacks and coffee and dedicate time to writing. Know what I did during that time? Anything else on my to-do list, usually grade or do other course prep.
So, this is hard for me. But, following the challenge, I’m committed to some form of academic writing (blogs count!) for at least 30 minutes everyday for the next 14 days. I’ve blocked off 30 minutes in my schedule for each day and I am doing my best to keep myself accountable to this.
The trouble I foresee is that while I’m committed during this 14-day challenge (because there’s a special website where I go in and log my time, and people comment on my progress in solidarity), it will be all too easy to fall back into the habit of brushing my “protected writing time” and doing something else instead.
I know this is a likely eventuality because that’s what happened this summer. This past summer (see “The perks of writing retreats for big writing projects”), my husband and I took ourselves on a writing retreat to work on a big project. This was immediately followed by the summer 14-day writing challenge. We kept to our schedule, even while on vacation! I swore that even when the challenge ended and we submitted our paper, I’d dedicate at least 30 minutes to some form of academic writing daily. I haven’t managed a single day (unless you count me doing homework)!
My college is developing new incentive programs to help reduce faculty teaching loads to create more time for research and scholarly activities, but we’re not there yet. Still, it is possible to form a habit of 30 minutes a day, especially when that 30 minutes could be reading an article necessary for research, drafting a survey that will be used in a project, working on an IRB proposal. I missed the mark over the summer but I’m beginning anew. 🎶Maybe this time I’ll be lucky. Maybe this time I’ll [be able to keep going]!🎶
From Educational Interpreter to DHH Classroom Teacher
15 September 2022
The following was filmed on August 15th, 2022.
Thanks so much to my guest for joining me!
Dr. Leah Geer: Hello and welcome to my blog. Today I’m so excited to welcome a guest and I’ll let her introduce herself in just a moment. This is the English version of the blog. If you prefer to watch in ASL (or both), look above. Ok, that said, welcome! Go ahead and introduce yourself and tell us as much or as little background information about yourself.
Tobi Gordon: Thank you so much! Thank you for allowing me to join you for your blog. My name is Tobi Gordon [shows sign name, which is an ASL ‘T’ handshape making the sign for MUSIC]. For the past 11 years I’ve been working as an educational interpreter, but this year I decided to change and become a deaf education teacher. It’s exciting but I’m also nervous. In terms of my educational background, I have a bachelor’s in interpreting and master’s in deaf education. My interpreting certification is RID Ed:K-12 and what that means is that I have passed the EIPA written exam, earned above a 4.0 on the performance (I have a 4.6), and that I have a BA degree.
I recently passed all of my teaching certification exams for Oklahoma, where I live.
TG: *hands waving* finally, yes! Well really I was concerned because I got my certification late and as a result my school district told me they’d only pay me as a substitute teacher. But [the certification] finally arrived and all’s well.
LG: What a relief!
TG: Yes, it’s fine. So anyway, I live here in Oklahoma and I’ve been married for 15 years. And that’s a bit about me!
LG: *thumbs up* Awesome. Thanks for sharing that. So what made you decide to transition to teaching after so many years as an interpreter? What sparked that feeling of, “I want a change!”
TG: You know, I never thought I wanted to teach; I only wanted to interpret. I loved it and wanted to focus on that. But around five years ago, I decided I wanted a master’s degree in educational interpreting. I searched and searched but couldn’t find a program with that focus. Then I thought about a degree in deaf ed because I think it’s important for educational interpreters to have a background in deaf education, a background in child development, in language development, speech development, and all that. From that point, I decided I’d teach myself a bit about these topics to help improve my skills.
Last year, my school district needed a new deaf ed teacher in their middle school program and I had finished my master’s in December (2021). So my district asked me if I was interested in that and offered me the job. And I thought, “Gosh I really want it!” I love interpreting but I also really enjoyed my education classes and I already know a lot of the same students because I’ve worked with them as an interpreter. So I thought, “What should I do? Teach or interpret? I’ll go ahead and teach!” And so far I’ve really been enjoying it.
I’ve always done a more teaching style of interpreting with kids because we know that direct communication would be ideal, and one learns more through direct instruction than through an interpreter, but I thought now I can use my language skills to [directly] teach deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) students.
LG: That’s so cool! Thinking back a bit further now, what initially attracted you to ASL, to deaf culture? How did you become involved in that community as an aspiring interpreter?
TG: Perhaps my journey has been a bit odd. When I graduated high school and first went to college, my major was advertising, of all things. After a while, I decided I wasn’t a fan. Then, I changed my major to speech therapy. While I enjoyed it, at the time, I didn’t want a master’s degree, though I have one now…
LG: At the time, back in the day…
TG: Right! Back when I was 20, I didn’t want a master’s and you need a master’s to be an SLP. Then I took an ASL class and really enjoyed it and learning more about deaf culture, I wanted to learn more about that. But that school that I’d transferred to didn’t have any kind of interpreting or deaf ed program, nothing like that. So, I changed my major again to teaching.
It still didn’t feel like a good fit for me. So, I moved back home and went to hair-cutting school. After graduation, I worked as a stylist. One day, a client told me that they had a friend who was an interpreter. And I recalled really enjoying my ASL class, brief though it was. With that, I decided to sign up for the interpreter training program.
I remember walking into the first day of class thinking I was in the wrong place! Everything was in ASL only and I didn’t know the language yet. But I persevered and that was that.
LG: Wow, ok but wait back up. You did not yet know ASL, but signed up for an interpreting class.
LG: The whole class was in ASL, voice off, and you were just *deer in the headlights* not understanding a thing?
TG: Right. I was just completely lost.
LG: How did you keep up with everything, with the class? Just “fake it ‘til you make it?”
TG: Kind of yes! At first I thought “there’s no way I can do this,” right? I thought, “I don’t understand a thing,” but my teacher was so amazing! Really good. Really patient, too. Really patient and would act things out for me if needed, gesture if needed. And I would stay every day after class. I would go to the ASL lab and just stay there. I’d really practice my receptive skills. I worked with a tutor as well. I tried so hard. And then I became good friends with a deaf student there, who’d helped me so much. We’d hang out, socialize, and help each other.
LG: How long would you say from going into the class, everything going over your head to understanding what was going on and feeling a bit more comfortable?
TG: Well I feel like I wasn’t fully comfortable, no, but my estimate is about 2-3 months to where I started to feel like, “ok, I know what’s happening.” That really was a boost to my confidence! While I didn’t yet understand everything, I felt like I could do this. I can understand enough to get help. I knew my teacher would help; again they were so patient! But I really enjoyed it also because they helped me find that enjoyment [once I understood]. And at that point I just wanted to keep learning and developing my skills.
LG: That seems like good evidence in support of immersion programs.
LG: Really fast acquisition as a result of only having the option to practice receptive and expressive skills.
LG: No option, students have to figure out how to communicate
LG: That’s so cool! Awesome, but also potentially a bit of a frustrating experience, right?
TG: I feel lucky but I know some were frustrated and didn’t enjoy the experience. They wanted English voicing in class. But I think the best way to learn is immersion.
LG: So, you just started teaching middle school, 7th grade.
TG: Yep, 7th.
LG: 7th, ok. What do you feel like, so far, is the hardest thing about your transition from the interpreter role to the teacher role?
TG: So far, I feel like the toughest thing is planning. As an interpreter, I’d ask the teachers for prep so I could study in advance, but now I have to generate the content myself. Now it’s my thoughts, my teaching, not theirs. Before it was easy: just interpret their words, right? Now I have to think, “ok, what’s the best for this student, how do I really meet them where they are and plan it and teach it.” And I teach everything, math, science, English, social studies, so I have to plan for all of these! I’m always wondering, “was that good enough or wasn’t it?” So, the preparation part, that’s the hardest.
LG: Interesting. I see what you mean. I’ve heard a lot of interpreters say, for example, about public speaking, “oh no I don’t want to give a speech,” but they have no problem interpreting in front of a huge crowd. “It’s not my words, they said it, I’m just interpreting..”
LG: It’s interesting. Now you’re experiencing a different iteration of that. Ok, time for my last question for you. What advice do you have for those who want to become educational interpreters and those who want to become deaf ed teachers?
TG: For educational interpreters, my advice is to take education classes! My interpreting program did not focus on education, more community interpreting. I did happen to take one educational interpreting class but we learned SEE. So, my advice is to take an education class even if it’s not required. Also take language development if you can. Taking professional development for teachers can also be helpful with educational interpreting. It can help interpreters to understand why teachers are teaching certain things and why they’re doing so a certain way. That information can then be applied to your interpreting work. And find an organization like NAIE. I used to be on the board of directors for them. But they have a wonderful library of resources which can be very helpful.
Now for teachers: keep engaging and socializing with the deaf community. This will help your language skills. These kids need good strong language models. Interpreters do also but this is especially true for kids. I’ve noticed a lot of teachers don’t necessarily have great ASL skills and the kids depend on that to be able to apply their language to math, English, science, etc. Work with other members of the service delivery team, the interpreters, the speech-language pathologist, etc. Collaboration is key.
LG: That’s great advice and really in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “oh that fits with what advice I often give to students.” My program, Deaf Studies, is not an interpreting program and we’re not deaf ed – I hope we have a deaf ed program one day, but today’s not that day. We provide a foundation in language and culture. When students graduate, they could go into an interpreting program or a deaf ed program, but this program doesn’t prepare students for those specific professions. Sometimes I ask students what they want to do in the future and if they say they want to be an interpreter, I say, “know you should take a language development course…” among other courses. I often recommend a child development minor. Many students are in shock because they think it’s perfect but hadn’t thought of it before. My recommendation is the same for those who want to be interpreters or teachers. [TG: agreeing] I say, “the child development minor is awesome,” and also it’s in the same department, which is nice. I can easily tap a colleague and say that I have some Deaf Studies students interested in their course and do they have any seats for them.
Thank you so much for your time…
TG: Thank you for having me!
LG: I’m so happy you could join me today and that’s all, thank you so much!
TG: Thank you for having me!