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Teaching ASL (113)
A teacher asks: Help! My class is "dead" this semester. What am I doing wrong?
Response: Sometimes it isn't your fault. Every once in a while it just happens that a certain combination of students doesn't "gel" or "click."
Check out this email sent in from an ASL student:
<< I've noticed that sometimes a difficult class is simply due to class dynamics and has no reflection on the teacher's style. I had the same teacher for the same class two semesters in a row. (There were not enough students for 2-A and 2-B so they combined us.) The first semester was mostly 2-B students who responded enthusiastically to everything the teacher presented. The dialogues went back and fourth with a lot of laughter at her stories and jokes. The following semester had mostly 2-A students who sat staring at her like bumps on a log! She did everything short of standing on her head to try to get them to respond. Since I'm an older student (uh let's not mention just how much older!) the teacher wrote to me asking what she was doing wrong the second semester. I assured her that she hadn't changed at all but the class itself had completely different dynamics.
I recently finished a class with a Deaf professor. He taught a lot through stories, jokes, and teasing. We spent three hours laughing and at the end didn't want to leave. We realized we'd learned a tremendous amount of material by interacting with him and laughing at his stories. We covered the book material, but learned more from stories and signing in response to his questions. It was a joy watching him draw out the shy students, giving them huge smiles and High-Fives when they gave especially appropriate responses.
The class is over ... sigh.
I've learned "when in Rome ..." that many Deaf adults use signs that teachers may disagree with ... especially initialized versions of signs. However, if my Deaf friend wants to sign "helicopter" with the blades on top of three fingers (like a vehicle) instead of one finger like my teacher uses, then I sign his way with him and her way with her. In fact, my former teacher does the same thing when she is with my Deaf friend. She agrees that the important thing is to learn to communicate. As long as we know the right way it's more important to honor the fact that it's his language!
Sharon (an ASL student)
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