Tuesday, September 12, 2006

What is the sign of being an expert?

I am teaching one course in beginners' Spanish this semester at the university. It is my 13th year of teaching. (Lucky students!)

How can 13 years fly by so quickly??

Anyway... as of today, I have a deaf student in my class.

It's not the first time. A few years ago when I was teaching at the college, I had a deaf girl in my class. It was definitely a challenge having a student with hearing loss in a foreign language class, but I also found it hugely rewarding. She was dedicated and really, really wanted to learn it. I had to adjust my teaching style significantly and in the end, I ended up learning a great deal from her.

Before this term started we were having a Spanish teachers' meeting and one of my colleagues was moaning about having a deaf student this year. I piped up and said, "I've had one before. It's not that bad." Next thing you know, we were talking about him transferring into my class. My colleague just couldn't deal with it...She basically said, "Here... Take him! Please!"

She brought the student to my office today to meet with me and he's seems great. Unlike the girl I had at the college who took Spanish as an option, this fella needs the course for his degree in international business. He doesn't seem thrilled about having to take the class, but seemed hugely relieved when I was open to having him there.

He wears hearing aids in both ears and reads lips. Apparently, he was not born deaf, but lost his hearing at an early age and so, when he speaks it flows naturally... as it would with a hearing person. He says it is deceiving because he actually can not hear very much at all, but people think he can because he doesn't "talk like a deaf person".


As we were chatting he said, "I'm so lucky that you have experience teaching deaf students!"

I quickly countered with, "One! Only one. I am relying on you to help me figure out what will work best for you."

Anyway, we had a good chat and I think he'll be fine in the class.

Apparently, I have now gained a reputation as an expert in teaching deaf students Spanish. God help me. Experience with one student does not an expert teacher make!! Neither does two, as far as I am concerned.

However... I do feel more comfortable having done it once before. And hey, I still remember how to spell "Hola" ("Hello") in American Sign Language!

I wonder how you'd sign "Good luck!"? I may need it...

11 comments:

backofpack said...

Hmmmm. I should hook you up with my son. He had one quarter of Spanish, but is an excellent signer. He was accepted into the translating program for this fall, but, being 19, has decided that is not what he wants to do after all...

Doesn't your school provide translators? It's a given for us.

Anyway, I bet you'll do fine - and enjoy it too!

robtherunner said...

The willingness to accept those challenges is one thing, in my opinion, that separates the good teachers from the great ones. I am amazed after only a little over a week in the elementary classroom I am in now how many teachers do not want to deal with students who present challenges. They want to pawn them off to others rather than trying to work with them and maybe learn something in the process. It is sad, but fortunately there are teachers out there like yourself that gladly accept the challenges and make the decision to change a students life for the better rather than try to get rid of them to ease the burden on themselves. Good for you Sarah!

Sarah Elaine said...

BoP - He said he's had a transcriber / note taker in other classes when he's asked for it. No mention of a translator though.

My other student had a translator... who bailed on her after a week because she couldn't deal with the "foreign language barrier".

Maybe I'll mention it to him...

Rob - I'm busy stressing about how to do this, and you're trying to distract me by making me blush! Stop that! ;-)

Sarah said...

I agree with Rob. Not everyone would accept the challenge. Good for you! Your student is lucky. : )

Janice said...

Hi Sarah,

I'm sure you two will work out fine together.

Janice~

Robb said...

You are an expert. That's the end of it.

madcap said...

Ha! I've been thinking lots about "experts" lately, having to do up some ads for "professional speakers" who don't have any more qualifications than I do. An expert is just someone who's willing, methinks. So yup, you're the expert! Good luck to both of you!

Ginger Breadman said...

How cool! It makes you realize what a big world we live in, and how much diversity there really is. I think you're fortunate to have the opportunity.

Anvilcloud said...

Do you have to wear one of those devices (of course I forget the name)? I had to do that once, and it worked pretty well. I only forgot to turn it off at crucial moments sonce or twice.

Turtle Guy said...

As far as I know, there has been no real precedence set to define "expert" in anything. What you do have experience in, however is the true art of teaching. THAT is what you bring to the table here, along with your compassion and gentle, good nature.

wthenrest said...

I am impressed by backofpack's comment...we can barely get classes in the same building for mobility challenged...

That is why I love you Sarah... You take people as people not as challenges.
I think our society doesn't look at this aspect. Maybe the person just wants to learn...
You are an expert, but that isn't why you want to do your job for this person...it is because you see them as anyone else.
Shame on your colleagues!!!!