Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

the natural sciences

September 1st, 2006

One of the excellent interpreter coordinators I work with recently inquired about my preparedness to teach a science course:
“We’re checking in with the various parties (student, teacher, interpreters) for the science course to help ensure that things are set…. what is your experience with [this subject] and interpreting for this kind of course?”
I responded in detail, as I’ve got the upcoming Conference of Interpreter Trainers on my mind:
“I interpreted a [similar] course some years ago at a local private college; it was heavy. 🙂 I don’t recall the content however, and will definitely ask for clarification if something isn’t clear – the teacher ought to be made aware that science in ASL relies heavily on visualization – which means that I, as the interpreter, must be able to “see” in my own mind the process being discussed in order to represent it adequately to the deaf student. If I can’t wrap my mind around the way whatever the subject is relates to its context then I’ll need help.
Most teachers supply this information automatically – so she/he should not try to do anything different than usual, at least not until we come across some pattern of communication breakdowns. Sometimes style or language or sheer unfamiliarity makes it tough to grasp the knowledge instantaneously; if this occurs, I’d first check with my team interpreter to support me, then – if [Wanda] also didn’t get it, or isn’t sure which part I’m struggling with, I’ll ask the teacher for clarification.
That’s the language part. The other part the teacher should be aware of is the relationship she/he is developing with the deaf student and the relationships among the deaf student and other students in the class. It is my full intention NOT to be the deaf student’s buddy, but instead to facilitate the student becoming buddies with peers and having a direct learning relationship with the teacher. One particular strategy for this is to move around a lot, instead of staying in one physical location. (Although this depends on whether the teacher moves or not, if s/he plants him/herself and lectures then I wouldn’t move.) Ideally, I always put myself in a range of sight where the deaf student sees me AND the person speaking. Sometimes the size or layout of the room won’t allow this, and folks are often a bit distracted at first, but I have been amazed at how readily everyone accommodates and what a significant difference it does make in the group dynamic – much more inclusive!!” [email correspondence]

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