Flappy Hands

I’m a working educational interpreter again! Huzzah! It has felt amazing to be back at work, even if it’s just part time. Part time is the sweet spot, y’all. It’s a lot of purpose with a little bit of commitment.

I have not worked in a decade and SO much has changed. First and foremost, I’m a mom this time. I’m a mom with a kid on an IEP. It has tweaked my perspective – for the better. I have a different level of understanding -and dare I say patience- for the kiddo, also.

Again, two months in it’s hard not to have patience, right?

My student is still learning vocabulary, so no pressure there. An entire communication mode rests on my shoulders/hands, but no biggie. (ha!)

It’s also brought out some responsibility in my own kids. They are having to be more independent, more cooperative with each other. My oldest is getting paid to help more around the house and I like to think it’s character building. I tell myself that so I don’t have to empty the dishwasher. (shhhhh)

When my student is out I go to other campuses and observe the other interpreters. I’ve had to be open-minded. While our district is strictly SEE Sign (Signed Exact English) my student and I are alone on the island of ASL. (whew!)

The best way to briefly describe the two modes is Signed Exact English is just word for word sign-sign-sign. HEAVY on the vocab. Like tonnage heavy. ASL is a conceptual language. It’s the meaning and the intent. The nitty gritty. From what I have gleaned, this creates a bit of a conundrum. It sets the students up to be able to possibly succeed in a school environment- if they can manage the amount of vocabulary and language being presented- whereas ASL would give them the meaning and the concept. ASL paints more of a visual picture of the information.

Technically there is not supposed to be one better way than another. One of the main rules of the road is you present in whatever way the client will best understand/communicate. If the client has been raised with SEE, go forward with your carpal tunnel, young friend. If the client prefers miming, put on your white gloves and emote away.

Sadly there seems to be a bit of discrimination with the interpreters who work in districts that use SEE. The interpreters themselves may be trained in ASL, but also have learned SEE. All are respectable. This is where my disclaimer gets tossed onto the page. DISCLAIMER: I am not a seasoned interpreter. I have not interpreted SEE sign. I am not a fixture of the deaf community, nor do I pretend to be. I have no idea what the deaf perspective on SEE vs ASL is, but I can imagine the general consensus. It’s a very “hearing minded” mode of communication….. and in my humble opinion if it works for a student, let it work. They can tweak their brains later to ASL if it pleases them.

I will say that I find it quite interesting that the students I have observed who use SEE interpreters do not themselves like to sign when communicating with others.

(Things that make interpreters go “hmmmm”)

So now back to me. I was a brave little signing warrior today. I pulled the trigger and voluntarily tagged in on an interpreting job in a middle school setting. It was an athletic class and I knew little to nothing about the vocabulary or the associated signs, but I gave it a go anyway. It was terrifying!

In the preschool setting there’s a lot of start-stop-start-stop. Lots of interruptions or jumping around. Kiddo isn’t watching, turn on laser beam eyeballs to try and get their attention back on you, sign some more, stop for the kid getting his nose blown. Bathroom trip for everyone, play time, snack time, story time.

Not a lot of fluid consistency. It was nice to challenge myself and have my hands moving longer than a kid’s story page worth of work.

I left feeling like I need to brush up on my fluency, my vocabulary, and my confidence. But I did it! I stood in front of middle school boys and a seasoned interpreter. I put myself out there knowing full well I was not 100% but did my best and felt pretty good about it in the end.

My ultimate take away- parenting can prepare you for almost anything. Being a mom has put hair on my chest, determination on my face and a little pee in my pants. Cheers to all the hard working working moms and the equally hard working (and far less paid) stay at home moms. We are amazing!


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