Tuesday, June 22, 2004

And the new quarter begins..

A part of my schedule for this quarter is now set. I was not sure if I would make it through the hoops I needed to jump to take the Introduction to American Sign Language. There were obstacles, paperwork and standing in multiple lines required for each of the three steps, but the instructor agreed to allow me to audit the class and give me a pass/fail "grade" to take to my advisor. My advisor will post a graded credit (4 units; another "A" if I pass) to a directed study offered by our department for the work. The computer enrollment system finally let me add the directed study; so another elective (one I truly wanted to take) is settled.

The first ASL class was very interesting. The instructor is very engaging, energetic, and enthusiastic. He spoke entirely in sign for the duration of the class and a translator was on hand to interpret. The translator will not be back until about midterm. We were told that the class would be taught entirely in sign- no spoken language allowed. He made a big deal out of future cell phone confiscation if they rang, as well as removing anyone from class on future days if they spoke out-loud. If we cannot sign something we want to say, then we will have to write it out if we wish to communicate- with other students and with the instructor. The total immersion method does work, but raising my hand in order to signal I want to communicate along with not speaking even in conjunction with signing is likely to give me trouble.

There will be a great deal of work required, and I sank a little at hearing all the details, because this will be a very busy quarter for everything else too! Normally, I plan to have one or two challenging classes and one or two easier ones. However, I have a weakness for classes taught by someone who loves what they are doing- it usually makes it easier to learn. Both Monday and today's classes are being taught by those kind of instructors. Presenting challenging material in a positive, active, engaging and enthusiastic manner is very hard to resist.

When the class was almost over, he asked if we thought he could hear or thought he was deaf. Over thirty students said he could hear, and the other ten or so including me, said he was deaf. I have known people who were deaf and spent a tiny amount of time on the fringe of a group of friends in the Deaf community while dating a young man over thirty years ago. I remember certain impressions from then-- mannerisms, written syntax, and a way of looking at people and things that I cannot describe adequately- but one knows the meaning of everything is being evaluated entirely visually. Watching this professor speak for almost two hours triggered those thirty year ago impressions- besides which he looked at the translator when someone asked him a question. He is deaf. I expect this is going to be fun.

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