My name is Ryan McMillen. In 2018, I graduated from Gallaudet University and moved back here to Florida where I grew up. I have been working professionally as an educational American Sign Language interpreter for CCI group ever since.
With CCI group I have had the opportunity to work with 3-4th grade, and this year, even 1st grade students, so needless to say this job started out with a bit of a learning curve for me! I thought I might share some of what I’ve come to learn from my experiences so far.
KEEP IN MIND THAT ATTENTION IS A RESOURCE
- Always work at the students pace and try to cater your vocabulary to what YOU know your student knows.
If you’re signing perfectly accurate American Sign Language on pace with the teacher, and it’s all going straight over your students head, they will get no actual understanding from the material. Breaking things down into simpler ideas that the student might understand may make the teacher and their class leave you two in the dust, but at least the student isn’t left there alone.
- Accommodate the student’s attention span
Not all classroom situations are going to give you opportunities for frequent breaks from working, but knowing the signs for when a student is about to reach the limits of their frustration at working for prolonged periods can save you from having to write an incident report. If they’re feeling overwhelmed, having a fidget-device or even a brief doodling distraction can curb a meltdown.
- Know when to prompt the teacher
Having to catch up on a little cutting and gluing because you have to sign the instructions for wandering eyes a few times is one thing. Getting off track because your student has started blatantly ignoring you is another. The teacher you’re interpreting for is in charge of administering discipline, so reach out to your teammate when you can no longer communicate their message along, and decide the best path forward together. You might need to rearrange their seating so they’re not hiding behind other students!
Classroom interpreting is hectic even at the best of times, so having a good team to back you up always makes the job easier. I have been so lucky to work with the teachers that I have, and to work for a company that has always operated with the students best interests at heart.