News: I'm proud to say that this year is my 20th anniversary of being an ASL Mentor! I started out volunteering for many years before I felt comfortable seriously tutoring ASL students- through trial of errors and accomplishments, I've tweaked my methods to suit as many varied students of different learning styles. Then six years ago, already?!, I began freelancing on the side to evaluate ASL interpreters for a relay company and an ASL interpreting agency. I love it all. As always, I continue to take on worthy ASL workshops that improves my mentoring service as ASL Linguistics matures and old outdated ideas are no longer recommended - however, I still get annoyed when I see a lot of ASL teachers using odd terminology for the exact same ASL linguistic rules/grammar thus confusing students. So, naturally, I untangle the overwhelming mental web that students are caught up in and coach them to slowly unlearn and adapt to different teachers' conflicting theories/philosophies of what is "right" and what is "wrong".
For today, I am going to discuss about how to get better grades in your ASL classes - if your ASL teacher (no matter, deaf/Deaf/HoH/hearing/CODA,alien from Mars) seems to confuse you throughout the semester - I encourage you to do the following:
1. Assertively ask your ASL teacher to tutor you any missing gaps that you're not understanding from the class. Remember you're hiring your ASL to teach you everything you need to know. Your money you're paying them is to make them do their job.
2. Ask the teacher where are all the notes derives from - a textbook, from online, from a workbook, from a workshop's notes, from the teacher hirself.
It's very important to make sure the teacher is preaching, er, teaching exactly what's being distributed in class. Point it out if what they're sharing isn't the same things on the tests - make a note to the Dean that they're being conflicting of what they teach/show and what is on the test.
3. If the teacher appears to be aloof, burnt out or uninterested in helping you after class - ask the teacher for a referral of a skilled local ASL tutor who is familiar with his/her work. Be careful, as some ITP department will refer an amateur non-certified or trained ASL tutor. I've seen so many deaf or hearing students pretend to know what they're doing and ended up making it worse for the ASL students struggling to get an A or B+ in order to enter the ITP.
(If your neighborhood seriously has no ASL Mentor to work with, I may have time to assist you - advanced scheduling is mandatory).
For those honest ASL teachers who are devoting themselves to help you, listen and accept their feedbacks and work hard to improve yourselves. Show appreciation as they often have a very demanding schedule and are exhausted after working all day.
4. Do your homework everyday. Whatever you're not skilled in yet, study four hours a day if you can, until you mastered it. If you're not skilled in receptive fingertalking, practice until you're improved. Avoid wasting time worrying, fretting, stressing out when you could be using the same energy, the time to physically apply mastering ASL skills.
I cannot emphasize the necessity to actually sign and then practice with a classmate or with a deaf acquaintance or friend, or go to an ASL Club, or attend a Deaf events. Sign, sign, sign - watch, watch, watch.
Practice, practice, practice. Doing just the mental aspect of learning about ASL/Deaf history/interpreting theories, writing up reports, listening to the ITP lectures will not improve your expressive and receptive skills. This is a hands-on language. A common issue that a lot of people from all over north America (or even from Europe) - they just cannot find a skilled Deaf ASL tutor/mentor - and this is where I try to help as much as I can.
As an ASL Mentor, I cannot study for you, I cannot make you understand ASL without your participation.
5. Accept constructive feedback from your ASL teacher, ASL Mentor, ASL Tutor - however, as I've seen over and over - a lot of teachers/tutors sometimes have an outdated teaching methods that is no longer accepted in today's Deaf Community consensus of what is acceptable or not. Still, it's your responsibility to ACCEPT constructive ASL feedback and improve any areas that needs enhancing. Hoping that a "few" mistakes will not hurt is asking for trouble. Do be mentally FLEXIBLE.
Unfortunately, a lot of ASL students can't discern which teacher is a high-advanced or superior ASL signer or a PSE/S.E.E. mode user- and remember, just because an ASL teacher is Deaf/CODA does not always qualify them to be a skilled teacher. Most hearing ASL teachers are not certified from the ASLTA simply because the hearing run language department (or whatever department they're under) overlooks the necessity for ASL teachers to be qualified through this program. Some teachers are from another country and may have a foreign sign-accent, that's okay - again, be flexible.
You may want to tell the Dean about ASLTA:
Goals of ASLTA Evaluation & Certification Standards and Procedures
- To insure that teachers possess the skills and knowledge to teach American Sign Language and the culture of the American Deaf community.
- To encourage and reward professional growth.
Sometimes we have amateur teachers making so many mistakes that hurts the honest hard working ASL students' grades. Sometimes a seasoned ASL teachers are so burnt out, they take it out on some students that they have grudges against. I find that there are very few honest, ethical ASL teachers in the USA and Canada... many of them, sadly, were either retired or fired from the ITP. There are few skilled ASL teachers, be grateful and learn all you can from them.
I've had my fair share of ill-equipped teachers during my years studying in the ASL Teacher/Mentoring Training -- and I've once had to literally translate one deaf teacher with a MA degree who also had a hearing ASL interpreter voicing the teacher's ASL Linguistic lecture and still the class could not follow. I was auditing the class - after noticing their frustration - I offered a paraphrased version of her lecture and the deaf teacher confirmed I was on the right track and demanded that I tell the class. I shyly rephrased the concepts to the class and they all got it instantly. For the rest of the semester, the deaf teacher often relied on me to rephrase the complex ASL Linguistic concepts!
In order to get good grades for you to enter the ITP - you may need to nod and pretend to agree with all of the teacher's methods, beliefs just to pass the course. Then you may have to unlearn or discard outdated notions as you study and pick up newly accepted consensus Deaf community's regional signs, signing methods, and updated versions of some signs. In the end, it'll all be worth it.
Do not take it personally when an ASL teacher or an ASL Tutor or sometimes an arrogant ASL classmate harshly criticize you. Sadly, I've seen over and over, too many rude teachers, rude classmates, rude tutor belittling other ASL students to the point that many quit.
Stay with it. Let the feedback be your stepping stone to advancing yourself. Let it fuel your motivation to improve yourself. That is how I got to where I am today and I'm still being criticized due to that I habitually English-on-the mouth because I was raised oral. This is my number one homework for life to reduce the exaggerated habit of mouthing perfect English-on-the-mouth. 11 years of hardcore speech therapy with a strict hearing family who expected me to have perfect speech growing up is a hard thing to unlearn. Still, I vow myself to improve no matter how long it takes.
Remember that egoistical people have a terrible need to "better themselves" by putting other ASL students down - realize that those who act like this are insecure people and tear anyone who stands their way.
Ignore them and stay firm in practicing until you perfect your expressive or receptive skills. Do your best.
6. Take Your Time: Take all the time you need to master ASL fluently.
I cannot stress how important this is. Too many students stress themselves out by cramming, barely passing the courses, and then forgetting everything they need to know before entering the ITP. With the exhausting tasks of studying all the ITP courses on top of struggling to become fluent in ASL - many students have been expelled or quit from the sheer stress of juggling too much.
If possible, study as long you need, take classes over again with a different ASL teacher or study one on one with a skilled ASL Tutor/Mentor until you've mastered all you need to know fluently. I've had 4 or 5 students studying under my wing for as long as three years until they were fluent and passed their exams. I understand sometimes finance is an issue but if this is what you truly want to do, make the sacrifice to get FLUENT first.
Please realize there are few amazing GREAT ASL teachers -- they deserve recognition and I applaud for all of them working so hard to preserve ASL ethically and passionately. If you know of a great ASL teacher, let me know, maybe I can email-interview them!
Any questions or comments, feel free to email me on my home page in this website. Have a wonderful Spring season everyone!
ASL Master Mentor of 20 years!