Educational Interpreters Unplugged

Edited by Janet DesGeorges

In a recent exchange on a yahoo listserv of educational interpreters from all over the country, one member put this challenge out to the rest of the group to finish the statement, “What I want others to know about interpreting….”

The following is a compilation of responses that come from the heart, and show us a snapshot of some of the issues facing educational interpreting services in the classrooms of America.

What I want others to know about interpreting…

“…understanding the whole child is imperative for success in the classroom, it is much more than chronological age!”

“…the teacher needs to understand that THEY are the one who can control student behavior, not the interpreter.”

“…whatever the teacher would do for a hearing student, the same should be done for the deaf student.”

“…teachers need to understand that it is their classroom and their student. I will never assume the role of an authority figure in the children’s education….  However, as an adult in the building, I will certainly not allow behavior that violates school policy. But my methods will be to report it to the classroom teacher, not by directly intervening unless it is an emergency situation, e.g. a fight breaks out.”

“…classroom educational interpreting is like a dance that involves the ever changing dance partners of the educational team including the deaf students and parents.”

 “…I AM a member of the Educational Team

…Just like teachers, interpreters all have different styles.  Working together, we will make sure that YOUR student(s) get the absolute best possible access to the information available.”

“…when we ask for copies of lesson plans (or notes, etc), it is not to give teachers ‘just one more thing to remember’ but it is to be able to prepare ourselves for the lesson just as they need preparation time. And that copies of anything are usually better received AT THE VERY LEAST the day before class, not the moment class starts (but I will take them however I can get them!)”

“…as professionals, we are an equal and intricate part of the educational team with the same desires for the student’s academic success. We are not overpaid babysitters.”

“…parents are given very little information of the limitations, expectations, relationship building required -- for full utilization of interpreting services in the classroom.” 

“…students need to be trained to use interpreting services!  Competencies of the student needed to fully utilize educational interpreting services are very often not understood, assessed, or addressed through skill building goals in the IEP.”

“…make sure that interpreters (through mandated policy in the IDEA) are meaningful participants in the IEP process and have a way to connect to parents so they can be better advocates!”

“…there is a thing called lag time. I need time to interpret the message, time for the student to process it and to time to answer with interpretation. It is not as fast as you think it should be but it is the way it is. Please give us the time needed for the student to truly participate in your class.”

“…movies need to have closed captioning, and  that when teachers have “down-time,” usually the interpreter does not.”

“…It is surprising how difficult it is for others to understand the concept of ‘one thing at a time’! Teachers are so used to teaching with students multi-tasking that even with reminders they can’t quite understand why deaf students can’t do it all!”

“…students belong to the teacher not to the interpreter. Ask the interpreter what they need from the teacher in order to do their job. Prep time and materials are essential.”

“…when school districts are using interpreter agencies as substitutes in the educational setting… make sure that the agency interpreter knows what Educational Interpreting is!”

“…deaf students cannot take notes while watching a lecture and/or a video.”

“….help teachers of the deaf understand the role of educational interpreters. Often they like to put our educational interpreters in the role of teacher or do other duties assigned to signing aides (such as bus or lunch duty).”

“…It is critical that the IEP team understand the reading and grade level of the student using interpreting services, particularly in the high school setting where curriculum can be quite challenging.”

“…teachers…we understand that we work in your classroom - that you have 20-100 students and a tremendous amount of responsibility and we respect that. We are not asking you to do our work. Share your lessons plans and your goals for the class and like you, we will prepare with needed concept, clarity, vocabulary needs....... because of this working relationship, just like your hearing students, your deaf students will enjoy and learn the lesson. We make an awesome team.”

What’s the take-away here? Parents and teachers can use this information to inform IEP team discussions about the improving the efficacy of mainstreaming, getting an interpreter adequate preparation through vocabulary lists, teacher notes, textbook readings, discussing how a student can fully participate under special circumstances such as auditory tasks, “racing to answer” tasks, group discussions and presentations by other students. The need for notetaking services came up several times in the comments. Encouraging a general education teacher to take full ownership of their deaf or hard of hearing students is a common theme in the mainstream environment as well. Let’s give those special considerations their due problem solving time in a child’s educational planning that they merit.  ~

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