Adjunct Associate Professor, Sign Language
Any teacher can recall a student that made an impression on them. Often times that student is one who excels in the classroom and is a well-rounded individual. I could list many students who have made that sort of an impression on me, but it is the students with disabilities that take sign language courses I remember long after the semester is over.
I practice yoga and my instructor likes to say something that I have adopted as my motto, not just for yoga, but for life in general and it applies well to teaching and learning: “practice makes possible.”
I had a student, we will call her Anne, with learning disabilities and anxiety. She was prompt and upfront about letting me know her disabilities and accommodation needs. Anne would communicate with me frequently to discuss her grade, study techniques and ways to improve. By midterm, she was failing. Her concern was about not passing the class, thus creating a chain reaction of transferability issues of courses to another collegiate institution. Anne was an art major. She had taken every other language course she could, not passed, which is why she ended up in my sign language course. While I sympathized with her situation, I tried to convey the importance that understanding the content was more important than a grade. I told Anne my motto, “practice makes possible.”
The desks in Sign Language courses are set up in a U-shape so that everyone can see each other. Anne would sit just outside the U, in the corner, withdrawing from everyone. While she started off the semester isolated from her classmates, as the course progressed she began to participate more and ask questions. She talked to students that sat near her and attended tutoring.
Anne did pass the course. After working with her, I have a better understanding of students with disabilities; their needs and how their perceptions of education and learning might be different from that of other students. I have a commitment to my students and the content. A commitment to provide a learner-centered classroom environment focusing on the the process of learning. Through their education at a community college I want my students to better themselves. One can never go wrong with learning, and we should all strive to be lifelong learners.