Professional development: Getting over the hump!

David Bar-Tzur

Created 2/21/2000, links updated monthly with the help of LinkAlarm.

Sisyphus pushing a stone up the mountain and it rolling down again

CDs, DVDs, and videotapes
Deaf events
Mailing lists, user groups & chat rooms
Online teaching and learning
Outside assessment and certification
Periodicals and articles
Web sites
Workshops and conferences

Meeting the people People.

Consult with Deaf people who are good language models in general and especially with those knowledgeable in fields you need to interpret about. Discuss content knowledge, vocabulary, Deaf culture, Deaf History, Deaf-Hearing interaction, feedback, debrief on troublesome issues (make sure the two of you are close and don't disclose confidential information), and problem solving (real and contrived). For ideas on how to acquaint yourself with Deaf people, see Getting acquainted [with Deaf people] and Deaf Linx - Meet the Deaf community.
Network with knowledgeable interpreters and those who specialize in something you need professional development in. Discuss problem solving, debrief on troublesome issues (don't break confidentiality), and affirm others (if you mean it, be specific).
Meet with hearing people (who may know nothing about Deafness) to gain content knowledge in English concerning topics you interpret about, both those you will work with soon and those who can help you be ready for the future. They can also be helpful in problem solving (actual or contrived).

James Womack, who is a Deaf person actively involved in the education of interpreters, has given me permission to quote from an excellent response he gave on TERPS-L (3/23/2001) to an interpreter who said it would be nice if there were a "Deafland" that interpreters could go to in order to interact with Deaf people and improve their awareness of ASL and Deaf culture. Here it is in full:

I advocate having training for Deaf people to be more welcoming of interested people. BUT you got to also realize we have a history of people who come among us merely to exploit us so we are leery. BUT again, it also depends on how you go about it. I usually advise my students to do three things:

1. Be there and be seen even if it means just sitting and watching. Sooner or later someone will approach you and that is an opening.
2. Do not surrender even if first contact is not successful, persistence is actually admired by the Deaf, even when we know we giving someone a hard time. Eventually, this persistence results in a Deaf friend or two who will advocate your acceptance.
3. Make friends with a single Deaf person first, or offer your assistance when an activity or event would benefit from a skill you have even if it is only to make a phone call or two. Deaf people get to know you and realize your interest and helpfulness. Just be sure you don't go overboard with this or be dragged overboard.

The one thing hearies must realize is that with the Deaf, you have to come to us, we don't go to you. Don't give up, most importantly, be seen. One of the mistakes many hearies make is they go to a Deaf event then cluster among themselves talking. This suggests you don't really want to interact with the Deaf. Dare to introduce yourself as many times as needed until you locate a Deaf person who understands welcoming people like you.

Speaking for myself, I have shied away from hearing parents of Deaf kids. GASP!!!!!!!!! James?? You!!!??? WWWHHHYYYY???? TOOOOOO often, a parent comes and monopolizes my time with problems, complaints, whining, expecting me to give unrestricted time to helping with this and that relating to the kid, expecting me to know all the answers to problems that are education related, parenting, even private family and personal matters I have no business knowing, being big brother, counselor, teacher, and almost god to them to save them etc etc etc. This gets tiring, especially when I go to places to just be Deaf and this happens over and over. You want to have your kid meet the Deaf and learn Deaf Culture? Good, approach Deaf parents with hearing and/or Deaf kids. Kids can teach kids, and you could end up doing mutual babysitting that can lead to various involvement with the Deaf Community via these fellow parents. Whatever you do, do not come and consume all our time with problems every time we see you or expecting us to be some kind of savior. Recognize when Deaf people gather, they are there mainly to just be Deaf. It is our break from the hearing world and the stresses placed upon us by the same. You come to socialize? Do just that and not time consuming behaviors mentioned above. If you need a help or a support group, go to one, even ask certain Deaf educators like myself where you could locate one if necessary, we're not it.

Even where I am it is not unusual for parents to be found volunteering at schools their kids attend, assisting the Deaf instructor on the staff, helping integrate activities into a Deaf Day or Deaf Awareness event, in short putting themselves where Deaf people are or will be. I see them handling Sign Design, a theater troop they got started for Deaf kids, I see them involved in Deaf camps, popping up at Deaf bowling, and sometimes even paying me a short visit at my office and even at times I get email from some asking me about local Deaf events. They basically put themselves in situations they will meet various Deaf people. They are smart. Not that everybody else is dumb, but the idea is how you do it and what you are doing it for.