The value of an ASL sign:
[The actual cost of taking an ASL class]
When teaching ASL I find it is helpful if my students have a
genuine appreciation for the value of what they are learning.
Have you ever thought about what a "sign" is worth?|
I realize that many students are taking classes from underpaid community education instructors, but for now let's take
a look at the college environment. Have you considered how much it costs a typical student to
be sitting in a college ASL class?
I figured it out one day. For a three semester-credit-hour course at a
typical state university you are going to pay about $200 in tuition.
Some universities it is lower, some it is much higher. For
example, at Sac State it costs around $485 if you take ASL 1 through
the College of Continuing Education.
But let's stick with the lower number
Then add in all of the other fees wrapped up in attending college:
Student Service Fee: $45
Student Center Fee: $15
Health Center Fee: $15
Property Deposit $10 (Huh? I saw this and wondered when do I get back
my "deposit." I'll ask someday. But it is actually listed in
the fee schedule I'm looking at as I type this up.)
Computer Use Fee: $15
Library Use Fee: $12
Then add in 15 trips to and from school at 30 cents a mile (yes I know the
government rate is higher) for 10 miles to and 10 miles from school times 15
costs around $90
Parking sticker: $10 (Yes, it normally costs more than $10 but divide
by two or three because it is just one semester.)
I've had some experience with both semester and quarter systems.
Most "semester-long courses are going to involve about 15 weeks of
instruction. A one semester-credit-hour course will have approximately
15 contact hours of instruction. Of that 15 hours, the first hour is
invested passing out the syllabus and getting to know your students. You
spend another hour on the midterm, and another on the final (if not the
actual final...then the "review" for the final). So you might get
12 actual teaching hours with the students. Of that you really only
have 50 minutes because of the 10 minute period between classes. So make
that a total of 10 teaching hours in a one semester-credit-hour course.
A three semester-credit-hour course will get you a bit higher percentage of
classroom-contact-hour teaching time. If you stay focused you'll have at
least 38 and maybe 40 hours to actually teach something.
Now...in that 40 hours of instruction you are also going to need to let the
students do some in-class practicing. Realistically you are going to
be able to cover 400 to 600 signs. The larger the class, the lower the
number of signs you will get around to teaching. If you aren't
teaching fingerspelling, numbers, non-manual markers, various adverbial
inflections, ASL grammar, and so forth, you can teach about 20 signs per
hour. If you ARE teaching all of the goodies, having daily quizzes,
throwing in a bit of history and culture, modeling the signs, providing
guided practice (at the front of the class while you watch or interact),
giving them small group practice time, and letting them ask whatever
questions they have, ("What's a TTY?") then you are going to get
through 10 to 15 signs per hour (in a beginning level course). And
that's okay! That's the way it should be! Thoroughly covering
400 to 500 signs during a course is much better than doing a slipshod job of
covering 800 to 1000 signs. For example, suppose you are teaching from
the text "Learning American Sign Language" by Tom Humphries and
Carol Padden. That book has around 900 signs in it. You need at
least six semester hours properly teach that book. Typically you'd
break it into two semesters at 3 credit-hours per course and around 450
signs per course.
Now let's tie that into our earlier discussion of how much it is costing
these students to learn ASL.
Tuition, fees, and incidentals per course: $450
Approximate number of signs learned per course: 450
Cost per sign: $1
If you think the amount "$1 per sign" is still too high, then you might also want to consider "opportunity cost."
That refers to the cost of "lost" opportunities that the student could be engaging in rather than taking your ASL course.
They could be out earning money at a job instead of sitting in your class. They could have earned $10 an hour just flipping
burgers, but instead they miss out on that $10 because they are taking your class. Actually they miss out on more than that
because you need to figure in the "opportunity cost" the of travel and "homework" time in addition to the hour spent in class.
During class each time you demonstrate a sign to your students an opportunity for them to receive the product for which they
(and/or their parents and/or the taxpayer) have already paid.
Every time I wave my hands in the air to these students it is costing
them a buck! (And that's if they are "A" students and learn
every sign.) Suppose a "less skilled" student only learns
percent of the signs taught in class? That person ends up paying $1.33 per sign.