ASL University | Bookstore | Catalog | Dictionary | Lessons | Resources | Syllabi | Library

American Sign Language:  Politics and Public Relations

This page focuses on the political and public relations aspects of being a sign language instructor.

In a message dated 1/17/2006 7:01:54 A.M. Pacific Standard Time, an ASL Teacher writes:

...A problem I'm having with my level 2 students this year: The teacher last year taught them many signs that are wrong and a few ways that I simply won't accept. Now they're all up-in-arms because I require them to earn their grades when last year's teacher simply gave everybody 100%. (Mind you, now they aren't where they should be. A few of the students are sort of figuring it out. I'll hear things such as "Mrs. _____., last year I got an A+, but I don't really know anything." But for the most part, I simply get "Why can't you just do it the same as last year?" My response to that is that I'm not last year's teacher and I'm trying to get them to where they can have competent signed conversations with Deaf adults. They don't even know that some signs have more than one meaning (ie., SUNDAY, WONDERFUL, GREAT...) or that some words have more than one sign (ie., WHAT or RIGHT). Then when I try to teach them these concepts, it doesn't sink in because it's not what they were taught last year.
But, I'm still plugging away...semester finals are coming up at the end of the month. :-) Thanks so much for "listening" I appreciate the chance to speak to someone who knows.
Have a good week!
Hello C______,
I hope things are going well for you.  Sorry for the delay in responding.  Hundreds of emails in my "in box."
I find that using technology helps me to educate my students beyond what we go over in class.
If I were in your shoes, I'd develop a set of emails that I sent out in spaced intervals each semester.
The emails would include information such as you mention:
*  Certain signs can have several different meanings. (Provide examples).
*  Various English words might be signed different ways depending on their meaning in different sentences. (Provide Examples).
*  Level 2 is a higher level course than Level 1 and has higher standards for achievement.
*  There is much variation in the individual signing styles of members of the Deaf community. If I show you something different from your previous teacher, congratulations, you now know two ways to "express" that concept. You are in my class though for this semester. I strive to show you the variations that I see done most often in the local Deaf community.  I'll try to be flexible regarding variations, but since I'm the one assigning grades this semester, do it my way.
If you are having problems regarding the students having learned "inaccurate signs" that leads me to wonder what sort of curriculum is being used at your school?  It is easy enough to flip open an ASL dictionary and point out generally accepted versions of signs.  Your textbook should defend you from students claiming "that isn't the way we were taught to sign _____(such and such a sign in such and such a way)."   Students should be taught to sign the signs in the textbook or DVD.  If the signs in your textbook or DVD are not good enough, then you need to get a new curriculum.  Sure, regional (local) variations exist for many signs.  If you insist on using the local variation instead of the one in the student's text book then you as a teacher should type up a "differences" sheet including the gloss of the sign, a clear description of the local version, and the page number of the sign that you are replacing.  If I'm a student in an ASL class I want something concrete with which to defend myself from the whims of an inept teacher.  If the book shows one thing and the teacher shows something else, I want it documented on paper (or online) and an explanation why. That way I have something reliable from which to study instead of trying to rely on my memory of what I was shown in class that day.  That way I can go through the book (on my own) and cross out whatever signs Mrs. K doesn't like and write in descriptions of how she wants them done.  Which is a pain mind you, but also means if I get into the level 3 class and do Mrs. K's sign and Mr. B marks me off for it I can show the sheet of paper (given to me by Mrs. K and listing Mrs. K's variations) to him and tell him to give me credit because that is the way I was taught.  If he doesn't give me credit I can then go to the administration with a valid complaint that the teachers are conflicting each other and that the program is lame and in need of improvement.


Want to help support ASL University?  It's easy DONATE (Thanks!)
(You don't need a PayPal account. Just look for the credit card logos and click continue.)

Another way to help is to buy something from the ASLU "Bookstore."

Want even more ASL resources?  Visit the "ASL Training Center!"  (Subscription Extension of ASLU)   CHECK IT OUT >

Bandwidth slow?  Check out "" (a free mirror of less traffic, fast access)   VISIT >