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Sign In Please

October 11, 2009

When my girls were in grade school, there was a deaf girl in their class. She attended with her interpreter. The girls were fascinated by the sign language they used and wanted to learn it so they could communicate with her. I have always been an avid user of the local library. We went there and checked out several sign language books. We pored over these books for hours. It was a difficult language to learn until you realize that most of the words are based on either a letter of the alphabet or a body area or an emotion area such as the heart or the mind.

The girls and I learned the basics, then many school related words, then we learned food words and emotion words. We eventually learned about 400 words and could communicate with each other fairly well and the girls could sign with their classmate rather fluently. By the next school year, the deaf girl had moved to another school so my girls lost contact with her but the sign language still had a hold on me. I continued studying it, on and off, for many years.

I started re-learning it  2 years before as it helped to fill the long hours when I was alone so much. Yes, along with the garden, the canning, the crafts, the pet care–I’ve always been one who has to be doing something, I can’t sit still!

Rick was even learning some with me. He thought it was a romantic language. Actually, it is a very poetic language when signed properly. There is a flow, a rhythm, that is beautiful to watch. By the time I had moved up to Carol’s house, I knew almost  2,000 words.

I’d been up to Carol’s for more than a week when her daughter, Nancy, came to visit again to see how I was doing. Remembering that she was a teacher, I asked if there was ever a need for an interpreter for the deaf in the school system. She said the school did not hire them but went through the Mountain Education Co-op who hired them then sent them out to the schools as needed. She suggested I call them. I called and had an appointment for the following week. I studied like a college student cramming for a test.

I went to my appointment where I was asked many questions about my studies. I told them I was self-taught and had no degree. They decided to give me an Interpreter’s test. That was quite interesting. First, they said a statement and I was to sign that statement. After 20 statements, they signed to me. I was able to make the signs accurately when I was doing the signing but I was a little lax in reading their signs back to me. It is easier to picture the signs, from the book, in your head while you are signing but when someone is signing back to you it looks backward. I was told to practice in front of a mirror and watch my image’s hands rather than looking down at my own hands (did I explain that right?). I was told that I did very well, though, on the tests. They said they would be in touch if they needed me.

I didn’t have to wait long. I received a call, 2 weeks later, to meet one of the counselors at the elementary school. We met the next day. There was a little deaf boy named Mitch who was in 3rd grade. His classmates wanted to learn to communicate with him, so the Co-op agreed to have me come 3 days a week for 2 hours each day. I would spend the first hour with Mitch in one of his classes and the second hour would be spent teaching him and his classmates how to sign. Mitch knew many signs but was still learning at the Deaf school nearby so this would help him, too.

I had so much fun with those kids! I would teach them their sign names first. When they learned those, we started off each class with “Sign In, Please” where each would stand up and sign their names. Then, I taught them 10 signs per week that were related to each other. For example, I would teach 10 Emotion signs on the first day, the second day we would review the signs. On the third day we played “Wheel of Fortune”. I would write the dashes for each letter and the kids would guess the letters. They were not allowed to speak, they had to sign the letter they were guessing and sign the answer if they knew the answer. The winner was awarded a lollipop but all would leave the class with at least one lollipop for good attendance.

Two weeks later, I was assigned to another deaf student at the Junior High School. Her regular interpreter was on maternity leave and I was needed for 6 weeks with her. Her name was Casey. She was not as easy to be with as the elementary school children. She was rebellious and had a snotty attitude because I wasn’t  as good  as her regular interpreter so she was quite resentful of me. That was ok, I could stand it for 6 weeks.

I continued with Mitch, though, through the rest of the school year which ended the 3rd week of May. I was paid well for my services which included gas mileage. I was able to save nearly all of the money as I only needed to buy food and personal items. At the end of the 5 months, I had enough money to run.

Now it was time for some serious planning and taking the next step………

All  by  myself  (All By Myself)

ILY small (I Love You)


6 Comments leave one →
  1. Margie permalink
    October 12, 2009 7:59 am

    I worked for Arkansas Rehab Services a few years back and the office for the hearing impaired was in our same building. I learned a little but not much. But one morning, I was signing, calling myself “stupid” or so I thought when one of the ladies who was very fluent in signing (she was raised with a sister who was deaf) cracked up laughing and asked me why I was calling Richard (a counselor) stupid. So, I pretty much gave up after that. 🙂

  2. October 12, 2009 10:15 am

    hahaha! Yep, you gotta be careful about the signs–they can be easily misinterpreted. Thanks, Margie, for stopping by.

  3. October 12, 2009 12:38 pm

    What an awesome second language to learn! I admire your ability to plot and run as well. That is one thing I have read and heard about in domestic violence situations. How important it could be for a woman to begin planning to get away. Much like escaping from a prisoner of war camp. I am glad you made it out because I think having voices like yours out here in the world makes a difference.

  4. October 12, 2009 1:17 pm

    Thank you so much Joey! I had the advantage of having plenty of time alone to think about escaping and he had gotten to the point that he was drunk 80% of the time which made it even easier to manipulate my way around him. Drunks are such fools!

  5. October 18, 2009 11:44 am

    What an interesting post and what an interesting lady you are!! I too learned a few signs to go with some songs. It was wonderful, very expressive! I’ve forgotten it now… thank for the “I love you” sign 🙂

  6. October 18, 2009 12:23 pm

    Thanks Jonie and you’re welcome to ‘take’ the I love you sign! 😉

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