Barbara McCloud

Tales from the ITP

My first sign language class I took was at a local community college. I was interested in learning more about ASL and Deaf culture and luckily there were still a few open seats in a night class. By the end of the semester, I knew I wanted to continue learning this language and make it a part of my life. It was then that the seed was planted! However, I did not fully realize at the time what would lie ahead for me.

Three colleges and six majors later, I find myself at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) studying ASL-English Interpretation.

My first year at RIT was difficult but rewarding. The majority of my classes were signing classes in order to give students a solid foundation in the language and preparation for the actual interpreting classes. It can be hard at times to take in criticism from peers and teachers, especially when you feel you have worked hard on an assignment. It can make you doubt yourself and your abilities. Different teachers expect different things from students. Also, coming from a community college to a four-year school there is a definitive step up in expectations and requirements. There have been numerous times when I have asked myself “Can I do this? Am I good enough to do this? Should I quit?” When I am filled these negative thoughts I also try to remember the strengths in my signing; successes I have had and the simple fact that no one has ever told me to quit or give up. I think students need to remember this, the criticism teachers and peers are giving you is constructive. It is to make you better, to improve your skills. It is not meant to bring you down or make you quit. As I look at my videos from ASL 3 to ASL 6, I can see my own improvement. Oh the memories of awkward pauses captured on video and preserved on my computer. With this said many thanks has to be given to my friends, family, peers and teachers (especially my ASL 6 class) because I could not have made it through last year without their support.

The best advice I can give, which was given to me by another student in our program was, “Learn to separate your signing from yourself. You may go into class or into an assignment not doing your best but that does not mean you are a bad person or a failure. You learn from it and move on.”

I am now entering my third year in my program, which is interpreting classes. I feel my previous years of signing classes have given me a solid knowledge base for the interpreting classes. I know even in these interpreting classes I will still be learning sign language. As my teachers always say “You never stop learning a language, it always changes.” Even though I am nervous for this upcoming year, I notice most students, including myself, do their best when they are a little nervous. I will end with this: keep learning and keep going.