Every classroom, program, and class of students has a culture. It is not something the faculty can completely control. We can however influence it because of our roles as leader in the learning environment. We introduce curricula and decide how it will be introduced and what activities will support it. With this in mind I have learned that setting the following cultural facets contribute to a positive learning environment:
• There is more than one right answer – interpreting is not an exact science. Cognitive processing, linguistics and language acquisition have more than one effective way to approach each. This outlook guides students away from the simple “correct/incorrect” model of learning and redirects them to work more creatively
• Responsibility – Each course comes with both rights and responsibilities. In going over the syllabus I frame it as an agreement between us for the quarter. We collectively agree to our respective responsibilities and refer back to it for clarification.
• Teaming – Research into successful interpretation shows that well-communicated tandem interpreting brings the most effective interpreting results. Using pedagogy that stresses collaborative ownership of the interpretation helps set that expectation.
• Mentoring – Tenet number five of the RID’s Code of Professional Conduct strongly encourages entering into mentoring relationships in both roles. Setting a culture of learning through mentorships provides students with the expectation that learning happens from multiple sources. It also instills the responsibility that as they are being mentored that they have the duty to give back in the same way later in their careers.
• Life-long learning: The Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf has set rules for continuing education through its Certification Maintenance Program. The classroom is the place to plant the seed that graduation is the first step in learning. I as both an instructor and an interpreter can model this by making my own continuing education transparent to my students.
• Duty of service to the Deaf community – Members of the Deaf Community share their language, culture and personal stories so we can become effective interpreters. With this in mind, we have a duty not to disappear after we become interpreters and begin interpreting. I encourage students to continue working in the Deaf community by serving on community boards, attending events and volunteering.
Woven into this culture setting, I believe in fostering the balance between safe and brave spaces. Students need to feel safe to open themselves up and make the mistakes they need to grow. Maintaining good relations among all stockholders means opportunities to build trust.