Useful Tips for Educators working with an Interpreter (Elementary, Middle and High School)
The students in your class will more than likely be curious about the interpreter in the classroom and possibly fascinated with sign language. Introduce the interpreter to the students explaining his/her role in the classroom. If you choose the interpreter may in-service the students on deafness, how to communicate with the deaf student/s and teach some basic introductory signs. However, if the deaf student feels comfortable and wants to, allow him/her to introduce himself/herself and teach the class signs. It is important for the deaf student(s) to feel that they are part of the class and this may in addition help the students as well as the deaf student feel a little more comfortable with each other providing the different mode of communication between them.
The interpreter may stand next to you but a little behind as to not distract you. This enables the student to follow the interpreter and the teacher at the same time, this is known as the sight line. Don't be surprised if the Interpreter follows you around; again they are staying in the sight line with you the teacher. It's important to note that not all interpreters will stand next you - it is becoming more common now especially in College for interpreters to sit in front of the deaf student especially when the class is going to be an or hour or more.
It can be hard for the Interpreter and the deaf student to follow different conversations when more than one student is talking. It would be helpful to instruct your class to take turns when speaking so that the interpreter will have the opportunity to render the message to the deaf student. At times the interpreter may interrupt you or ask you to slow down so that he/she can deliver the message.
As I stated in the previous section above, speak to the deaf student directly and not the interpreter. Trust that the interpreter is rendering the message faithfully, they will not interject personal opinions or feelings. This will enable the deaf student to feel involved and not feel like a 3rd person. This also pertains to the deaf student. Be sure he/she talks to you directly however, keep in mind that some deaf individuals will focus some attention on the interpreter to ensure that the interpreter is following along or to be sure the Interpreter is saying what they want him/her to say verbatim.
As the mainstream teacher you might find it useful to attend interpreting and deaf related workshops. If we hold students accountable, we must first make sure we have been fully accountable-on a consistent basis for all the appropriate accommodations.
Educational Interpreters have a planning period as do teachers or at least they should. Interpreters use this time to keep up with subject material and vocabulary that is specific to the material. It would be helpful if you could inform the interpreter of any movies that you are planning to show that are not closed captioned, as well as any material to be used in the lesson plan. It is also vital the interpreter have a copy of the book used for the class. Note: If you are showing a film that is not captioned, remember that there must be some visual light for the student to see the interpreter.
Deaf students cannot take notes and watch the interpreter at the same time; you may want to ask a fellow classmate if they don't mind taking notes for the deaf student if the deaf student does not mind. Some deaf students do not want someone to take notes for them and prefer to get by on their own. You could also copy your own notes for the deaf student.