Question #4: What are the classes like?
I asked a Deaf friend of mine this very question before heading off to Gallaudet. He had grown up going to a Deaf school and I had never even seena Deaf school. I guess I was mostly concerned that Deaf people had this special superpower where they could watch their teacher sign, read the overhead or powerpoint, and take notes all at the same time. All I knew was that as a HUG, I didn’t have those powers. My friend told me not to worry though because Deaf people did not have those superpowers either. What a relief!
I have seen that communication is the most important thing in the classroom. Professors want their students to pay attention and “listen” to their lectures. Therefore, they do whatever it takes to keep students focused. This includes posting their notes, powerpoints, or any other pertinent information on Blackboard–an easy-to-use student access account that stores all your course information online. By doing this, students can direct all their attention to the lectures instead of worrying about taking in everything else.
Other than getting a bi-lingual education (communicate in sign and write in English), classes are structured the same as other colleges and universities. Measures are taken to insure equal access to communication for everyone in the classroom. Oftentimes, professors allow students to choose to either write their papers in English or sign them in ASL (part of the bi-lingual movement). Hearing and Deaf students work together in the classroom and participate in the same way. Also, professors are generally eager to help students if they have problems or questions.
So, what is a Gallaudet class like? Well, think of your ASL class. Imagine your ASL professor coming to class, and instead of teaching ASL, he/she teaches algebra, biology, history, English, or psychology. It would be like that.
Really, its not that bad. I was nervous about taking biology at Gallaudet. I thought, “…Geez, all those big words…all those signs that I won’t know….Will I be able to understand anything?” Well, I will go ahead and spoil the ending. It turned out to be one of my favorite classes! My professor’s fingerspelling was SOclear that it was just as easy reading the fingerspelled word T-U-B-E as it was P-H-O-T-O-S-Y-N-T-H-E-S-I-S. She always introduced new signs by fingerspelling it and describing it and asking us if we agreed to the sign she used. Now, not all professors go to quite this length, but they allintroduce new signs with fingerspelling, and if not, you are free to ask what a sign means. I cannot tell you how many Deaf and hearing students have asked professors for the meaning of a sign. So, it’s okay. Ask!