Experiencing the highs and lows

By Debbie Draegar

I would like to reflect on some of the highs and lows I’ve experienced while interpreting in an educational setting. Over the years I have experienced many joys and moments I would like to forget.

Some of the joys include:

  • Interpreting in the Tassie Devil enclosure at a wild life park. Thankfully the presenter could see the huge triangle between himself, the student and I was not working and he invited me to join him in the enclosure allowing effective communication;
  • Attending a wide range of excursions and activities, the most memorable was a trip to the Gold Coast Theme Parks with a small group of senior students and staff;
  • Being kept on my toes with a quick witted student, who often stirred his teachers or had something funny to say; and
  • Being able to bridge the gap in social settings and seeing tense situations diffused and friendships grow, with the knowledge gained.

Some of the not so joyous moments include:

  • Attending many detentions;
  • Receiving a black eye;
  • Working with a teacher who refused to talk to anyone in his class to prove he didn’t need an interpreter in his woodwork and graphic design classes;
  • Interpreting “You stupid old …oh I don’t know that sign!” (Just didn’t have the required intent); and
  • Being left behind at the theatre after a performance.

The worst experience for me was the day a teacher looked at me a bit shocked and said “I forgot to tell you about the forum we are having today”. It was 3 hours of guest speakers on driver safety. At the end of the forum my arms were so weak with fatigue I was unable to drive, and the student had a headache and eye strain.

So be assertive, take your breaks, and say no when appropriate. Don’t try to be nice and push yourself to the limits. The risk is too great, and it validates the idea that it’s ok to take the interpreter for granted. I am not Wonder Woman and when this happens it’s only because I allow it.

I’ve followed young students from grade one through to college and seen them grow into young adults ready to take on the world and that keeps the passion alive.

This article was originally published in the ASLIA e-update and is reproduced with permission.

Published: 29/09/2016