The sounds of silence

by Lexi Foldenauer

Horizon Reporter

[cincopa 10565789]

In the halls of Whatcom Community College’s Kelly Hall, there is a particular classroom that remains predominantly silent, but if you happen to walk by at a certain time, you can hear random fits of laughter. It may seem strange to be in a class that remains totally silent for the most part, but that doesn’t mean the class is short on learning.

In ASL 121, a sign language course at Whatcom, the class is led by a deaf instructor – which to some may appear as a learning roadblock. Students Indigo Griffith, Hannah Jones, and Jenny Rodgers beg to differ, and say that this factor actually makes the course better.

“I think if it was another sign language teacher, it wouldn’t be as much fun,” said Rodgers.

The desks in the class are arranged in a circular order, leaving a wide open space in the middle of the room. A woman in a wheelchair seated by the door, who appears to be deaf and mute, communicates comfortably with the instructor and quickly catches on to his humor, filling the room with contagious laughter. There are 14 students in class, which is a noticeable difference from the thirty-some people who initially signed up for the class.

“It’s not an easy A,” said Griffith, of the large number of students to drop the class. “You actually have to do the work.”

Instructor, Glen Bocock, is hailed by his students as being animated and passionate about the material he is teaching, making the class fun and interesting.

“I like when he throws out new signs we’ve never seen before,” said Jones.

Bocock is known for the games he integrates into the daily class routine.

One such game, which has the students sign their favorite things, encourages them to interact with each other using the signs they already know.

Each student lines up to assemble 3 lines, and are instructed to communicate some of their favorite things, ranging from colors to foods. It was apparent the difference between students who were more comfortable with their ability to sign and others who struggled. Bocock approached certain students, and emphasized the difference between sloppy signs, and how to be clearer with each individual sign. As each student got to the front of the line, some appeared more assured than others, but nonetheless contributed their full effort to the activity.

Bocock seemed to move at an almost effortless pace with his students. Animated and swift in his movements, Bocock used dramatic story-telling techniques to teach and also refresh upon different signs. Since the beginning of the quarter, the students say that this was the type of technique he used to teach a class where a majority of the students came in with no prior sign-language knowledge. Some of the first lessons involved simply learning the students’ names, and looking to more experienced students to help the newcomers out.

Student, Julia Morac, said that part of the reason she took the class is because you can talk without using your voice. The class involves a lot of concentration in order to learn the signs effectively, and regular attendance is a key part to getting the signs down.

“You have to keep focused on him the entire time,” said Morac.

Dimitri Onishchenko, a student in the class, said that the class allows you to get to know people pretty well. With the exception of a few, most people are on the same level and help each other out, he said.

Everyone in the class has improved since the beginning of the quarter; some more than others, agree the students, but there is still a lot of material left to cover.

“There’s a whole dictionary of words that we don’t know yet,” said Jones.

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