Signing Without Sleep

Here is another blog from Vicki Manders-Wood, an interesting read on juggling a newborn baby and training for a new career!

“So, a lot has happened since my last blog. Firstly, I started my Level 3 course on 21st September, just a week before my second baby was due. I was very nervous about Level 3 – it seemed like a huge jump from Level 2. I was worried that I had forgotten everything that I’d learned at Level 2, that everyone else would be far more advanced than me and that I would struggle to understand lessons delivered by a different teacher with a different style of signing.

As it was, the first lesson was a lovely, gentle introduction to Level 3. There were nine of us in the class, so not too intimidating, and all with different strengths. We were told that we must only use BSL during the lesson, and our first activity was to spend some time chatting in pairs and to find out five facts about our colleagues and report back to the rest of the class. I was amazed to discover that my partner had grown up just two miles down the road from me in a small Yorkshire village – what a small world!

The afternoon was spent practising fingerspelling and reminding ourselves of all the rules and guidelines pertaining to fingerspelling. Then we put theory into practice by playing some games that required very quick thinking – something we felt we were all lacking after five solid hours of signing!

I had to miss my next class, a week beyond my due date; I didn’t risk being an hour away from home. As it was, Elsie Sara Annie was born the following Friday, 11th October. I spent most of my labour bouncing on a yoga ball, bidding for BSL DVDs and books on eBay, and trying to fingerspell all the signs around the hospital. It was a very useful distraction! My next Level 3 class was the following Saturday, and at only eight days old, Elsie attended with me. Does she get the record for the youngest-ever BSL student? I’m not sure how much work got done that day as we played ‘Pass the Baby’ for cuddles, and I learned a new skill – signing with one hand whilst feeding her! I’ve started to use some basic signs when I’m talking to her – things like ‘milk’ and ‘sleep’ and it might be just my imagination, but she sometimes looks like she’s copying me.

In the next session, we started looking at BSL linguistics, the different types of verbs, and when to use them, and also compared videos of linear and cohesive storytelling, talking about the differences and which we preferred. It was incredibly challenging, and over the last week, I’ve found myself re-reading my textbooks and notes to try and make sense of it all. The theory is not too bad, but putting it into practice is another matter. Finding an hour or so to myself to study is pretty tricky with a new baby and a toddler, so last Saturday at the hairdresser, whilst waiting for my highlights, I shunned the usual ‘Hello’ magazines and worked my way through my linguistics textbook. I’ve also found myself planning my homework and sending emails in the early hours of the morning during Elsie’s night feeds!

A couple of weeks ago, instead of a class, we attended the Firstpoint Community Forum, which was a really interesting day. There were speakers and stalls from various organisations and charities, and all the presentations were either in BSL or English with interpreters and live text relay. It was really interesting for me to watch the different interpreters and see how they translated from BSL to English and vice versa. I really tried to ignore spoken English and concentrate on understanding what was being signed. I can’t imagine ever being fluent enough to be an interpreter. Still, watching professionals made me determined to stick with it and also made me realise that I needed to get more signing practice between lessons. With that in mind, I’ve applied as a volunteer teaching assistant working with a BSL teacher in her Level 2 class. I’m really excited about it and am just waiting to complete my CRB check, and hopefully, I’ll be able to start after Christmas.  Watch this space…….