Communication Support Workers (CSWs) are professionals who support the communication of Deaf students in education at all ages, and Deaf people in many areas of work, using a variety of methods including British Sign Language.
Now, let's explore strategies to minimise errors in our role as Communication Support Workers (CSWs):
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare...
Prior to going to any booking you should prepare yourself!
Find out where you are going, plan the public transport route, or arrange parking in advance.
Lay out your outfit the night before and ensure your bag is packed with all necessary equipment – pens, paper, drinks, mints, umbrella, and anything else you might need.
Know what you are going into and prepare with vocabulary and research the topic you have been given. If you don't know much about the course you have been assigned to within a College, get there early and speak with a tutor or find out if one of your colleagues have provided support on the same course and ask for their contact details for a handover.
2. Think! 'What if?'
Have I worked in this environment before? Can I use experience from another booking to enhance this one? Do I already know some vocabulary, or do I need a refresher?
What if the booking takes another direction, am I able to cope in that environment?
What if the student is late, needs equipment, or doesn't want to engage... what do you do?
If you've considered these "What if" scenarios, you'll feel empowered and ready to cope when faced with a situation.
Set the scene with a 10-15 minute warm-up to start to understand each other. Be assertive in your request; it will pay you dividends. Talk about the weather, their journey, how long they have been studying this topic. All things that will help you get your communication flowing.
4. Boundaries, do you know what they are?
If the student is late, it is not for you to comment on
Stay impartial, calm and professional
You are the conduit for information to flow through you, and to support the student to understand what is happening in class. Make sure all conversations are signed and voiced.
Deal with situations confidently and professionally, have time to think or ask for it
Don’t get involved in small talk with other staff – what will they talk to you about? The common denominator “the deaf person”? If you do, equal access means you will need to voice and sign the whole conversation.
Review and feedback your experience; Your manager, or supervisor will want to discuss your assignment with you.
We are all human and need a safe, non-judgmental environment in which to offload, discuss any issues, clarify any subtext you were unsure of, or address any concerns about your performance. Without written evaluation and being objective on how you have worked you might miss a common performance problem.
Reflection is a good habit to cultivate so you can learn from your actions.
Choosing to interpret from one language to another, we must acknowledge the significant role we play in people’s lives; never forget that your actions can have an impact on all parties involved.