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A Transcriber Among Students

On the first day of each school term, many educational transcribers brace themselves for questions from curious students:

“Why are you here?”
“What are you doing?”
“Why are you typing?”

We shouldn’t blame people for being curious about our job or our equipment — from the outsider’s perspective, TypeWell does look intriguing! Most transcribers come up with some kind of “elevator speech” about our jobs as transcribers, and that explanation can be sufficient for some people. But problems in the classroom can occur when boundaries are not clearly set between transcribers and the other students in the class.

Classroom with students working independently while someone in the back is reading a book

To avoid interruptions or distractions, the transcriber can sit away from students and "look busy" during breaks or down time.

Unfortunately, transcribers who are in the class to only transcribe do not have much control when it comes to the actions of other students. We don’t get to meet the class beforehand and tell them what to expect from us transcribing in the classroom; in addition, the Basic TypeWell Training tells us we are not mentors or other students participating in and paying for the class, so we shouldn't partake in discussions and activities as if we are. This lack of participation can create a distance between transcribers and the rest of the class — a distance that some students and instructors want to bridge.

Problems in the classroom can occur when boundaries are not clearly set between transcribers and the other students in the class.

This happened to me and some other transcribers in a Communications class. A student constantly tried to get our attention before and during class with casual conversation or by approaching us. This went on for about five long weeks, until our supervisor actually had to come into class and tell the instructor to address the students about minimizing distractions for the transcribers. This is an extreme example of a student curious about what we do and trying to engage us, but rarely have I had a class where students weren’t the slightest bit interested.

So what’s the best way to professionally answer other students’ questions about what we do, without breaking confidentiality or the TypeWell Code of Ethics? After reaching out to the TypeWell Transcriber Google group, I found there were different approaches to the “curious” student. The most common approach is to offer students an explanation of TypeWell, but only after the class is over so that the transcriber isn’t distracted. A concise way to say this could be, 

"Thanks for the interest. I'd be happy to answer your questions after I am done working."

Other transcribers politely explain to the curious student that they can't converse while transcribing. One transcriber suggested moving to another part of the room to limit distracting chatter. Another suggestion was for the transcriber to “look busy” during breaks, by editing the transcript, editing their PAL, or reviewing the class handouts.

The most important thing to remember is to continue being a professional in the classroom. For those of us eager to learn and wanting to engage, it can be difficult at times to not get involved, especially when invited to do so by students or instructors. However, we need to keep in mind why we are in the classroom in the first place: to provide and facilitate communication access as transcribers.

To do this, we must be ready to transcribe at any moment, and politely inform curious people that we cannot casually converse with them at any time during the class. Setting this boundary not only helps us provide TypeWell services to the client, but lets us do so in a professional manner — without being distracted.

photo credit: Eaglebrook-School-Country-Fair-2014-Classes201410167690 via photopin (license)

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Carly Gerard

Carly is a TypeWell Transcriber and blog contributor. She really likes this job because it combines two of her passions: transcribing and writing about transcribing.

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