Most of my grade (indeed, 300 full points) I owe to tesinth. He sat around and recorded 26 takes, straight through, of me signing ten sentences for my first assessment.
Then he sat through 75 takes of me signing 10 sentences one at a time for the second one (stupid me, I thought it'd go faster if I did them like that).
I honestly didn't feel I could pass this class for a long time. After the second day, when our interpreters left us alone with our deaf teacher and a half-day of signing instruction under our belts, I felt certain I would fail this shindig.
I got a lot of amusingly "kick in the ass" sort of encouragement, some of which bordered on the line of "if you can't do this, you obviously suck at this Chaos Magic thing and don't deserve to call yourself one anymore."
Well, here's news: I didn't think about it like Chaos Magic at all. It was, unfortunately, not good advice for me, I found.
I thought about it like fencing.
When I was fencing, I spent my practices learning motions and reactions: opponent attacks "five", you parry "five" and riposte to "four", or possibly disengage and riposte to "three". The thought behind the motions is what made them either work or not work, but the thought also left most of the work to muscle memory and general intuition. The trick became this: plan out your strategy, focus on that, and let your body fight the tactical stuff.
Rather than try and string sentences together, then, I worked hard at training my muscles to react to conceptual ideas rather than create a 1-to-1 ratio of "sign = word", which you can't do anyway.
Then, once I got the grammar down, I could pull sentences together pretty easily. (Of course, remembering sentences was more difficult, as tesinth can testify. I found myself constantly forgetting things and refocusing on the signs.)
What I learned was, when I didn't have to say something specific, but rather could focus on the general meaning of a phrase or sentence (or even paragraph), I could work out conversations very well. My mind doesn't worry about the tactical stuff: the individual signs, the facial expressions, the movement. Instead, my mind focuses on strategy, on what I want to say, and my body chooses how to say it, along the guidelines the mind sets forth.
This, then, creates a pretty good flow.
And that's mostly what I used to pass this class: my fencing skills. It was odd to revive old athletic skills and put them to hard use in a course, but I'm amazed at how well the theory worked out.
Of course, I realize that I now have things like "My name is Michael" ingrained in muscle memory, and I'll end up signing and fingerspelling phrases like that for the rest of my life (much as I'll be walking down the hallway and parry "five" for no good reason), but I think it was well worth the time and effort spent on it.
I just wish I could take ASL 2 next quarter. Getting the crap beat out of you in a class like this one and coming out doing so well can really boost your self-esteem. Then again, I'm very, very relieved it's all over.