School Start = Teacher Inservice Time!Each Fall, teachers of the deaf/hard of hearing scramble to get into each of their student’s classrooms and inservice the teacher(s) about the impact of hearing loss on educational performance and what the teacher needs to do to accommodate the student’s unique learning needs.
Without inservicing the teachers, it is likely that they will believe: (1) hearing devices will ‘fix’ all of the listening issues, (2) the student will ask when they missed something or didn’t hear completely, (3) the student is distractible or inattentive, (4) the student may have a learning disorder because they don’t seem to be able to follow directions and get to work like other students, (5) they do not participate equally in group activities, letting their peers do most of the work, (6) they do not pay attention during class discussion, ETC. Students with hearing loss don’t know what they didn’t hear because they didn’t hear it, yet they are routinely held accountable for information that they never perceived. A student will not receive equal access to classroom communication unless the teacher is aware of the impact of the hearing loss and what is required to ‘level the playing field’ for these students. With sizable caseloads across a number of schools, getting to all of the teachers before the year starts or during the first week of school for a face-to-face meeting can be impossible.
How can the itinerant teacher of the deaf/hard of hearing more effectively inservice classroom teachers before Day One of the school year?
Introduce the Student Hearing Issues and Needs Via Email
- When you send out an email to the teacher, if possible, set it up so that you receive a receipt when the teacher has read the email. This identifies a good window to follow up quickly with the teacher while the information is still fresh in her mind. A lack of a receipt also lets you know those teachers who have not read the information and will need another email contact or personal visit.
- Share a general description of the impact of the hearing loss, such as the Relationship of Hearing Loss to Listening and Learning Needs or the NEW inservice handouts now available (see What’s New).
- Share the SIFTER checklist the previous year’s teacher completed in May, with the new classroom teacher. Include the LIFE-R results as well if possible. This will prepare the teacher to expect to fill out these checklists about one-month into the school year. Alternately, provide a brief description of the results such as: Through the use of a specialized checklist, John identified that he has significant difficulty hearing class discussions, social interactions, and communication when there is any noise in the classroom. He is challenged when the teacher moves about the classroom as it prevents him from speechreading, which improves his understanding. Last May, this student’s third grade teacher identified that John continues to perform lower academically, has periods of inattention due to listening fatigue, hesitates after directions, and rarely participates during class discussion. Thus, his hearing loss impacts his ability to fully participate and perceive communication in the classroom environment. Finally, John has IEP goals related to developing self-advocacy skills as he has identified that he mainly waits for teacher clarification rather than letting the teacher know, or otherwise getting assistance when he does not completely hear class instructions.
- Include a link for YouTube videos that describe general information teachers should know when supporting a student with hearing loss in their classroom (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4, example 5, or search yourself – there are lots of videos available!).
- Alternately, you or your DHH Team can prepare your own brief YouTube videos. Do not mention individual student names and use a private channel to ensure that no confidentiality questions arise. Develop videos for alike student groups, such as unilateral hearing loss, mild loss with consistent hearing aid use, mild hearing loss with challenging hearing aid use issues, etc. Emphasize educational performance issues (what the teacher will SEE and how it relates to the hearing loss), legal requirements (ADA access, equipment monitoring), and necessary teacher/instructional accommodations.
- Develop a YouTube video that shows what the teacher needs to do to appropriately use and maintain the student’s hearing assistance technology. There is also at least one video available (example).
- Share equipment cheat sheets (example). Tech Talk of this magazine will be providing some of this information in future magazine issues this school year.
- Once you have shared basic information about the student, hearing loss impact, and learning needs, routinely send a group email out weekly using Emailable Tips for Teachers.