If any of you are Teachers of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing I am sure you have wracked your brain trying to find a simple explanation to the question, “what do you teach?” (Can I get an Amen!) And for those of you who do not know what a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing does or who they are, take a seat! The plan is to answer those questions!
As a teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing I have tried to find a simple explanation of my role:
“I am a Deaf Educator”
“You teach about dead people?”
(This happens more than you would think.)
“I am a teacher of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing”
“I am a teacher of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing”
“Huh?” *Pretending they can’t hear*
(And yes, I fall for it every time)
“I teach children who have hearing loss”
“Oh you teach Sign Language!”
OR “Oh you’re an interpreter!”
OR “Oh you know braille!”
OR “…Huh…” *because they don’t know what to do with that*
You get the idea. Some teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing are certified Sign Language Interpreters, some don’t know sign language, and some use SEE, Pigeon Sign Language, or American Sign Language but do not interpret. Some have a background in Speech Language Pathology, some use Visual Phonics, and some know Cued Speech. (Don’t worry, we will get into all of this later as well.)
So let’s get down to it.
Further into these conversations I like to describe the job of a teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing to be kind of like a specialized special education teacher.
Most special education teachers are trained on how children who face a variety of different challenges learn. Teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing are specialized on how children with hearing loss learn, acquire language, learn to listen, learn to read, learn to speak, learn to advocate for themselves, etc. Now let’s get into the many different “hats” we wear as Deaf Educators.
As described in the previous post, “What is Deaf Education?“, a Teacher of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing caters to the specific needs of children who have hearing loss and are trained in many areas. For instance, Sonia and I are certified to serve children who have hearing loss in a wide age range from birth to 12th grade. This covers Early intervention (birth to 3yrs/8yrs depending on the state) on through school aged kiddos.
My first position as a teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing was in an Early Intervention program. In this position I would visit the parents and children in their homes and serve the family in a variety of ways. The goal of early intervention is for the Early Interventionist/Teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing is to support the family in addressing their most immediate concerns. To do this I usually donned either a teacher hat, teaching the parents simple and effective strategies to mold into their day-to-day routines working on language, reading, speech, and listening skills; or more of a counselor’s hat helping the parents work through their thoughts/emotions, choose communication modalities for their child, make amplification decisions, and brainstorm educational routes, etc. (More information can be found under Early Intervention)
When working with school age children, as Sonia did in her first position as a Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, the job of a Teacher of the Deaf and hard of hearing transitions only slightly as they work to gain or maintain skills in all academic domains – especially in language, speech, reading, writing, social/emotional, and self advocacy. A Deaf Educator may wear many hats or take on different roles in this setting as well including but not limited to: IEP Team Member/Case Manager, Aural Habilitation Therapist, Amplification Technician, and Interpreter (Sometimes and usually briefly unless certified!).
A Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing that works in a school district will sometimes work in an itinerant position; traveling from school to school serving a large caseload of children across the district. They are responsible for the children on their caseload who require services in one-on-one settings or in the classroom, and monitoring amplification (batteries, chargers, FM systems, and sound field systems.) If they do not serve students in an itinerant position, they may be housed in one building and have their own classroom where they can pull students out of the mainstream classroom to provide support one-on-one or in small groups. A Teacher of the d/hh will also “push in” to classrooms to provide support to students without disrupting instruction.
You may hear many different labels used to describe us such as, “Hearing Impaired Teacher/Specialist”, “Deaf Educator”, “Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing”, “HI Teacher”, “Teacher of the Deaf” etc. No matter what the label is given (we refrain from using the term “impaired” and focus on person-first language) the job of a Teacher of the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing is a wonderful adventure. If you are one of the few of us out there, Hi and nice to meet you! We would love to chat and collaborate! If you know your district has a Teacher of the d/hh, do not hesitate to pick their brain! We are full of an abundance of useful information about hearing loss, amplification, classroom acoustics, etc that we would love to share! And if you are in a district that does not have a Deaf Educator, but have children that would benefit from Deaf Education Services speak up and advocate for those kiddos!