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Being a deaf teacher

Discussion in 'Career clinic' started by stanley4shoes, May 26, 2019.

  1. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    First post here, wasn’t sure where to post but it’s not trainee or subject specific so hopefully this section appropriate.

    I’ll be starting a secondary science PGCE in September. Background in research, with a reasonable amount of teaching (HE primarily) and tutoring experience, but not in schools.

    I’m profoundly deaf, for me not a major disability as I lip read well (no hearing at all), but the classroom will be a new environment and no doubt steep learning curve. Just wondering whether any other deaf teachers around with experience or advice to share.
  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    No not deaf like you but with profound loss and wore / wear two aids.Very little capacity on one. As my hearing deteriorated I found school incredibly stressful and extremely tiring. I was a senior member of staff and found my other whole school duties hard to deliver. I also taught languages.I cannot contemplate how you will manage in a range of situations in a large mainstream secondary .... even the ‘reasonable adjustments’ the school will have to make, I suspect will not be enough ?

    I managed extremely well for a large chunk of my career and as I was i/c Inclusion / SEND a decent role model for our students .Many fellow professionals did not realise that I was HI and yes I can / could lip read quite well but only because it became a coping strategy ..... All of my schools , by the by , were challenging and in pockets of substantial social deprivation so please don’t think I survived by teaching in ‘ leafy suburbs ‘ ?! ......perhaps there will be an opportunity for you to pursue your career in an HI setting ? Sorry this is not more positive.

    I was diagnosed with otosclerosis @ 35 and finished full time @ 54 . I went on to write and have some things published and did sessional work for a local University - both of were immensely satisfying / achievable.

    Perhaps other colleagues with your level of disability will be able to speak from their experiences. Did not want to read and run .... Any questions don’t hesitate ...
  3. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    Thanks Minnie Me. Paradoxically I think to an extent not having any hearing is easier than trying to optimise a small amount of hearing. Like you many of my colleagues and students don’t realise that I’m deaf, the only time that it’s really an issue is in not being able to use the phone, but with email and sms near ubiquitous now that’s seldom a problem.
  4. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    There are times you will have to use the phone - schools do still insist that parents are called. Do your training provider know? Schools you are on placement with should make adjustments for you. As a Subject Leader, I worked with a Supply once who was deaf in one ear. I used to sit with her when she called parents in order to support if needed.

    OTOH, being profoundly deaf could be an opportunity for you to work with SEND. Students with hearing impairment are more common than many think, and as a member of staff you could find your knowledge and skills invaluable to them. A lot of schools provide very poor training for deaf children - the old "raise your voice and SPEAK IN A MONOTONE" - its ****. Or saying things like "EVERYONE BE QUIET SO ROSIE CAN HEAR!!" Its not good. Or BSL classes as extra curricular? This could open lots of opportunities for all students.

    Good luck - you seem enthusiastic and positive, and I am sure you will be very successful!
  5. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    If you manage to communicate at large parties or crowded events, then a classroom should be fine. I don't think that a teacher with a disability should necessarily have to work with children with SEND, or see themselves as a role model. Just being a teacher, the same as everyone else, should be possible in this day and age.

    Having said that, you may find independent schools, with generally smaller classes, easier to manage. Behaviour tends to be less chaotic than in the less desirable state schools as well. Maybe speak to your training provider and say that you will need to be in a school with good behaviour management in place and supportive SLT.

    I would recommend you tell the class at the start of the first lesson, and let them know what you need from them. Do so confidently and in a matter of fact way and they'll accept you as you are.

    Best of luck, being a teacher is fab!
    studentcrisis likes this.
  6. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I agree about not equating being HI with gravitating towards working with SEND groups. Students with HI should be accommodated as part of the routine classroom set up anyway ....

    We had a student with HI who had some support from the LA. He made excellent social and academic progress ( commensurate with his ability ) due to our very inclusive ethos / staff training / accountability .... I think that as when planning transition with students with complex needs (to provide as level a playing field as possible ) your placements will be need to be as equally proactive ..... suspect it may be a learning curve for them too ?

    Great that you are up for the challenge - genuinely - but I don’t think anyone who does not have HI should EVER. underestimate the demands of working (and achieving ) in a challenging, pressurised, demanding and potentially unsympathetic environment...... you will need to be not as good as but possibly better than the rest ? Let us know how you go ?
  7. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    Yup, thanks all, training provider aware and proactive, we had a full and frank discussion and so they know what they're getting, warts and all, and vice versa. I tend to be very open about it with folk i'm teaching or otherwise working with, hopefully without making an issue of it.

    It will be a challenge, but I've taught 60 and more 1st year undergrads in seminars at once, taught groups of 30+ in computer labs, lectured a couple of 100 etc, and I'm quite good at herding cats, so I'm confident it's doable. I suspect the perceptions that it's not doable, or of what I should do, may be as large a hurdle as actually just getting on with it. Other than health and safety things (fire alarms) and the phone wouldn't expect any adjustments needed, they've not been in the past.

    Ironically I am drawn towards SEN, but not because I'm deaf - I don't sign, I chose to focus on communicating verbally so that I wasn't reliant on other people also being able to sign.
  8. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    If you're on the right side of 30, I would advise you not to get into teaching as there are many top companies (FTSE top 100 companies), paying a lot more than teaching, operating a positive discrimination policy towards graduates of many disciplines with disabilities. Here is a link to an organisation that recruits for these top companies:


    If you do decide to go into teaching with a disability, contact the Disabled Students helpline. I am sure they have a lot of advice for you.


    Every teaching union as a disabled teachers group and they may be able to link you with an experienced deaf teacher.

    Good luck whatever you decide. :)
  9. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I have come across several deaf teachers, and they have not coped in hearing classrooms. Some might, I don't know.

    But please don't write off teaching deaf or HI students in a mainstream school. When I have taught deaf students with a BSL interpreter, I have been shocked at how little science the interpreter has known, or understood, and how disadvantaged the students can be as a result.

    For example, teaching reactivity of metals, with an interpreter who simply calls every metal just "metal" makes no sense, or teaching subatomic particles, with an interpreter who just calls protons, neutrons and electrons all "particles"

    Sorry not to be more positive about the experience of deaf teachers in hearing classrooms, but that is the truth of the matter as I have seen it.

    In fact, starting to loose hearing as normally lead to colleagues retiring on the grounds of ill health, even if in their 30s or 40s
  10. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I agree that there is a naïvety in some posts which allude to students who will be amenable and once they are informed of the difficulty will ‘ play ball’ . I recall missing responses from students in the classroom and when I asked them to clarify something on the second / third attempt they just said ‘ it’s ok , it doesn’t matter Miss ‘ - not great ..

    My struggle came also with additional responsibilities - when I was ‘ on patrol ‘ , taking students to the ‘ on call ‘ room and missing the key details of who, where and why ? ( I failed to distinguish between B1 and D1 for example over the walkie talkie. So the effort of having to fill in the gaps and make educational ( excuse the pun ) guesses in a number of scenarios was very hard/ waring . I moved to an LA post for two years ( INSET delivery far more in my control ! ) and then due to return to my school now an Academy resigned from my substantive post . The Head even with back up of 2 OH reports saying what I could / should be doing then gave me a full timetable of languages - I took redundancy and reinvented myself ( cf post # 2 ).
  11. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    To be fair, we have taught in very different sorts of schools and held very different roles with very different subjects.
    I have absolutely spent almost all my career in 'leafy suburbs' and in schools with generally great behaviour. I also moved from secondary to middle and then primary teaching, so have less recent experience of secondary schools. I can well imagine that in some of the schools I read about on TES, teaching is ridiculously difficult for anyone and largely impossible for a deaf person.

    I've not worked with a deaf colleague, but have worked with many others who have one disability or another and all have been well able to teach in mainstream, albeit with adjustments in some cases. So yes, very possibly I am naive, but then the colleagues the OP will meet are very likely to be equally so, and this may well be an additional challenge.

    However, I was, and still am, disheartened by the idea than a deaf teacher is not able to manage in mainstream and should stick to units or schools for HI children. Surely to goodness, in this day and age, teachers with any disability should be made welcome in mainstream and reasonable adjustments made.
  12. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    It is disheartening to read, I can hold my own in every situation I’ve encountered. Not going to describe my career to date as it would identify me, but I’ve previously worked in a different profession, whilst I was losing my hearing and newly deaf, it wasn’t a problem there either. I left for reasons other than my hearing.

    We’ll see, it’s definitely the right career move arrived at after much thought.

    Incidentally working in a hearing impaired unit would be like working in Arabic, I don’t speak sign (nor Arabic).

    This thread is going to appear disjointed as my responses are delayed by several hours in moderation
  13. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    There seems to be some misinterpretation of what I wrote.

    When I wrote the OP could think about SEND...I meant SEND in mainstream. As in HI students in mainstream classrooms with everyone else, but could consider assisting in giving training to colleagues- NOT sequestered off into small groups doing 1 to 1 with the HI kids!! As I've taught quite a few HI students in mainstream, and generally received **** poor assistance in ensuring they're taught so they can flourish, a colleague who themselves has the skill set can be an incredible person to work with.

    So, yes, clearly I didn't make my point very clearly. But implying that I meant that someone with a disability should be outside of mainstream - just no. In fact, I wrote that the schools the OP is posted at should be making reasonable adjustments - which all mainstream schools should do.
  14. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    I think much may depend on the setting which employs you ? My reasonable adjustments were being given a pager and the option of attending Parents Evening in the Gym or the Dining Room ( cavernous / glass ) !

    I have never let my disability professionally determine my ambition but knew that my well being would have been significantly impaired had I attempted to remain teaching a full time table of languages ( imagine not correcting accent / pronunciation/ agreements / endings ? - not an option ) and remember that with digital private aids I could ' hear ' . I had led the school to Outstanding for Care, Support and Guidance and our SEND provision was known in the LA to be exemplary ( particularly with our huge cohorts of ADHD / BEMH students ) but ultimately I was v expensive and the Head and his vision for the Academy did not include me ( a bit of a maverick- me not him ! ) and within a few years did not include him either ( long story - ha !) ......

    Sorry this is not to detract from the OP and their request for advice ........but the redundancy actually showed me that I had transferable skills ( as an advisor for Assessment, published author , delivery at SEND conferences and Sessional Lecturer ) where I was still ' teaching ' and involved in education but in far less difficult circumstances - very liberating....

    I know that ITT providers are very keen and have a duty to promote diversity . I delivered for 6 years on a University programme for ITT students and I am aware of the very broad spectrum of trainees recruited (but not necessarily retained ). Perhaps my responses are coloured by the latter ( negative ) stages of my school career but I can only write from my experience ...... and no matter who is aware of my condition ( includes long term friends. associates ,work colleagues and Post Grad students , my hairdressers ! and no matter how often I remind them that I need them to articulate, speak up, face me, move away from the window, ..... they are quick to lapse and return to their own default position and I just give up !? The OP hopefully will be immune to some of these ? !

    I repeat again let us know how you go please .Best

    Opps ! long post
  15. studentcrisis

    studentcrisis New commenter

    How disappointing to read that you should just stick “to your own” and teach SEND! Admirable and brilliant if you choose to, however not a choice to be pushed on you purely because of your hearing.

    For what it’s worth during my training there was a deaf teacher in one of the schools I was on and he managed. I didn’t work with him or observe in his classroom so I’m not sure what he had in place to manage but he did it!

    I think people forget how disabled people are always disabled. You won’t suddenly lose hearing you’re always reliant on as you walk into a classroom, you always don’t have it. You more than anyone will know how to transfer your skills in navigating a hearing world to a classroom situation. Obviously you may need support (like you say around fire alarms etc although many also have a flashing light to indicate fire now) but everyone needs support. You may need a TA to signal when the class is to loud to be working effectively or someone else to make phone calls but seriously?? Go for it!
  16. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    Thanks StudentCrisis.

    I tend to have what I call spider sense for when situations are loud, can't hear them but can feel the noise (which works for most fire alarms too). The same means I still enjoy music, just in a different way.

    There's little doubt I'll have a lot of barriers to break down, personally I just want to get on with building my new career, teaching is what I've always done one way or another.

    Interestingly I was talking to a former student (in HE, about to sit their finals wanting a bit of last minute revision help) last night, admittedly it is a few years since I taught their year, but she had no idea, or had forgotten, I'm deaf, so doesn't seem to have been an issue for them.
  17. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter


    I meant the OP should consider the fact that they could help in better delivery for HI in mainstream - where the OP will be teaching all students!


    Oh, forget it. Hopefully the OP will have reasonable adjustments. If not...Union. OK?
  18. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    @CWadd I think perhaps minnie me's post being read just before yours, meant that people have linked the two ideas. Certainly I read this one by minnie me
    and then this one from you
    and just assumed you also meant a special unit or school.

    Apologies to all, no offence intended.

    To the OP, you won't know until you try. Give it a go and see what happens.
    Best of luck.
  19. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    Well, the OP seems to think I did mean they should work in a Special Unit, with others stickibg the boot in, so to be frank I do not care anymore. I've said I did not mean that, but hey, people can think what they like. I'm done with this thread. Whatever.
  20. stanley4shoes

    stanley4shoes Occasional commenter

    I think I did interpret your post as you intended CWadd, it was other posts that read to be implying not in mainstream school.

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