School is in full swing here in Massachusetts! Teachers have finished setting up classrooms and are now focused on establishing routines. Students are still filled with the anticipation that the start of a new school year can bring. As teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing, we are immersed in creating schedules, doing last minute orientations,, setting up FM systems, and establishing routines, expectations, and procedures of our own. Here are a few key pieces to keep in mind over the next few weeks:
Staff orientations provide an opportunity for the entire team to learn how to help our students and to ask questions. They are a critical component of our services. While I prefer to schedule these in the spring for the upcoming team of teachers, there are always situations that make this challenging and necessitate that the orientation must happen in the fall. It is important to get the student involved whenever possible. This can include having the student co-present with you (depending on the age of the student and your relationship with him/her), contribute slides to the PowerPoint, or create a media presentation such as an iMovie to introduce him/herself. This link from Karen Anderson provides a comprehensive guide to orientations.
Playing simulations is a great way for staff and other students to “experience” hearing loss. This link from Karen Anderson contains many resources including simulations of a variety of losses with hearing aids, cochlear implants, and with and without FM. I’ve used the Unfair Spelling Test with classes of elementary students as it is interactive and I’ve found students and adults are always surprised at their results!
Sometimes it is beneficial for students to present their hearing loss and needs to their classmates. Such projects and presentations can easily be tied to self-advocacy objectives. These presentations can be supported by books or posters made by the student, PowerPoint presentations, or multi media presentations. Inclusion of simulations of hearing loss and model hearing aids and cochlear implants ( when available) enhance this experience for the other students. When there are multiple students in one building with hearing loss, it can be a great opportunity to facilitate the creation of a group presentation. Below is a link to a video created by my college with the four high school students she works with. They showed the video to the entire school with nothing but positive feedback!
Find out who is on your students team! I keep a list in my notebook of the names and roles of everyone I meet since it can be difficult to keep the new names straight during the first few weeks of school. Be sure you introduce yourself not only to the classroom teacher, but also to the receptionists, administrators, “specials” teachers, cafeteria staff, librarian, school nurse, IT department and anyone else you meet in the hallways! The more people you know now, the easier it will be when you inevitably need their help later in the year.
- Be sure you have recent audiograms and audiological reports for all of your students.
- Know who the managing audiologist as well as the FM audiologists are and have their contact information available (for some students this is the same person, for others FM is managed by a separate audiologist).
- Be sure to write down the serial numbers and components of each students FM system. I find this makes my job easier when fixing or transporting broken equipment later in the year.
- Listen to ensure that all amplification is working properly and identify the person at each school who will be trained to perform listening checks. Set a date for that training!
- Identify where the FM will be stored at each school and who will be responsible for charging it. This is often the student’s job but for young children or students with additional needs, an adult may have to oversee this task.
Share Your Contact Information
Be sure everyone at the school knows how to get in touch with you in case problems arise. Find out how they prefer to be contacted. Additionally, be sure that staff understand your role is mulit-faceted. You are a teacher, an advocate for the student and a resource for staff. Relationships matter and first impressions go a long way, so keep it positive and emphasize the collaborative aspects and mutual benefits of this new relationship.
Set Up A System For Communication:
This can be informal and as simple as identifying whether people prefer to communicate over email or by phone. Some younger students may also have a communication notebook for staff and parents to write in. Especially in the first few weeks, be sure to include parents on relevant communication with staff and check in with them regularly. This helps alleviate parental stress as they are in the loop and know what is happening at school.
Have a great year!