Anonymous teacher: Deaf people should be listened to on Deaf education

Posted on May 11, 2015

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It’s common knowledge that deaf children’s literacy rates have still not made much progress since the changes in deaf education 30 years ago. Despite the technological advancements in audiology with cochlear implants, digital hearing aids, radio aids etc, deaf children are still not making progress on par with their hearing peers. Why not?

The biggest change has been to the education placement of deaf children themselves, with a decreasing number being taught in deaf schools and an increasing number being taught in mainstream settings whether it has a deaf unit or not. The majority of deaf children are now taught within mainstream settings.

Ironically, it is seen as ‘forward thinking’ to send a deaf child to a mainstream school, and ‘backwards’ to send them to a deaf special school. Which is a shame, because both settings can be successful depending on the deaf child themselves and how the deaf units in the schools are run/how the deaf child is integrated into mainstream class.

How deaf children are taught in mainstream settings varies from one school to the next, with differing communication modalities used. In all, there are a wide range of variables for deaf children in mainstream.

Advisory teachers of the deaf (ToDs) may only visit them once or twice a week depending on their ‘criteria’ (which is often based on the level of their deafness, and not the impact of their language input and ability).

As they tend to be only 1 deaf child out of 30 in a mainstream class, training for mainstream teachers is a low priority, and maybe done once a year, if they’re lucky. This is not the fault of the ToDs, as understandably, some schools do not see training as a priority when there are 30 other hearing children to consider.

The demands on mainstream teachers has increased considerably with an increasing number of SEN children being taught in mainstream school. Deafness is still misunderstood in general society, especially in mainstream schools where there is little knowledge, understanding or training on deafness.

It is far cheaper to send deaf children to mainstream schools than to run a deaf school, despite growing evidence that inclusion for deaf children is not working effectively at times in some schools. Where is the evidence coming from? Teachers of the Deaf themselves, or TAs/CSWs working with deaf children.

Most conversations I have with ToDs (deaf or hearing) I ask where they work, and then I ask ‘Is it working?’ they usually pause before saying ‘well, not really….’. They are all are constrained by powers above to be able to effectively say anything. There needs to be some sort of whistleblowing procedure for these type of issues. Who do they whistleblow to? Are Ofsted clued up on deaf education? In my experience, they are not.

What is even more disturbing is that as a Deaf Teacher of the Deaf myself, I have encountered discrimination within my own working profession. Yes, you read that right, I am discriminated against in the 21st century, within my OWN Teacher of the Deaf profession.

When I got my first ToD teaching job, it was announced in a staff meeting at this school. As I had worked there previously under a teaching assistant capacity, staff knew me. One near retirement CSW said that a deaf person shouldn’t be given jobs at a deaf school.

One local authority recently were discussing about possibly advertising for a new advisory ToD. When it was expressed that I may be interested, the response from some ToDs was that a deaf person shouldn’t become an advisory ToD because ‘deaf people are opinionated and forward’.

Why are hearing people involved in deaf education saying these things? Are they intimidated and threatened by deaf people? Why can’t deaf people be opinionated and forward, just like hearing people are? What’s wrong with being opinionated and forward, is this because we have more to say based on our own personal experiences and knowledge?

This should be a positive, not a negative. You use that in a positive professional manner, just like a domestic abuse victim working for a domestic abuse charity would use their personal experiences to help others in a professional capacity.

Now if you read this article again, imagine I am talking about a black person trying to get involved in black education run by white people. Would people stand for the comments made then? Racism and discrimination are the first things that come to mind in that case.

Why is it different for deaf people? Why is there such hostility against deaf people being involved in the education of their own ‘kin’ as to speak?

In my experience, ToDs who were trained in the 70s/80s are different to those who are trained in the 90s/00s. It seems the older ToDs still preach and encourage an oralist model, whereas the latter tend to encourage signing alongside speech.This has an impact on the effect of working together in various workplaces whether its in mainstream schools or in local authorities.

There are some fantastic ToDs who are hearing working in deaf education or in local authorities, but in my experience, they tend to be ones who were trained in the 80s/90s. Both situations above were made by people who were trained in the former eras.

There isn’t equality for deaf people even today. Attitudes towards deaf people is still poor (as we have seen with the changes from Disability Living Allowance to the Personal Independent Payment) and deaf awareness is still very poor. British Sign Language is recognised, but not made a legal act. Perhaps this is why so much hasn’t changed.

Deaf people are still not being listened to, and are being discouraged from being involved in deaf education. Maybe that’s the root of the problem. Maybe we, as collective, need to be ‘opinionated and forward’ in order to change things for the better, so that no one else ever says that deaf people shouldn’t be working in the deaf education sector.

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