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Career Story: Teacher Of The Deaf At A Public High School

Teacher Of The Deaf At A Public High School

Job Title: I Am A Teacher Of The Deaf At A Public High School.

Type of Company: A five year public high school, covering grades 8-12.

Education: BA, Theater and Speech Therapy, Bridgewater State College (Bridgewater, MA) •• MS, Rehabilitation Counseling with the Deaf, Western Oregon University and Oregon State University

Previous Experience: I worked for the state in two different human services agencies as a social worker with deaf children and adults, and worked as a sign language interpreter and tutor.

Job Tasks: I have been assigned to teach a deaf student in the tenth grade. As the mentor and instructor of a student with special needs, I interact with a variety of staff people on my student's behalf. Most people in the school environment do not know American Sign Language -- the language my student employs -- so, in addition to translating, I have to teach them the ins and outs of requesting and using a sign language interpreter. Other teachers need to be taught how to make appropriate accommodations and modifications in their classroom environments and programs.

Reading can be a challenge to the deaf, who often learn to read and write by signing, so that American Sign Language is, in a sense, their first language. As a hearing person, even though I am fluent in sign language, it is critical for me to interact with Deaf adults who model clear and proper sign language. I sometimes teach sign language to high school students and adults in the community.

It's important as a Special Education teacher, to model social skills that engender friendships and respect. I work in a team of teachers, counselors, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best parts of the job are when the student is enthusiastic about something they want to do or have done. In the case of deaf students, I also really appreciate it when people in the environment communicate directly with the students. I find the school setting fun and upbeat, and there is a lot of positive energy in the building. It's also great to see students come in as timid children, and leave as young adults.

On the other hand, it's difficult to be the only one who can fluently communicate with a student at the school. And it is tough for the student himself, who may have a difficult time making friends, as the other students are not fluent in sign language, even when they know just a bit.

Job Tips:
1. Engage with deaf adults to gain language knowledge. 2. Take sign language courses. 3. Visit Gallaudet University in Washington, DC, a college for deaf students. 4. Visit local schools for the deaf, or special programs in your geographical area.

Additional Thoughts: People think that all Deaf people are the same. When I teach hearing people, I ask them what they think Deaf people are like, and they give me some answers. Then I ask them what hearing people are like, and they realize that everyone is an individual with unique likes, dislikes, abilities, talents, cultural/ethnic background. In short, one's hearing status does not define who they are. People sometimes think I know Braille, which is for people with visual disabilities, not hearing disabilities. Some people think that it is easy to lip read, when only about one quarter of sounds are actually visible on the lips. It is important to be respectful of other peoples' culture and values, which may be different from your own. Believing in civil rights is very important crucial to working with people who have disabilities.

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