Many teachers do not have experience with hearing loss or hearing implants. When they learn their future student has a hearing loss, teachers may feel uncertain, nervous or hesitant. With student self-advocacy and open communication, those original feelings could be relieved. Below, Ms. B., Cochlear summer intern Kelin M.’s high school teacher, describes what it’s like having a student who has a hearing loss in her class.
“I had no experience whatsoever with hearing loss or hearing implants before Kelin—no student, no friend, no acquaintance.”
What were your original thoughts when you learned that your new student had a hearing loss?
“I might have been a bit nervous if I had not already heard from fellow colleagues how amazing Kelin was as a student and self-advocate.
I would have been concerned that my student would not have been able to fully participate in my classroom because there would have been things he/she would have missed. Kelin did admit that sometimes she had to turn her head to hear students on the one side of the classroom, but she never acknowledged it caused her to miss her classmates’ comments or mine.”
What did you have to do differently in the classroom because your student had a hearing loss?
“Honestly, I did not do anything differently. I’m embarrassed to say that I rarely remembered Kelin had a cochlear implant. I had Kelin twice a day for AP United States government and AP psychology, and she was such an amazing student in both classes that I never recognized any difference.
The district installed a carpet in my class to improve the classroom acoustics, so that helped, and Kelin always sat where she knew she could assess things best.”
What was the best thing about teaching a student who has a hearing loss?
“The experience with Kelin helped me to understand the amazing success of hearing implants and how students, particularly when they have them from a young age, don’t miss any opportunities. I do believe, though, that a student has to be self-assured and a self-advocate, like Kelin, for this to be true. Students who are not as confident, will need more assistance and awareness from their teachers to have a successful classroom experience. My experience was very easy.
I also loved how Kelin was able to teach a lesson during our perception unit in psychology about cochlear implants, her particular experience, as well as answer all of her classmates’ questions. They were all surprised she had a cochlear implant. They never knew, except for her close friends.
We read Far From the Tree by Andrew Solomon for our summer reading, and there is a chapter about the deaf community. It was so interesting to read and understand how cochlear implants can be judged as rebuking deafness. I was shocked, and so Kelin’s insights and commentary during class discussions helped us all understand how they can be perceived in the deaf and hearing communities. Kelin was amazingly honest and respectful, non-critical of any perspective.”
What was the hardest thing about teaching a student who has a hearing loss?
“I did not find anything difficult. I only was minimally concerned when I realized that I had not been as mindful to where I was speaking. Before school started her senior year, she met with all of the teachers, like she had every year prior and gave us a very informative and effective presentation, teaching us about her cochlear implant and her needs. After that meeting, I think I knew to trust Kelin to tell me if I needed to do anything differently.”
What did you learn about hearing implants throughout the course of teaching someone who has a CI?
“I learned about the actual biology and mechanics of cochlear implants mainly through Kelin’s initial presentation and her presentation to our psychology classes. I also learned that when depending on the student for self-advocacy, very minimal adjustments need to be made.”
What do you think is a good way for hearing loss individuals to go about telling a future teacher about their hearing loss and/or hearing implant?
“As an educator for twenty years, I am sad to say that teachers are not always the most open or accommodating to students. It continues to surprise me but I think it rests in fear and the unknown. If students or at least the parents can sit down each year, like Kelin did, to actually teach the teachers about the student’s hearing loss and/or hearing implants and the needs of the student, it would be tremendously helpful in reducing that uncertainty and resistance.”
What advice do you have for teachers who are going to have with someone with a hearing loss in their classroom?
“I would say, do not be overly concerned. Be attentive and communicative. It will be just fine.”
To learn more about communicating to your teachers or professors about your or your child’s hearing loss, click here.
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