Friday, 11 September 2015

My Hard of Hearing Teachers - Part 3

Since this week was the first week of school for many school-aged kids, I finally heard back from the last teacher I contacted. She has asked to remain anonymous, so I will refer to her as "the special teacher".  She is special because she was my first and last hard of hearing teacher! Long story short, my first interaction with her was when I was 6 months old, when she came to my parents place to help jump start my speech and language skills.  Later, I had her again for preschool - some of my best memories are in her class! Finally, she was with me until the very end of my high school years. What a story to conclude this mini saga of My Hard of Hearing Teachers Parts 1, 2 and now 3!

1) First, tell me a little bit about yourself, how you came to be a teacher for the hard of hearing/deaf.

My journey into the field of deaf education - is a rather typical one - I wish I had an inspirational  story to share …but I do not!  

As a young adult, I completed my Bachelor of Education at McGill in Montreal, Quebec, and was enthusiastic to find a full time job as an teacher.  One of my professors approached me and encouraged me to apply to the  MSc program in the field of Aural Rehabilitation and Education of the Deaf.  I was hesitant at first, as I had my fill of studying and was looking forward to finally working and making some money!.  Upon his insistence, I applied and incredibility was chosen to study in program! 
2) What's your first (or last) memory of me? (and when did you start teaching me? I have no idea!)

My first memory of you my Monique, is as a wee, darling, 6 month year old baby girl, entering my classroom in the protective arms of your Dad and Mom. At the time, I was teaching the 3 year old classroom and the home guidance program at the Vancouver Oral Centre.  Your parents had spent the morning meeting with Hilda Gregory and then on a tour of the classroom programs.  I do remember your Mom and Dad as being such warm, loving, gentle parents, overwhelmed yet devoted and anxious to begin a new journey to help you learn to listen and talk.  Your family enrolled into the Home Guidance Programme at the VOC and I travelled to your home on a weekly basis. I believe we all worked together for a short time as I left the VOC for a job back in my home city of Montreal.
3) As you were teaching me, what were some of the things you found challenging, as a teacher? (and do you think I'm a success story?)
Success story?  Monique you are the epitome of a success story - You are a gracious, well rounded, joyful, determined, social, chatty, involved girl with a great sense of humour- you are the very, very best!!! Did I also mention, beside having excellent spoken and written language skills you are a good dancer , a traveler, a wonderful daughter, friend,wife and now a Mom to boot!  How does one measure success?  Peace and Happiness, I think, when all  is said and done.

We truly have a long history together, along with your incredible parents, your Grandma Irene and extended family - it was a family affair indeed!   This strong team working together with Centre and schools to ensure your progress every step of the way.  Even through the challenging times - your parents and family were solidly there to support you.  As a child with a profound hearing loss the journey was a tough but an inspiring one - Cochlear implants and digital hearing aids were just coming onto the scene...  Utilizing the most of your limited residual hearing as a hearing aid user, you and parents worked so hard together to develop your listening speech,spoken language, and literacy skills  -We all had high expectations and every effort was made to keep moving you along!

We started together in the home guidance program, you were my student in the 3 year old classroom and the following year in the 4 year old classroom.  Those years with AC (hint: that's the teacher from Part 2!) and all you classmates and parents were amazingly unique and so much fun!   Many years later, we worked together again when you were in integrated into your neighbourhood school -  5th grade at St Michael’s School .  We  journeyed together through Archbishop Carney High School -   I was so fortunate to attend your university convocation at SFU... 

One of the biggest challenges that you faced was in grade 12, when you decided to get a Cochlear implant. An enormous task of relearning to listen with a CI.  The first few months were very trying as your brain learned to tolerate and make sense of the new electronically coded auditory signal at the same time keeping up with the science courses at the grade 12 level !  Although it was a challenging time-  your motivation, determination, hard working ethic, optimistic personality and strong supportive family and school network -  made you the perfect candidate. 
4) Would you say that my parents relationship with you contributed to my success? 
From day one, your parents were fully committed to dedicating their efforts to building your listening and communication skills   They jumped in with both feet - doing everything and more, to reinforce class lessons and involve you in many enriched listening, language and social activities at home and in the community.   I also remember that your parents never lost sight of the importance of raising a well rounded, social and well behaved girl.   You were a kind, thoughtful, considerate little girl - a good friend to all your classmates. A princess, but a well mannered, delightful one!   I remember you as a focused, attentive, cooperative and enthusiastic class participant. Your parents believed in you and the Centre and the celebrated every step along the way.  Positive, dedicated attitude! Their incredible love for you and their Faith kept them going!!!
Your parent were always so gracious, generous and thoughtful -so appreciative of everyone who worked with you Monique.  They devoted much of their time to the Centre,  attending all meetings and,social functions ,volunteering their time to support the Centre and build friendships with other parents.  They were amazing parents to work with and you are so very fortunate to have them as your parents!
5) Do you have any words of wisdom for parents who have a child with a hearing loss? 
Today, with the advent of newborn screening, new generation of Cochlear implants, and sophisticated digital hearing aids, access to sound has never been so readily available.  Learning to listen and acquire spoken language remains a journey but children are able to hear now more than ever!
Breathe! Take time for yourself ! Appreciate and enjoy your precious baby and child - Play and have fun with your child.
Educate yourself and speak to all organizations/professionals /parents/teenagers/young adult with hearing loss about your vision, your hopes and dreams for child.  Whatever pathway you choose - surround yourself with a strong supportive network. Involve yourself in your organization, - they are your friends who will help you through the journey - 
Believe in your child and yourself, and your vision   Listening and spoken language is a process that takes time - Celebrate all baby steps along the journey -  
Don’t limit your child because of their hearing loss .  
Involve your child in many social and community activities - participating in clubs and sports will engage your child socially and help them to learn social skills, become a self advocate and maneuver in our noisy world. 

Be a strong but positive advocate for your child- Ask many questions - You will need to hear the information over and over again -eventually it will make sense.  Work as partners.

Access to sound will move your child’s listening and speech and spoken language development along - wearing hearing aids and CI denier all waking hours is the key surround your child with fun engaging activities- 
Be yourself - keep singing and playing and talking - it is all happening for your child… it just takes time ...
6) What were some of the teaching tricks you used with your students, to help them learn language?

Teaching trick ..hmm.. I do remember that working with the little ones took much thought and preparation.  I did plan my lessons with the thought:  How can I engage these little ones to be excited and motivated to learn and talk  How can I entice them to talk - how can I peek their curiosity? what songs, what dances, what stories will make learning to talk a good time at the same time reinforce the concepts and skills of my curriculum .  How can I build the week so that language, speech and listening activities will be strengthen and reinforced in different ways.    Key : parents as partner in the process - Working together as a TEAM
7) Before I was mainstreamed into the regular school system, how did you assess that I would be 'ready' for it? 

I wasn’t around during those years Monique but you and your family demonstrated great readiness for mainstreaming early in your journey.
Every child is different and possesses many gifts and challenges ,A strong consistent supportive network; parents, school team,  availability of itinerant services, a positive attitude, a desire to learn, an ability to attend and acquire classroom concepts and skills are important.  Independence in equipment use, speech and spoken language skills on par with typical hearing peers?  Not always the case but supportive strong school team will assist with the ongoing development of a child’s skills. Every school and classrooms are  different and parents must be prepared to advocate for their child and be open to work with school and supportive team
Thank you so much to "the special teacher" for contributing! 

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