Let's see...first and foremost, I'm a resource to schools, teachers, interpreters, building personnel, administration, students, and parents. I ensure that the working arrangement for my student is efficient and effective. I serve as a member of the case conference committee and I'm the Teacher of Record for students who have DHH as their primary disability. I support and develop academic language for Deaf/Hard of Hearing students in order for them to fully participate and function in their Least Restrictive Environments (yep, that's a big Article 7 word). In my opinion, the best part of what I do is advocating for my DHH students and their families by making sure that they have appropriate support services, equipment, modifications, accommodations, and communication needs are being met. I advise classroom teachers and support the goals of the IEP (there's another one of those Article 7 words).
What are some of the goals that may be in the IEP? Well, goals should be developed with the individual student in mind, but typically, goals revolve around the following categories:
1. Care, use, and management of assistive listening devices
2. Teaching auditory skills
3. English language and/or sign language development
4. Cognitive development
5. Academic skill building and learning strategies
6. Social and/or emotional development
7. Self-advocacy, organizational, and study skills
8. Career and personal planning
9. Instruction on how to function in the community, at school, or in the workplace with hearing loss.
I'm sure I've forgotten something. If it comes to mind, I'll be sure to add it later!
Now, back to my role...
Some students consider me their "school mom" since I've usually been with them for so long. I have the privilege of watching students grow up. They may come on my caseload as young as preschool and I'll be with them until they graduate! They know the advice they get from me is similar to what they would receive at home. They also know that if they get in trouble for something, I'll likely have a little chat with them. Speaking of chats, I tend to become somewhat of a counselor to many of my students. I help them solve or come up with strategies when they're dealing with peer, relational, or family struggles.
A big important piece of what I do is help select the teachers who will be working with my students in the following school year. Most of the schools I work with are wonderful about listening to my suggestions. I select teachers who work best for the individual student's learning style, hearing loss, and accommodation needs. Some teachers are so phenomenally accommodating to my students that I put every student in that grade in their classes! I've built great relationships with these teachers and since I know the teaching style and expectations, I can help the student in a one-on-one setting if needed.
Just last week I took one of my students to a fundraiser where she was going to be speaking. So, I guess you can add taxi driver to my list of responsibilities! My student was one of the first to receive hearing aids from Katie's Hear to Help Foundation. She got them when she was 11 and now 6 years later, they asked her to speak about the difference the hearing aids have made in her life. I helped facilitate the original application for assistance with Katie's Hear to Help Foundation and I even took my student to the audiological appointments until she received her shiny, new hearing aids.
If students are unable to access language, I will drop what I'm doing (or at least rearrange my schedule) to get to that student as quickly as possible. I have become a substitute American Sign Language or Visual Field interpreter at a moment's notice when the usual interpreter was unavailable. If equipment goes down, I'll be there to fix it, rig it until it's working, or swap it out with a working device. I've been stuck in a situation where a student's cochlear implant failed and since I was a familiar speaker, I orally interpreted everything so she could read my lips. It wasn't ideal, but she was able to somewhat access language.
Speaking of oral interpretation. I do that, too! I always ask my teachers what they are "grading" the students on - their ability to understand the language used in the passage or question or their ability to understand the concept. Sometimes there are words here and there that will completely skew the student's understanding. Those words need to be broken down in order for the student to understand the content.
Speech! Yeah, I wear the SLP hat, too. Since I know the goals the student is working on, I'll carry those goals over to my session (but I try to make it a little more fun - sorry SLPs)!
Lately, I've found that I'm becoming a very good captioner! I should probably look into getting paid for it. Teachers are constantly showing YouTube clips that either aren't captioned or they think the Beta version of YouTube's captioning will be appropriate. HA! So, in order to give my students access to what the other students have access to, I end up captioning YouTube videos. It's not my favorite way to spend my evenings, but if it means my students can participate like everyone else, it's a sacrifice I make!
Lastly (but not really, see below), I spoil my students. I celebrate their birthdays with their favorite treat, a card, and a birthday pencil (as long as my teacher supply store doesn't run out of them again) and if I see them on a consultative basis, they get to pick something out of my prize box. Hey, I figure if they're getting pulled out of class because they have a hearing loss, they may as well come back with something cool that none of those "hearing" kids get to have!
Sadly, I've learned that half of what I do isn't the norm. I also know that I've failed to go into detail about some of my other "hats," but you can read the following and if you really want me to expound upon these "hats," send me a message!
- In-service Queen
- Interview-preparer (is that a word?)
- Reference (for both job and college applications)
- FAFSA guide (ugh, not a huge fan of this one)
- Parent support person
- Vocational Rehabilitation liaison
- Audiologist (but not really, I just know my way around the ears and an audiogram
- Equipment orderer (another non-word, but I'm okay with that)
- Interpreter scheduler
- Homebound instructor
- ISTEP and ECA reader
- Facilitator of SAT/ACT accommodations
- Study guide maker
- Facilitator of initial referrals for DHH services
- Professional development speaker
- Let's not forget that I'm a drill magnet (no, not the power tool and the thing that sticks on your refrigerator). If a school is going to have a fire, tornado, or lock down drill - guess who's getting caught in them? This girl!