It's vitally important for teachers to recognize what happens on the other end, with Deaf kids. This can be tough for a hearing teacher who has no clue what Deaf people go through on a daily basis or what it's like from the Deaf end. This is often exacerbated by the distance inserted by using an interpreter, para, or external aid. Here's some observations from five years working in the mainstream which I hope will benefit teachers:
1. Eyes get tired. Kids in mainstream programs using interpreters sometimes go into zombie mode; their eyes get exhausted and they can no longer make the muscles function (this is especially true with the high-glare halogen lights used in many public classrooms.) I certainly did, and I had students who do. Even kids with teachers who are themselves Deaf will go into zombie mode. Watching interpreters or signing for long periods of time takes practice, and even then, the eyes still need a rest. Looking is active. This can have positive effects; active watchers are more likely to process and analyze information. What to do about this? When I see kids go into zombie mode–and I don't know how easy it is for people to identify this, but I can always see the eyes glaze over–I encourage them to go get water or go to the bathroom. A couple minutes of eye-rest can make sure the student is engaged for all but those two minutes of class–while ignoring the problem means the student may miss half the information provided! Another solution: bring in lamps and use that lighting instead, if legal in your area. Such a solution may not be useable during state examinations, however.
2. Kids with limited communication at home have limited power. I applaud the parents in this article who are trying to learn BSL, but the same situation applies here in the US: while the government will spend thousands on experimental audiological equipment which only works on a functional level for less than half of the recipients, they will not spend a far smaller amount to help parents learn a language which will last forever and works for all Deaf kids. There is no Deaf student who cannot learn ASL. 100%. (This is why I support the use of both: until the student reaches the age of complex language use, it's tough to determine how functional those audiological aids are on a practical level; I have seen students graduate with very little OR very much benefit, and none have complained about knowledge of ASL.)
When kids can't communicate at home, they often have less power to control their daily lives. This past summer I had students come to me desperate because parents scheduled appointments on days when students had tests–without consulting those students.
Further, when students don't have the ability to communicate they and their needs are often infantilized at home. I've had parents tell me summer school wasn't important, and behind that is the unspoken assumption that the student themselves is limited. I was fortunate to have parents who insisted on including me in scheduling appointments and ensured students had the most opportunities to achieve.
How to solve this? Teachers are sometimes the only voice in support of students having increased responsibility. Pointing out that, later, students need to be independent and self-supporting, and discussing strategies to do so, is very important… but not always successful. Sometimes parents and I will discuss things in depth, and then at the IEP meeting they'll get nervous. Giving parents opportunities to learn ASL, to help bridge the communication gap, are important.
It's also equally important to encourage kids to bridge those gaps. I have students who think there's no point, or who are so overwhelmed by the power dynamics of the family that they don't think of trying to engage in dialogue. Helping students figure out how to frame their needs can be vitally supportive.
3. Hearing aids and audiological aids aren't always pleasant. Mine often sound like someone screaming at me. They demand attention. And the training makes you react to hearing aids the way hearing people react to telephones ringing: GOTTA ANSWER GOTTA ANSWER GOTTA ANSWER! I often take off my hearing aids to think and process. I've discussed this with my students; some of them report no problem at all (about one-third;) others report lots of problems. The design and structure of the hearing aid/implant itself is also an issue: when you are paying attention to a speaking teacher and suddenly your left ear goes WEEEEEEEEEEE TIME TO CHANGE THE BATTERY! and you have to leave class, sometimes you decide to sit there and endure the sirens so you don't miss a point.
And then there's the gym-ey sweat issue... don't get me started!
Talking to students about their needs and experiences is vital. Asking students what works well for them gives them independence and empowerment, and makes them begin the process of analyzing those needs. Is sitting in front REALLY the best place for the student? Not with all hearing aids; some use technology to localize voices. The student might find sitting in the center or on the side more profitable. Or they might want to be in back, because it helps them visually locate other students/teachers/etc.
4. The parent's perspectives, prejudices, and problems with Deafness sometimes extend to the student. Infantilization again; when a parent has an 18 year old, six-foot Deaf son and they require that person to go on the little yellow bus from mainstream school "for safety reasons," what is actually happening? Is the student really more "safe," or is it just the parent's worry that's assuaged? And practically, what happens with that bus? Buses sometimes don't show, and students miss class. Buses need to leave on time, and students leave class early. Those fears spill over into other areas of the students' life–and when you grow up with that kind of hemmed-in limitation, you often don't question it. The result is often a student, already in need of more context, having even less.
How to deal with these fears? Being a Deaf teacher in a mainstream school helped me enormously. Parents saw an educated, capable Deaf adult, and often asked me how I got that way. It's tough to be a model, and it's important to remember all Deaf kids are different: there's plenty who do warrant such fears! Sitting down with parent and student and helping them engage in dialogue is vital.
These are all problems I encountered and experienced as a teacher. There's no easy solutions. Everything occurs in process, and the process will continue for the family and the Deaf student/individual way past graduation. Recognizing this takes some of the pressure off: even a tiny push to create better dialogue is a great step. Recognizing those small achievements makes the process even more beneficial.