by Chelsea Courtney Hull, M.A.
Teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing
Reflecting on one’s work is important, particularly when you’re a teacher. Deaf Educators today are spending more time “on the floor” with families providing consultation, support, education and “hands on therapy” during home visits with early intervention programs. Many Deaf Educators received very little education about how to conduct such visits. Many of us learned “out in the trenches” through visits with kind and open families. Deaf Educators who specialize in working with families have more formal education on the topics that are of concern to parents and other support providers. Either way, sharing what works and doesn’t work with others is invaluable to us as professionals.
After fifteen years of working with families in their homes, I have learned some things about myself from what has been said and not said. Before a family opens their door, they verbally agree to let me into their lives. This is not something I take lightly. How I respond, pose questions and make suggestions is crucial to my relationship with each parent. Perhaps by reflecting on the thoughts and feelings of one Deaf Educator, you can better understand yours.
Here it is…everything I never said.
I respect you so much! I may be a specialist in Deaf Education but you know what it’s like to have a child with a hearing loss. I am so grateful you invited me into your home. Your address and all of the information I have about you gets written down with great care. As I drive to your house, I think about your neighborhood and what it would be like to live there. This helps me mentally prepare to enter your home. My top goal for our first visit is to get to know you and schedule a follow up visit before I leave.
I am here to listen and help you to better communicate with your infant/toddler. I try not to look anywhere except at you and your child. Maintaining a professional rapport with you is very important to me. You have my full attention. How I approach and structure our time together is a delicate dance I take very seriously. I want you to look forward to this time, to know I am focused on your Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) and I want you to learn as much as possible from me. I will also learn a lot from you.
Thank you for sharing your story with me. It is a huge compliment that you trust me with those hard-to-express feelings. I try to put myself in your shoes. By listening to your story, I learn and grow on a personal and professional level. Hearing your story helps me better relate to you and other families in the future. You are my teacher just as much as I am yours. We are a team.
I genuinely care for you and your family. It is emotionally difficult for me to transition you and your child out of the birth-to-three program. I play it cool as I coach you through the process, and say things like “you will have to get used to different professionals coming and going” or “This will be your toughest transition, as your child gets older it will get easier.” What I really want to say is thank you for allowing me to work with you, for trusting me, and making me a better professional. This time when we say goodbye, I’ll embrace you with a hug. Then, I will sit in my car and have a good strong cry. I cry because although I am happy for you and your child, the end of our working relationship makes me sad. I admire how strong you are for navigating your child through early intervention program and for giving your child all could. To those many families I have worked with, I would like you to know, “you inspire me”.
My mother was born in 1943, deafened from the Rubella epidemic. She received no Newborn Hearing Screening and was identified as deaf at around the age of two years-old. I know how grateful and appreciative my grandmother would have been to have a supportive educator in her home. Thank you, families, for appreciating me too.