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Skill National Bureau for Students with Disabilities
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Claire Ingham

Hearing Impairment

photo of ClaireI teach at a Special Secondary school for the deaf in London. My job is Head of Language overseeing language and communication provision. 

I lead the Communication Workstream which seeks to develop and share good practice across the school.

I also lead on the Hearing Impaired Service and Hearing Impaired Units across Wandsworth. 

Prior to that I was a teacher of English and, later, Head of English.

I've always wanted to be a teacher! I remember 'playing teacher' with my cuddly toys and dolls sitting around a blackboard when I was six and, when I was twelve, I visualised myself teaching English to deaf students.  I don't think I've ever really wanted to do anything else!  My Mum and Aunty are both teachers - and three of my cousins - so it must be in the blood.

My teachers told me when I was fourteen that I couldn't be a teacher of the deaf because I'm too deaf.  They encouraged me to pursue scientific study and I ended up starting - but not finishing - a PhD in Insect Physiology!  By that time I realised I was in the wrong job and, thanks to the support of the Disabled Students' Advisor at University, started volunteering at a School for the Deaf one day a week and loved it.  There was no stopping me after that!

What motivates me to keep developing my own practice is my strong belief in education being a gateway to a life with more options. I love that 'eureka' moment when you see a child suddenly 'getting it' and seeing the progress children make linguistically, socially and academically through good teaching-and-learning. 

I wanted to teach deaf children because, as a deaf person myself, I've experienced many of the frustrations that deaf young people have or may experience. I feel that I can make their learning relevant to their experiences as deaf people, for example making English poetry meaningful to deaf sign language users.

My route into teaching started at Oak Lodge working as an unqualified teacher and then I completed my initial teacher training through the Licensed Teacher route (now the Graduate Training Programme), teaching part-time at the school whilst studying at Roehampton Institute of Education. I particularly enjoyed visiting lots of different mainstream and special schools to develop a broader understanding of provision and different teaching-and-learning approaches.

I have been teaching for 14 years now and if I need sign language interpreters (for example to access training and meetings involving large numbers of people who cannot sign) in the workplace I can get this funded by Access to Work. 

During my mainstream placement I worked mainly with the deaf students in the resource base and taught Geography to a reversed integration class (a small group of hearing children joining the deaf children in the Unit) which made communication easier. I worked with a sign language / voice over interpreter with larger mainstream classes.

To go into teaching as a hearing impaired person I would say that you need to enjoy being with children and to have a love of learning.  Go into the classroom with your resources prepared, your head held high, make eye-contact and use the children’s names to show confidence.  Back up what you say with written and visual resources and pupil contributions.  Focus on what the pupils are learning and your nerves about your own performance will disappear.

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