Jane Beadman is a graduate of the MSc Deaf Education course at Manchester and a Teacher of the Deaf employed by Leicestershire County Council. Here, she reveals why and how she went into deaf education, and gives advice to anyone considering a similar career path.
Why I chose to be a Teacher of the Deaf
Prior to moving into deaf education, I was employed as a science teacher and the head of biology at a mainstream secondary school. I had an interest in special educational needs and worked as a lead practitioner in local primary schools.
In 2012, my daughter was born with a hearing impairment and we were visited in our home by a Teacher of the Deaf (ToD). Although having our daughter identified as having a hearing loss was initially a shock, I was inspired by the work of ToDs. I soon realised that, with the right support, my daughter would achieve her full potential.
That was my lightbulb moment. I recognised that through training to be a ToD, I could support my own daughter better, but also open the door to an exciting new career.
The varied nature of the work of a ToD greatly appealed to me. I liked the thought of being able to draw on my existing science background and apply it to the audiology part of the role. Also, having worked within a secondary school, the chance to branch out and visit pre-school and primary school children was particularly appealing.
Studying deaf education
The prospect of going back to university in my 30s was both daunting and exciting. I thoroughly researched the different ToD training courses and opted for Manchester, due to its excellent reputation and strong audiology emphasis.
I liked the flexibility that the University offered and the fact that I could attend university one day a week to benefit from face-to-face lectures and support from fellow students on campus. Working within a local authority while supported by ToDs enabled me to apply the knowledge and skills gained whilst studying at university.
Although I had a long journey each week from Leicester to Manchester and back, it was absolutely worthwhile. Every week was packed with interesting lectures and practical activities that directly related to my job. As the weeks went on, my confidence grew. I enjoyed being on campus and made great friends who were a brilliant support. One of the highlights for me was the weekend conference. We experienced lectures, workshops and Manchester student life!
I valued all aspects of the course, but my favourite areas were early language development, audiology and the developing deaf child module. During this module, we were able to apply the knowledge and understanding that we had gained whilst on the course to a case study. Towards the end of the course, I was lucky enough to receive the Oticon award for best presentation and the Robin Williams prize for my coursework.
I opted to write a dissertation to enable me to gain an MSc in Deaf Education. I was able to use the work that I had done in the policy and practice module as background research to support my dissertation. I have a strong interest in audiology and decided to research the latest developments in gene therapy and how it may be used to support children with sensorineural hearing loss. I had read articles in the national press discussing gene therapy as a treatment for hearing impairment. I wondered if families on my own caseload may have questions relating to this area and moved forward from there.
I graduated in December 2016 and now have the title of teacher of the hearing impaired and work for Leicestershire County Council. Completing my master’s degree led me to present my research as a poster at the BATOD conference in 2017. Whilst at the BATOD 2017 conference, I was honoured to receive the Eicholz prize. This was followed by an invitation to give a lecture about my research to undergraduate audiology students at De Montfort University.
If I could offer advice to any potential trainee ToDs, I would suggest volunteering for local groups such as the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and reading the NDCS booklets, which are available to download from their website.
I volunteered for the Leicestershire Deaf Children’s Society youth club and completed a British Sign Language level 1 course at my local college. I completed the Lead Practitioner accreditation, which enabled me to visit local primary schools and work with children with delayed language. All of these experiences enabled me to develop transferable skills and helped me to secure my position at Leicestershire County Council.
The combination of personal experiences, interests and professional transferable skills that I developed have enabled me to move into a new career as a ToD. Working as a ToD is incredibly varied, allowing me to work in a variety of settings and across all key stages of education. This is the best move that I have made professionally, and I certainly won’t be looking back.
Find out more about the MSc/PGDip Deaf Education course at Manchester and see information on training as a Teacher of the Deaf on the British Association of Teachers of the Deaf website.