How Deaf Education at UoM has helped me to become a better teacher

The Deaf Education course at the University of Manchester aims to help qualified teachers train to become Teacher’s of the Deaf. Dawn Sommerlad is currently undertaking the course and has found that it is already having an impact on not only how she teaches but on how she approaches day to day conversations. With a young family, Dawn never thought the opportunity to expand her learning would come. Find out how it all became possible below…


One term into the Deaf Education course and my daughter’s friend revealed an alarming miscue: “Dawn, why do you want to be a teacher of the death? Will you bring people back to life?” My mental filing cabinet whizzed through the speech banana: F and Th sounds –  high frequency, mild loss. F-Th confusion – she’s only six, Th sounds can take longer to develop. Missing incidental hearing – radio aids could help. But she’s not deaf…so al. Let’s recast!

“Teacher of the deaf. I’m training to be a teacher of the deaf, to support people who cannot hear clearly.”

“Oh, so you don’t you go to Hogwarts?”

“No, that’s Manchester Museum – I’m two doors down.”

Three months in and I’m analysing speech closely, I’m aware of how it develops and the implications deafness has on its process. It may not be witchcraft but it is pretty amazing and I’m loving every minute of learning about it.


Since I started the course in September, simple mishearing is not simple anymore. I want to know why something has not been grasped and how to remedy it. It is changing the way I teach, I’m more aware of my presentation and how information is provided. When I talk to babies and children, I’m mindful of their vocal productions; and rooms – suddenly they are a minefield of reverberations!  

Studying the course at Manchester University has drawn my attention to opportunities and pitfalls in teaching and learning, which I was oblivious to despite being a confident teacher.

The valuable, financial support offered by the Lawrence Werth Bursary opened the door to this opportunity. With a young family, it felt remiss to spend money on my education but with the funding, I have been able to achieve a goal, which I wanted but had put off for years.


Although a BSL user, my understanding of hearing technology was limited and I have been amazed by the technological developments highlighted by the course. Having the chance to test out innovative devices, such as the Roger Pen and Touchscreen Mic, have helped students like me to grasp how they work and to understand how to their maximise their potential in the field.

In November, course leaders organised a conference weekend with speakers involved in deaf education. I was nervous, and unsure how much would go over my head; after all, we were just a few weeks into the course. However, we were all pleasantly surprised. The depth of learning we had gained through journal articles, personal experiences and discussions, enabled us to understand and, to varying degrees, relate to what we were being taught. The conference offered insights and practical ideas from ToDs who showed us how the job varies from place to place. It was a fantastic experience, which has given me a taste for future conferences to magpie ideas and deepen knowledge.


I submitted my second assignment yesterday and am gearing up for the second term of six. By Easter, we will learn about play as a tool for learning, developing self-esteem in the deaf child and deafness with additional needs. We will also complete the first of two placements. It is an exciting time and I’m looking forward to sharing it with our cohort the  Manchester University, Teachers of the Deaf.

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