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Helping my Students Set #FriendshipGoals

 It’s that busy back to school time! As I’ve shown up for many first days at various schools over the past two weeks, the sights and sounds are familiar. Students rush through the halls decked out in smiles, new sneakers, stiff new backpacks and that perfect first day of school outfit. Squeals and excited chatter fill the air as friends and classmates reconnect after a summer apart. 

When I set goals with my students during our initial sessions, almost every student included making friends as a goal for the new year—whether in elementary school, junior high, or high school.

When asked to name their friends, most of my students will name peers in their classes, or the students they sit with at lunch. As they get older, many students start to realize that their concept of a friend may not be complete. Sometimes they discover that what they’ve perceived as friendship may in fact be more superficial and less authentic than a true friend relationship. Friends frequently text or video chat. Friends hang out at each others’ houses on the weekends and after school. Friends get together over the summer. Friends share secrets (and keep those secrets!). Friends encourage each other to join the same clubs or play the same sports. Friends coordinate outfits and hairstyles. Are our students with hearing loss included in these ways?

 My plan is to start by helping my students identify the characteristics and values that they would like in a friend. Having a better understanding of their own interests and strengths whether that is a sport, art, music, or hobby will help to identify clubs or activities that may be of interest at school. Extracurricular activities often offer more opportunities for socializing than class time.
 
Self-confidence is another key piece to making friends. I want my students to fully accept all parts of themselves and have the confidence to approach potential friends, or to further their relationships with current acquaintances. I also plan to tune in when I’m observing in classes so I can better understand how to support my students’ connections with their peers. My hope is that my students can be authentically part of that chatter and excitement that comes with each transition back to school.
 
Maybe some kids come to school because they’re super excited about ionic bonding and algebra but for most, the motivation is social. It’s universal—everyone wants to feel included. As teachers of the deaf, how else can we support our students in forming genuine friendships?

Hear Me Out

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

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About the Hear Me Out Blog

Itinerant teachers of the deaf (TOD) provide direct services to children with hearing loss in mainstream schools, consultation to their teachers, and professional development to school staff. Itinerant TODs travel to a child’s neighborhood school to provide one-on-one educational support, foster listening and spoken language development, and help children build social and self-advocacy skills. They also act as a liaison between the family and their mainstream school. Hear Me Out provides a unique forum for these special teachers to share their experiences as they grow as professionals.

Hear Me Out is produced by Mainstream Services at Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech as part of our mission to support children with hearing loss and the professionals who serve them.

Hear Me Out Blog

About the Author

Heather Stinson (CAGS, MED, S/LP-A) received her master’s degree in Education of the Deaf from Smith College in 2006 and a graduate certificate in Children, Families, and Schools (with a concentration in research methodology) from the University of Massachusetts in 2012. In addition to her many years of experience working with children with hearing loss who communicate using listening and spoken language, Heather has also worked as a preschool classroom teacher.

Heather has presented both locally and nationally on issues related to mainstreaming students with hearing loss and is a contributing author to Odyssey magazine. Heather currently works as an itinerant teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing at Clarke Mainstream Services, a program of Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech.

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