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Making the Grade

Your Students (and Yourself!)
It’s midterm and finals time for all of my junior high and
high school students. I’ve worked with my schools to make sure accommodations
are in place for students who will take their exams in separate settings. I’ve
met with the staff who will be administering the exams, and I’ve arranged my
schedule when I’ll be the one administering. I’ve worked with my students to
create comprehensive study plans, and most importantly: I’ve made sure that teachers,
families, and support staff understand that the work must be done by my
            I’ve often found that the staff supporting
students with different learning needs feel that the students’ grades are a
reflection of their abilities as support staff and educators. While I also want
my students to succeed, I do not share this belief. Here are some helpful
reminders for what can be a stressful time of year:
I will work hard to teach my students the
literacy, language skills and strategies that they need in order to access
I will work with teachers to modify tests and
assignments to meet the language levels of my students.
I will support my students in advocating for
their learning needs.
In the end, their grades are not a reflection of
my abilities as a teacher of the deaf, but a reflection of their abilities as a

Support , Encouraging Independence
            I can provide resources for my
students and teach them how to use
them. I cannot make my students use
these materials. I can instruct my students in how to study effectively and effectively for exams. I cannot go
home with them and make them
implement these practices. Some of my students are strong academically and in
honors or AP-level classes. Some students struggle more and are appropriately
placed in more basic or even remedial-level classes. While I want everyone to
do well, it is not to the benefit of my students if I “give” them answers or
overly support them, especially during exams. This creates an unrealistic
picture of the students’ true abilities and skill levels, and can lead to
incorrect placement or expectations in future classes.
It is not my job to make sure all of my students get As, but it
is my job to ensure that they have access to the curriculum, and that I am
teaching the skills needed in order for that to happen. When grades are lower
than expected—or desired—I work with my students to analyze why that is. Did
the student apply the study strategies we discussed? Did they take advantage of
the tools, accommodations and modifications available to them? Did they
advocate for what they needed? Did the teachers provide agreed-upon support
tools? And of course, no matter what the final grade may be, I always try to
emphasize that a grade is just a grade. It gives some academic information but
does not define my student as a person.
So here’s to finals! How do you support your students and
educational teams?

Hear Me Out

The Hear Me Out blog provides unique resources for students who are deaf or hard of hearing. It's a forum for itinerant teachers of the deaf to share their experiences as they grow as professionals! It is produced by Clarke's Mainstream Services team 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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