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How to Connect with Teens: From Their Point of View!

was recently asked by an itinerant teacher of the deaf in California for
strategies to help her connect with the teenage students on her caseload
(fellow teachers of the deaf—you know this scenario well!) I shared my
strategies, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to know what my
own students would say. 

students in grades 8-11 were more than happy to share what’s worked for them,
and what has been challenging with the various TODs they’ve had. Some of these
students I see every week, and some just once a month. While younger students
are generally excited to see their TOD, eager to leave the room to go work and
confident in their abilities; as they get older, students (even those without
hearing loss!) often become more reserved and reluctant to openly display their
differences. So, a special thank you to my fabulous teens for contributing to
this post!

what they had to say:

“We have hearing loss so we’ve had to deal
with a lot. We’re more mature because of that.”

reasonably high expectations for all students, including teens. When our
students know that we believe in them, they’re more willing to work through
academic and social challenges rather than resisting or insisting that
everything is “fine.”

“Don’t be over enthusiastic. Like, when you
come in the room, you’re not like, ‘HEY! What are you doing?’ in a little kid
voice. You talk to me like I’m an adult.”

students can sometimes be perceived as less developed than their peers with
typical hearing, or needing more support than they really do. Remembering to
treat them as we would treat any other teenager leads to mutual respect rather
than babying older students who will become resentful.

“When you come in the room to observe, you
just sit in the back. Usually I’m talking to my friends and then I’ll look back
and be like, ‘Oh! Ms. Stinson’s here’ and I can talk to you or wave or whatever
but you don’t interrupt me.”

teenagers do not want to stand out and having a TOD around can be embarrassing
or uncomfortable, no matter how cool we think we are! I generally speak when
spoken to! I’ll sit in the back as my student commented, rather than making it
obvious who I am there to see. This way I am able to respect my student’s space
and boundaries. I generally find that they do interact with me once they’re
comfortable, and they understand that I’m not going to draw extra

We used to only meet in [special education
teacher’s] room and then I’d go to class. Now I don’t care though; you can come
to my class!”

some students—especially if the TOD relationship is new—making arrangements to
meet in a private space (versus me going to the class to pull the student out)
is more comfortable since again, no extra attention is drawn to the student.

You don’t just care about my cochlear
implants. You always ask about the other stuff I do, and like, weekends and
friends and stuff.”

though time can feel crunched—especially with students who I only see monthly—every
minute counts and I always want to get as much information as I can about
classes and amplification. However, trusting relationships need to be more than
just “Tell me why you don’t want to wear your receivers anymore.” I’m genuinely
interested in my students and their lives, and when they know that, they’re
more willing to discuss topics related to hearing loss and challenges as well. It’s
worth it to take that time to build meaningful connections and trust so that my
teens see me as more than just the FM police.

While I enjoy all of
my students, my teenagers are almost always my favorites. How do you connect
with your teens?

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.

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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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