Change is constant and inevitable, bringing with it challenges and opportunities. Within the field of deaf education change has been positive and exciting with, for example, the introduction of the Newborn Hearing Screening Programme, digital hearing aids and fully integrated FM systems. However, current financial constraint that is leading to severe pressure on local services causes considerable stress within the system of provision.
This is the work environment that newly qualified Teachers of the Deaf are entering on completion of their training. The training itself is now significantly different from that of even ten years ago. The knowledge pool is expanding rapidly as researchers shed new light on language acquisition and on literacy and numeracy. Technological innovation is rapid and challenging both in respect of hearing aid technology and also in the use of computer technology. The populations who require access to ToD services are increasingly diverse and demand new approaches. Into this exciting situation newly qualified ToDs face one challenge that all ToDs have always faced – initial training is just that, it is impossible to learn all you need to about teaching deaf children on any initial training programme.
The Training and Development Agency funding for mandatory training courses stipulated that funds should be used to enhance course provision and to ensure a legacy for future students. It also stressed that course providers should wherever possible work closely with each other, stakeholders and the professional associations. As part of its bid the University of Manchester applied for funding to establish a mentoring network for newly qualified ToDs. There are a number of reasons that this was felt to be an important development that would enhance training and support good practice.
Newly qualified ToDs frequently join services or resource bases where access to a qualified and experienced ToD may be limited. This situation is further compounded by the fact that over 50% of the profession are over 50 – the knowledge and expertise of this group will be lost to the profession over the next decade. The profession is currently going through major structural changes. There is evidence that services are increasingly being led by non-specialist teachers and other professionals.
Some small services have staff all trained within the last four years, including the current the head of service. There is no member of staff with sufficient experience to act as a mentor. Students have also reported that when they work with schools or services some of these are very resistant to new ideas and changes in practice (even where national guidelines exist) and fail to include assessment or planning as part of regular practice. Thus even access to experienced practitioners locally does not necessarily mean that newly qualified ToDs are allowed to introduce changes in practice or new research to inform approaches.
Following a discussion with BATOD, the mentoring programme was launched at the University of Manchester. In order to do this two trainers were identified, both with considerable experience in such training, including training United Nations Peacekeepers, therefore they were ideal for tackling ToDs. There was considerable interest in being involved in mentor training. All course providers were invited to attend the training, plus an additional 20 ToDs. These professionals came from across the country and from a wide range of provision. Prior to attending the training course all attendees were asked to complete a questionnaire online that looked at their style of task accomplishment and conflict management, adapted from the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument. Each individual mentee received feedback on their style but only after they had predicted their own skills. This proved to be an illuminating session for all involved.
The training involved an overnight stay at the conference centre with a meal, and also a workshop to set the scene. The training day was focused strongly on establishing an understanding of political, conflict and emotional literacy and how these impact on our interactions. Some practical scenarios taken from student reports were used to inform role-play activities. There followed a discussion of Belbin’s team role
In this time of financial austerity we recognise that opportunities for training and support may be limited. However, in order to provide the best possible service for deaf children and their families, ToDs to feel confident and supported in their roles.
We now have several ways that you can be involved in this incredibly exciting project:
Have you thought about supporting newly qualified ToDs through mentoring?
Giving back to the profession with a view to supporting colleagues and improving services provided to deaf children?
Boosting your own CV and experience?
Alternatively you might be interested in the peer mentoring scheme – an opportunity for you
to take part in two-way mentoring with another experienced colleague.