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Deaf Awareness Week – Deaf Teachers of the Deaf

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As BATOD’s contribution to Deaf Awareness Week emphasising role models, Martine Monksfield, a member of BATOD’s National Executive Council, introduces the d/Deaf Teachers of the Deaf (DToD) group:

Mission statement: We believe in promote positive outcomes in the education of Deaf children and Deaf young adults through sharing, developing and disseminating exemplar practice by Deaf Teachers of the Deaf.

Our group, d/Deaf Teachers of the Deaf (DToD) was initially set up in 2013 by myself, Martine Monksfield and Dani Sive as an informal group. Both of us are Teachers of the Deaf, and are Deaf ourselves. I found myself asking other d/Deaf teachers, particularly Dani, for advice and support during my teachers’ training and during my ToD training. There were issues with deaf awareness, barriers, communication, and attitudes of teachers/Teachers of the Deaf that hearing teachers/ToDs could not help me with because we do not have that shared, lived experience. It is hard for hearing teachers and ToDs to give advice and support when they have not faced the same barriers and obstacles that d/Deaf people themselves encounter daily.

Since then, we wanted to have a support network for teachers who were d/Deaf. We now currently have a private Facebook group and are in the process of setting up a professional website. We have a committee that meets three times a year, and hold workshop sessions twice a year for our d/Deaf members. Our logo was designed by James Merry, a deaf graphic designer.

It is incredibly crucial that d/Deaf teachers have a safe space to be able to gain advice, support and be able to vent without fear of reprisals in their career. We have been able to give advice to trainee teachers facing issues on their placements (an observer noted that a BSL interpreter working with a trainee teacher was a ‘negative’ on her feedback. Yes, really!). I only wish I had had this group advising and encouraging me when I faced a discriminative issue during my trainee teaching practice from an unqualified teacher/Teacher of the Deaf. I didn’t do anything for fear of a negative knock-on effect on passing my placement, or being seen as ‘difficult’. I regret not taking this issue further as nothing changes if you don’t speak up.

At present, we have over 100 members who are based nationwide in the UK. Our members vary in their communication and audiology/amplification which is our strength; from those who use British Sign Language, spoken English, both, and/or are hearing aid wearers, cochlear implant users, BAHA users, or use nothing.
I introduced our group at the BATOD NEC in June 2016 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, which was incredibly fitting with it being my home country. Since then, I have been representing d/Deaf ToDs at the NEC. It was suggested that we create sub-groups within the group for those who were ‘oral’ and ‘BSL users’, but we want to move away from the incredibly old and tired debate around oralism v BSL. We are all about having both, but respecting the beliefs and values of those who are either. We do believe that deaf children are missing out by not having access to sign language from birth to support spoken language development. This is why we continue to use the d/D terminology within our group, to make it clear both are warmly welcome no matter what.

We now have a private Facebook group (d/Deaf Teachers of the Deaf) and a Twitter account, but we are working towards building our own professional website. We hope this website will include information and signposting on; consultations, advice, private tutorial work, mentoring schemes, information for parents of newly diagnosed deaf children, resources for teaching deaf children (including BSL videos by Deaf teachers/ToDs), an advertising area for CSWs (Communication Support Workers) and specialised Teaching Assistants in mainstream schools for Deaf children, online discussion forum for registered d/DToD, and a shared resource area for d/DToD committee members. We also plan to use the website to develop our workshops further, and purchase resources to promote our group at various academic and professional events.

However, this costs money, and we are currently fundraising to raise this amount. We need £2,400 and we are already £1,000 of the way there. Our Just Giving page can be found here with more information, we welcome more donations to help us get there.


The private Facebook group asks you three questions if you want to join; whether you are training to become a teacher/are a teacher/are training to become a ToD/are a ToD, if you are d/Deaf yourself and whether you are a BSL teacher. We only accept those who are training to be a teacher as a minimum, are d/Deaf and are not BSL teachers (they have the Association of BSL Teachers and Assessors group). It feels a little uneasy (only a little) rejecting hearing teachers and Teachers of the Deaf! Search for ‘d/Deaf ToD’ on Facebook if you are d/Deaf to join. Please encourage your d/Deaf teachers in your school/Service/FE section to join us. They can also email us to join the mailing list for information on workshops upcoming if they are not on Facebook.

The feedback we get from other d/Deaf teachers who come to our workshops is that they are hugely valued, and appreciate the safe space they have to be able to have discussions with other d/Deaf teachers about various issues in Deaf Education. We hope to continue to run these, and we are looking to recruit workshop leaders to assist with this – so if you are interested, please get in touch with me (contact details below).

One of our workshops held at Derby Deaf school

Latest workshop held at Frank Barnes, London
6th April 2019

At the recent BATOD conference in Nottingham, we had a record number of d/DToDs attend, and I hope to increase this further next year at our one day conference. It would be impertinent if I didn’t mention the poor history of BATOD with deaf teachers, but we hope this is a new beginning in moving forward and working together to get the best for our deaf children in the UK today. So much so that the ‘old’ sign for BATOD has now been dropped, and we now fingerspell BATOD as we would for the NDCS, BDA etc.

Deaf delegates at the BATOD Conference 2019

We will be working with the National Education Union to provide some workshops for deafened teachers on strategies to use in the classroom managing their sudden or deteriorating hearing loss. Who best to liaise with but those who have lived experience of it? At a meeting I had with them last year, they reported that a number of deafened teachers were dropping out of teaching because they couldn’t manage without their hearing. They were quite surprised when I told them we had a number of profoundly deaf teachers working as teachers in deaf schools, mainstreams with units or in mainstream only!

Chair: Martine Monksfield ([email protected])
Vice-Chair: Dani Sive
Treasurer: Rachael Blowes
Secretary (on leave): Patrick Rosenburg
PR/Fundraising Officers: Laila Doobeh and Derek Rodgers
Committee member: Malcolm Sinclair