Teaching is a Work of Heart
Story provided by St. Rita School for the Deaf
Sometimes people say that teachers have it made. They get summers off, work only 8 hours a day, and get built in breaks in the winter and spring. We can’t speak for other schools, but if you spent time with our teachers in their classrooms at St. Rita, you would realize the energy, effort, and time they put into giving their students the best possible education doesn’t stop when they leave. Take a peek into Miss Meaghan’s K-2nd grade class at St. Rita.
As her student shut his eyes and laid his head on his desk, Meaghan decided it was time for a break. She smiled as she decided to have her students play a game. Little did they realize that all the games they played in class were lessons in disguise. “Sometimes it feels like a lot of pressure knowing that some of my students only get exposed to language when they are in my class,” said Meaghan. “Not all of my students have parents or siblings that know ASL (American Sign Language), so I’m constantly trying to maximize the classroom time to give my students as much language exposure as possible.” The average child needs to hear a word 17 times to learn it, so hearing children have the advantage of implicit exposure by hearing people around them say a word. When you take that away, then the only times a deaf child is exposed to a word is in the classroom or if their parent or sibling also know ASL. Only about 25% of deaf children have someone in the home who is fluent in ASL.
“One of the biggest challenges I have with lesson plans is making sure that everything I teach is hands on and visual,” said Meaghan. When you walk into her classroom, you are greeted with a cheerful room of bright colors and lots of visuals on the walls. Every morning she starts her class off with a morning meeting where they review vocabulary words. She uses flash cards, games, and scavenger hunts to make learning and memorizing vocabulary words fun and interesting. The rest of the day is balancing between teaching on topics like math, language arts, and reading.
Reading comprehension is a skill that Meaghan focuses a lot of time and attention on with her students. Meaghan said that “It’s a challenge for them to remember the order of events after they read a story or think about what a character might do next. If they don’t understand something, they tend to just gloss over it, and therefore, miss parts of the story.” There are a lot of concepts that her students aren’t familiar with because they don’t hear people talk about them in passing. So, when explaining new concepts, she knows she needs to build in a lot of extra time in her day to take time to help them understand. Something as simple as understanding what an address is and why it might be important is a concept that she has had to explain to her students. To help with reading comprehension, Meaghan has two teachers at St. Rita who come to her class to do a read aloud with her students. They read the story with her students in ASL and talk through what the characters are doing, what they might do next, and go over the vocabulary words in the story.
Meaghan said, “I put a lot of work into making my lesson plans and trying to find the best ways to teach my students, and it’s exciting when I see them understand or learn something new.”
Teachers like Meaghan can be found in every classroom at St. Rita. Our teachers go above and beyond to give their students access to learning despite their obstacles.
Check out the St. Rita School for the Deaf YouTube channel to follow Meaghan’s class around for a day Click here to view channel!