It is the beginning of the school year and I am doing a bunch of school visits. I am always surprised to see that FM systems are sometimes being used incorrectly. I did two school visits this week. In both districts, a teacher of the deaf who works in the district had educated the teachers about how to use the FM systems, but here is what I found.
Every teacher was wearing the transmitter at waist level – not 6 inches from her mouth.
This meant that the child was not going to receive optimal benefit from the transmitter. The signal would not be loud enough, there would be clothing noise, and it basically was not going to be terrific.
Repeating class comments was inconsistent
Some teachers repeated nothing, others repeated everything (yeah for them!!!), and a few did something I had never seen before: They did repeat the comments, but in a whisper, so they were not really heard by the kids.
Turning the mic off when talking privately to other kids
This is a basic rule. First of all, it’s not the hearing-impaired child’s business what you say to someone else, and, maybe even worse, it makes it difficult for a child with hearing loss to listen to the kids in his work group or do individual work if someone is talking into his ear about something unrelated to what he is doing. (I learned the turn-off-the-mic lesson when, one day, giving a talk at a conference, I forgot to turn off my mic when I went to the ladies room.) Many teachers have learned that lesson when they went to chat with a colleague outside the classroom discussing something the kids really should not know. How popular was the child with hearing loss who then could tell everyone the teacher’s secrets!!
And please remember to turn the transmitter on
In one class I observed, the hearing-impaired child, who had seemed bright and alert in other classes, really seemed out of it. I watched him for a few minutes, then walked up to the teacher to see if the transmitter was on. It wasn’t. I quietly pointed it out to him and, immediately, there was a change in demeanor in the child with hearing loss. I spoke with him after class. He said that he assumed that when the child handed it to him, he just had to put it on.
And the pass mic
The pass mic allows the child with hearing loss to hear directly what other kids are saying without the teacher having to repeat. In one of the classes I observed, one student was assigned each day to be the runner with the pass mic and take it from child to child. In another class, the kids just passed it. The pass mic is a good device for keeping kids from shouting out, so many teachers really like it.
All the teachers I observed were happy for suggestions about how to use the FM better. Someone really needs to be assigned to make sure it is happening.