Samantha Martin, a mainstream classroom teacher for 6 years and a Child of Deaf Adults spoke to us about her journey through the Master of Disability Studies (MDS), and how it’s shaped her work.
Tell us about your role.
I’m a specialist Teacher Hearing at Campbelltown East Public School. Before this, she was a mainstream classroom teacher for six years.
What prompted you to study the MDS?
I’ve always had an interest in literacy and language development in children. I’m also a CODA, Child of Deaf Adults, and both my parents have hearing loss.
Has your role changed since completing the MDS?
I am now an itinerant teacher which means I am travelling from school to school supporting children in their own environment, in their classroom. Since completing the Master of Disability Studies, I have so much more knowledge in the processes of speech, language and literacy. It really influences the work that I do now with the students that I support.
Before completing the Master of Disability Studies, I didn’t have such an in-depth knowledge and wouldn’t have been able to do my role and support students who are deaf or hard of hearing. I am now able to use the skills I gained from the course to ensure my students are able to access all of their school materials.
What does a typical day at work look like to you?
A typical day looks like me visiting anything from two to four schools. I can be working with a kinder student in the first two hours of the morning and end up working with a Year 10 student by the afternoon. The variety is great.
We, as itinerant teachers, write up a timetable at the beginning of each term and try to maximize our time with each of our students as best that we can. I conduct assessments at the start of the year or when I receive a new student on my case load. These assessments enable me to find strengths and challenges for my students so that I can target specific goals. I can then plan and program an individualised program for each student. This is usually in their language and literacy, however it depends on the individual.
What do you love about your job?
Helping students advocate for themselves is really rewarding and giving them the skills and confidence to do that, such as reminding their teachers that they need captions on or need a printed copy, it’s just so rewarding.
Do you have examples of how you apply what you learned in the MDS in your role?
I am able to check a student’s access to sound at the start of each session and trouble shoot their technology in most instances. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the knowledge from the course. If I need help, I can ask a team member, or call Hearing Australia, who are always really helpful.
As mentioned, being able to assess my students and find out what they need is probably the most valuable thing. We want all of our students to be able to access their potential and do the best that they can.
What are your tips for juggling work and study?
I was initially nervous as I had young children and was working at the time. I decided to initially take one subject per semester. After that, I realised the degree was so flexible, so for the following semesters I was able to do more subjects. My biggest tip is to plan a schedule out for all of your assessments and exams at the start of the semester. Getting started early on assessments (where possible), really helped me at times.
What was your favourite subject and why?
I had a few but I would probably say Language and Literacy in Deaf/Hard of Hearing Children. As I mentioned, I feel it was very valuable for me to pick up skills that were specific to Deaf/Hard of Hearing students.
The structure of the course really stood out to me, such as exploring Deaf culture and the different perspectives. Research and Sensory Disability was the most challenging and really opened my eyes to asking questions about my industry. I really enjoyed this subject too.
How did you finance your study?
I was really lucky to be granted a scholarship through the Department of Education. I applied for this after I had completed 6 subjects so it helped towards the cost of those. I was able to put the rest towards my HECS/HELP debt which is a low-interest payment plan. There is a webpage that lists other scholarships that are available in NSW.
What did you learn about the people you were studying with?
Although I only met other students in person on the two workshop days that I completed, I was able to ask others questions on the forum and someone would always get back to me. I would try to do the same for others if I was able to.
With the course itself, there was the online forum so we always could get feedback from our lecturers which was great and there were other social media groups to converse with other students during our study. I did two different placements—one as an itinerant teacher, and one as in a support class. It was great to have that variety
What's your advice for people considering the MDS?
Have a look at the Master of Disability Studies on the Macquarie University Course Finder. Take and look at the structure and course overview as this really helped me. Also look at the Department of Education’s website and look into scholarships which I was fortunate enough to be able to receive.
What does your career look like in the next 5 years?
I am hoping very similar to now as I love it! It is so varied each day. I love working with the youngest students all the way up to Year 12 students. Supporting families, teachers and team members and also learning from both families and teachers is so important and valuable. It really is a two-way street as itinerant teachers are always learning and developing skills along the way.
You’ve just graduated. What’s one word to describe how that feels?