When I was a university student, I just knew that I wanted to become a teacher for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I wasn’t really sure how I would make it happen; I certainly didn’t have any experience working in this area, but I KNEW that this is what I wanted to do with my life. So, what any logical person does when they want to move their life into a particular direction does, I looked up what would be required of me to be a special needs teacher, particularly for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing.
The first thing I needed to do was to learn the language. I enrolled myself into American Sign Language 101 at York University. I loved it! I loved the expressiveness of the language. I loved being able to understand people who were communicating in sign. It challenged me and held me spellbound. I enrolled in the next level and became quite fluent. I soon realized that I needed to become more immersed in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing community to better understand the complexities and issues I would face as a teacher.
Any education program in Canada requires students to have a strong background in volunteering with children. If I were going to apply to Teachers College, I would require experience with children. I contacted a school in my neighbourhood and began volunteering in a grade 5 classroom. I enjoyed my time working with these students, but they were hearing: a small problem for a person who is trying to learn about Deaf and Hard of Hearing culture.
I found the Bob Rumball Centre for the Deaf and started to volunteer there. It wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Most of the clients living there were Deaf and/or Hard of Hearing, as well as special needs. Their communication was rudimentary and hard for me to follow and I was volunteering with adults, not children. A fellow volunteer suggested that I might want to look into volunteering at a school for the Deaf.
After some time, I found the Earnest C. Drury School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing 80km away, in Milton Ontario. A school dedicated to teaching the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Knowing how far it was to travel to, I contacted them and asked if I could volunteer in a classroom. They said yes. I was over the moon and so terribly scared. I was taking the exact step I needed to secure my future as a teacher of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. I went once per week, for a year, spending the day in the classroom and helping where I could help.
I applied to Teacher’s College and was accepted. I was one step closer to my dream.
I ended up in a different career, but that’s another story. The point that I want to illustrate is that my experience volunteering took me into the direction that I needed to go. I had a vision, and volunteering in the right direction took me there. My opportunities gave me a chance to:
- meet people who were able to point me in the right direction
- gain experience where I had none
- enjoy a learning experience
- immerse myself in a new culture
- make a difference in the life of people I connected with
There are so many organizations that would love to have help. There are many ways for you to find volunteer opportunities. Think of what you have to offer, what you would like to gain, and go for it. Volunteer as much or as little as you can.
If you’re looking for a starting point, the Surrey Public Library has both opportunities and references available. You may also consider becoming a Library Champion like Mansoor Karimifar. Leave a comment below to tell me what your goal is, and what steps you will take to get there.