Primary Teaching Through Irish Sign Language - Kevin's Story

In 2019, four students began their journey to becoming the first Deaf primary school teachers using Irish Sign Language (ISL) in Ireland. Kevin Dudley is just one of the four students, and in this piece he describes his experience of the B.Ed in Irish Sign Language at DCU so far.

“I am profoundly deaf since birth due to genetics, as both of my parents are also deaf. I attended a deaf school where the teachers and SNAs communicated with us through Irish Sign Language. Some of the teachers in my school were also deaf, so that added to making my school experience really enjoyable.

I never encountered any difficulties communicating with others until my teenage years. I was extremely active in secondary school, playing sports such as soccer, rugby and water polo, however playing with teams who had no knowledge of ISL really impacted on my participation in sport as I always felt left out. While it was tough for me trying to participate in sport, I’m happy that things are gradually improving, with sports clubs becoming more aware and inclusive when it comes to people with disabilities playing sports.

With my passion for sport, I went on to study Sports Management and Coaching in Institute of Technology Blanchardstown after secondary school. It wasn’t until I was offered the opportunity to work in the Holy Family School for the Deaf in Cabra as a PE teacher covering a maternity contract, that I had thought about becoming a teacher.

I contacted Dr. Elizabeth Matthews, who worked in DCU’s Institute of Education, inquiring about a primary teaching course at DCU. She informed me she was in the process of developing a new course that would allow deaf students to become primary school teachers. Fast forward three years later, I received an email from Dr. Matthews with the great news that DCU had established the Bachelor of Education in Irish Sign Language. I applied for a place on the course and was delighted when I found out I had been accepted!

I’ve just completed my first year of the B.Ed (ISL), and it’s been a challenging but enjoyable year. Primary teaching requires a lot of studying and reading, so it’s taken up a lot of my time! The course has been very rewarding, as I’ve had the opportunity to work the most amazing lecturers and colleagues, and not forgetting the wonderful children on my school placement. My school placement was probably my favourite part of the course so far, as I got to return to the Holy Family School for the Deaf. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 global pandemic, my school placement was cut short.

With DCU closing due to the pandemic, students had to learn remotely. I struggled a lot at the start, but over time I got used to this new normal. Our lecturers worked tirelessly to ensure students were comfortable with virtual learning and contributed additional support to meet the needs of all students. The wellbeing of students is a top priority for DCU, so I cannot thank DCU enough for their continued support over the last year.

 

I’m really looking forward to what the future has in store for me after graduating from DCU. I would love to teach at the Holy Family School for the Deaf full time, with the hope of becoming a school principal in the future! Ultimately, I want to provide the best education possible to children and ensure they are in a classroom environment where they are comfortable and happy.”