Staff profile: Tom Clarke – Sensory and Interactive College Tutor
The last week of June is always devoted to raising awareness of deafblindness and as part of Deafblind Awareness Week (26th June – 2nd July), we are sharing with you the staff profile of Thomas Clarke, Treloar’s Sensory and Interactive College Tutor.
Deafblind Awareness Week marks the birthday of Helen Keller – one of the most well-known deafblind people in history. She campaigned to improve the treatment of deaf and blind people and to raise awareness of sight and hearing health.
Sensory and Interactive College Tutor, Tom, didn’t set out to become a teacher. He did a biomedical sciences degree at university but decided not to pursue science. While he was working out what to do next, he took a job as a Teaching Assistant in an FE College. He spent three years in community learning with youth offenders and doing classroom-based work with a PMLD class, and soon realised that to progress, he needed to train to teach.
The next step was to do a PGCE course. He applied to do his NQT year at Treloar’s and was placed with an entry level creative and enterprise class, with the support of Debbie Hobbs and Beata Korzeniewska, who acted as mentors during the 2019/2020 academic year. What a year to be an NQT as COVID struck, and everything teachers did was thrown up in the air. Tom’s class had two students in the classroom and three students isolating at home, so he quickly had to adapt to remote learning solutions and providing different solutions for each set of circumstances the pandemic threw up.
Like many teachers, he is relieved to report that gradually things are getting back to how they were. The warmth is slowly coming back to classroom life, as we learn to live with COVID amongst us and reduce the PPE and restrictions in the classroom.
So what was the hook for Tom, which drew him into teaching?
Tom says you get to spend time with ‘the very best of young people’. His classroom is a fun, enjoyable environment. The sensory and interactive students are ‘brutally honest’ and sharing in even the smallest increment of growth is ‘massively rewarding’.
As a College tutor, Tom is with his students who are 19-22-years-old, setting them up with the skills they need for adult life. He enjoys seeing them grow, helping them to use basic communication to express what they want and to be able to indicate their views, even up to indicating ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and giving them the confidence to know that their choices will be respected.
Tom enjoys training his staff and working alongside his classroom team and therapy staff, so they feel empowered and confident to work together for the best student outcomes. He always wants to provide the best opportunities for his class. Last term, he took the class to Lush in Basingstoke to create bath bombs, and enjoyed a sensory theatre performance. Nearly all of Tom’s students have some level of visual impairment, so the sensory experience is very appealing for them.
Over time, Treloar’s students’ needs have become more complex; as a result, Tom is now working towards a further postgraduate professional qualification to become a Qualified Teacher of Multisensory Impairment – Deafblind (Tom is about to finish his first year of a two-year programme). Primary teacher Kajal Mistry is also a part of a two-year programme – she is in her second year of a Qualified Teacher of Visual Impairment qualification. Doing professional training programmes is a part of a broader plan for Treloar’s to be able to support the increasingly complex needs of our students.
One of Tom’s students has severe multisensory impairments, alongside learning difficulties. Tom has supported his classroom team with strategies and ideas to find meaningful ways of communicating with the student. They use ‘Objects of Reference’ which are location markers which use a scent and a tactile object to allow a person to identify which room they are in, and to help them recognise aspects of their daily routine in the classroom, house, or swimming pool, for example. Tom has also been using touch cues to promote effective communication with people with profound and complex learning disabilities and sensory impairments which has been working well in the class.
In just three challenging years, Tom has certainly made an impact at Treloar’s. With his gentle nature and enthusiasm, it’s no surprise to see that Tom’s communication training sessions were fully booked during the January professional training days.
Learn more about other staff members at Treloar’s through our Staff Profile articles:
Careers at Treloar’s
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