While good ear health always starts at home, the negative effects of poor ear health are often most pronounced in the classroom, where the educational possibilities and outcomes for students suffer. Schools and teachers have an important role to play when it comes to improving the ear health of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. As part of the Australian Government’s Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign a range of resources has been developed for teachers, and educator, Corey Gretch, has jumped at the chance to become a Care for Kids’ Ears ambassador.
Working as an Aboriginal Education Assistant on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Corey has witnessed first-hand the impacts of poor ear health on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
“I work at a pre-school and spend a lot of time with kids aged three to five, and one thing I find is you repeat yourself all day, and often these ear problems can go unnoticed until the students themselves realise they’ve got a problem, which is way too late,” explains Corey.
‘We've got kids up in our primary school, if they're sitting anywhere near the back of the class and we’re having behavioural issues with them, sometimes it can come down to the fact that they’re not hearing what’s going on. I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen those kids get chastised by their teachers because they’re not doing the work.”
An important focus of the Care for Kids’ Ears resources is to educate teachers about the signs and symptoms of Otitis Media, allowing teachers to identify when a student might be struggling with an ear health issue. The resources provide practical guidelines on how best to teach in a classroom where students may be struggling with limited hearing, and importantly, also raise awareness about the wider health contexts related to Otitis Media in Indigenous communities.
Corey believes this information is invaluable for teachers of Indigenous students in being able to teach successfully, and to provide their students with the best education outcomes possible.
“As both a parent and teacher, I want to know how I can diagnose health problems like Otitis Media faster. For me it’s all about early intervention and not letting these health issues affect these kids during those really important early stages of their education.”
As well as educating teachers on the symptoms of Otitis Media, the Care for Kids’ Ears resources also provide tools to help teachers get their students thinking and talking about the importance of good ear health. These resources include activity booklets, posters and a story book.
Corey says he has already noticed a positive impact on his students’ awareness of better ear health after introducing them to some of the Care for Kids’ Ears teaching resources. He believes that raising awareness on Otitis Media, both in the home and in the classroom, is a key element in building stronger futures for Indigenous youth.
“I believe not just in the importance of physical heath, but also the importance of mental health, and if you can’t hear somebody when you’re trying to learn that is going to mess with your mental health. You’re going to be a frustrated person, and that’s no place for learning.”
The Care for Kids’ Ears Campaign is part of the Australian Government’s commitment to improving eye and ear health services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for better education and employment outcomes.
The Care for Kids’ Ears resources for Parents and Carers, Early Childhood & Community Groups, Teachers and Health Professionals can be downloaded or ordered from the Care for Kids’ Ears’ website.