Education28th October 2013

Being Deaf won't stop me being a Primary School Teacher

At 18 years of age Anne-Julie Pelletier-Lampert left France for London in pursuit of her ambition to become one of the few Deaf teachers that practice in the UK

by Sarah Lawrence

SLFirst was delighted to catch up with a lovely young French lady, now living in Watford, but who was born and brought up in St Jean de Braye in France. Anne-Julie Pelletier-Lampert is 23 years old and was born Deaf. As a little girl growing up, Anne-Julie communicated with her family using French Sign Language (LSF).

With lots of parental support and a determined nature, Anne-Julie took parts in lots of sports, including gymnastics, synchronised swimming, karate, and Taekwondo! As if that wasn't enough, she also went to dance lessons where she learned modern jazz, hip-hop and African dance.

Anne-Julie attended mainstream education from primary school through to university, applying herself to get the most of her education. From an early age, Anne-Julie wanted to become a teacher, but for a time it looked too difficult, and she began to wonder whether she would ever achieve her ambition. Initially, that meant she put her ambitions on hold and accepted easier, non-vocational jobs. However, deciding to come to Britain to study and with subsequent success in gaining the qualifications she wanted from College in London, she started to think again about teaching.

As with most Deaf students, Anne-Julie explained that there were some barriers through her deafness to her achieving her ambitions, which made things very tough for her and the funding was also problematic.

Whilst Anne-Julie is very grateful for the support she was provided, she explains that its provision also presents further problems which other students do not need to deal with. As such she feels being Deaf held her back, and she had to work harder to get the results she needed. Some of this additional burden surrounded her admission to the university as well as being responsible for counting the hours of her interpreter, note-taker and English language support.

Anne-Julie is a believer in hard work and that good things will come to those who work hard enough for it. Anne-Julie explained that she got herself a notebook and read a French-English pocket dictionary every day throughout her teenage years. Anne-Julie explained that wherever she was, she always had her notebook and dictionary with her and she took every moment she had to learn a little bit more. 

Whilst still young and making her own way in life, Anne-Julie believes she had already learned some important lessons in life, and in response to asking about a message for deaf youngsters, she said, “when something seems difficult, it does not mean impossible. It simply means that you have to work hard”.

​Maintaining a positive outlook on life, Anne-Julie explained that there are aspects of her deafness which she likes. "Our language is very beautiful and visual", she said enthusiastically. "I enjoy lots about deaf culture and the sense of deaf community around the world. Interestingly, it is easy to communicate with deaf foreign people using international sign language, which is quicker to understand than hearing people who communicate with foreign hearing people!"

Like many deaf youngsters before her, Anne-Julie suffered the experiences of people telling her that she could not do this or the other. When asked what she did about that, defiantly Anne-Julie  simply explained, "I just ignored them. They don't know me and they don't know what I am capable of."

Unlike many deaf youngsters, Anne-Julie was fortunate enough to have a deaf role model, someone who she looked up to and provided her inspiration. Emmanuelle Laborit, a French actress was an award winning actress, receiving a trophy from Molière of theatrical revelation in 1993 for her role in ‘Children of a Lesser God’. Emmanuelle also became the ambassador for Sign Language in France. Anne-Julie looked up to Emmanuelle whilst she was growing up, as she considered her a very strong deaf woman. She was also lucky enough to see her in a theatre performance and met her briefly afterwards when she was able to get her autograph.

With re-kindled ambition, Anne-Julie is working tirelessly towards the achievement of her degree this academic year, and hopes to have the opportunity to start her career as a primary school teacher within the next three years.

Outside of her studies, Anne-Julie is still active and has a fulfilling lifestyle, enjoying sports, traveling around the world, learning other languages and helping charities. She also enjoys learning new crafts, something I am sure will come in handy when she starts as a primary school teacher.

Despite being young and growing up in an equality focused society, Anne-Julie has suffered discrimination and some of the age old problems that deaf people have suffered over many years. At university, Anne-Julie had a BSL interpreter provided to her, but she quickly found that the quality of the interpreter was not sufficient to support her studies. She found that she didn't understand what he said and he didn’t observe his interpreter boundary. Showing great maturity, Anne-Julie decided to change the interpreter but he responded angrily and told her she could not change. She felt that he was bullying her, but undeterred, she made the arrangements to change the interpreter and made a complaint about him to the manager of disability services.

In another case, she suffered direct discrimination when she applied for a job as an assistant nurse, a job for which she has the appropriate qualification. The person managing the recruitment process, emailed Anne-Julie to tell her that she could not be offered the job because she was deaf, and that would make her vulnerable. Anne-Julie found the response hurtful and heartbreaking.

Looking at her own education and thinking about her future role as a teacher, Anne-Julie is of the opinion that the best education for deaf children is bilingual English and BSL although that does depend on the children’s hearing levels. Ultimately, it is about choice as some children prefer to learn through Sign Supported English or oral. Anne-Julie explained, "If the bilingual route is provided, it means that when children grow up they can use sign language with their families or deaf friends and in a social setting they can communicate by English, meaning they are able to talk in both the deaf and hearing worlds." She also supports the use of visual aids, clues, tools and other resources that are very helpful for deaf children.

Describing her move from France to England, Anne-Julie told me that she met some deaf people from the UK in a silent festival in Paris as a teenager. She saw them use British Sign Language and she was attracted by it and wanted to learn straight away. Shortly afterwards she visited London and fell in love with it. A few year later when she was 18, Anne-Julie moved to London on her own and studied in a London college for 2 years. Being so young, her parents couldn’t believe it but they are now very happy for her. She became passionate about learning English and BSL both of which supported her learning. After Anne-Julie achieved BTEC, PTLLS, BSL level 6 qualifications she didn’t want to go back to France because she met Benjamin Lampert, a lovely man she went on to marry!

Anne-Julie is now studying a teaching course at university, aiming to follow a family tradition, with her brother and parents all being teachers as well. Understandably, she is missing France, the culture, the language, lovely foods, and her wonderful family and friends, so she does return home quite often. Despite some of the difficulties Anne-Julie has faced, she is of the view that deaf access in the UK is better than in France. As a point of interest, she tells me that BSL is different from LSF with BSL using a two-handed alphabet and LSF uses a one-handed alphabet.

A delightful but determined young deaf woman, we are backing Anne-Julie to realise her ambitions and become one of the very few Deaf teachers in the UK. 

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Community / Education

28th October 2013