“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.
When we have something that we think is good, why wouldn’t we want to share it with our friends?
I have always had an ambition that our students on the MA in Special and Inclusive Education programme in Bangalore will become leaders for change across India. This may sound like a tall order, but if you met our students it would be a bold move to tell them otherwise. As an Englishman I am ever conscious of the impact upon change an individual in India may have. But I am also a realist. If these dedicated individuals are to bring about change they will need friends.
Today we had an open day on the course. Our students were invited to bring a friend or colleague to the day’s sessions to get a taste of the work they are doing. The hope is that the enthusiasm of our committed students infects these visitors and that they may then join them in the cause. This approach is not without risk. Our students have got to know and trust each other, they discuss and debate all ideas with a passion and have learned to work in a critical, though supportive environment. Would our visitors today be shocked at the frankness of exchange? How would they fit within a well-established group? Having spent so long talking about how we create the conditions for inclusion I have to say I was confident that our friends would be welcomed.
The morning session considered how the curriculum models we had discussed in module 1 could be practically applied for individual pupils with a range of needs. Our established students have been working in groups and we spread our visitors amongst them. No quarter was taken, they joined in as if they were themselves course members. Our students were magnificent, ensuring that their new friends were fully briefed and engaged in the activities. In their turn our visitors rose to the challenge and we were soon into the familiar territory of critical debate. Together they planned lessons, and devised assessments for pupils across a range of needs. They looked not only at the academic needs of children but also addressed their social, moral and spiritual needs and their place in developing skills, attitudes and understanding within the school curriculum. At the end of the morning they revisited their school principles and assessed their own progress in living up to these standards. They have become self-critical, but also quietly pleased with the ways in which they are able to apply learning.
Handing over to Mary for the afternoon session I knew that they would maintain the momentum of the morning’s work. Another delicious lunch, far from slowing our students down seemed to give them renewed energy. Mary’s session on multi-sensory teaching provided a well-balanced blend of theory and practice and drew upon her own experiences as well as those of members of the group. Ideas were developed and shared and examples of potential application of techniques emerged. Shared activity resulted in effective learning as all worked together towards solving problems and implementing solutions. New learning was applied and personal achievements celebrated.
Both our regular group and their friends left happy at the end of the day. Hopefully our leaders have found new supporters who will share the journey towards creating more inclusive schools here in India. With enthusiasm such as this they can hardly fail.
As an aside: walking along the lane outside the Brindavan Trust building I met a cow. Nothing unusual in this, (for those of you unfamiliar with India, cows are a regular feature of Indian city streets). As the cow approached me in friendly fashion I suddenly realised that it had red horns! Red – a sign of danger (most of the world), or of good luck (China) or of mourning (South Africa). None of these it would appear. The Indian festival of Sankranthi, a celebration of harvest has just finished and the painting of horns is all part of the celebration. So, the next time I meet a cow with red horns I will know what to discuss with her. That is always assuming she speaks English!