Only through a shared responsibility will inclusion work

Finding the right structure to support a child whilst considering the whole class. This is one of today's challenges

Finding the right structure to support a child whilst considering the whole class. This is one of today’s challenges

Wherever we work in pursuit of a more equitable education system teachers talk about obstacles. The barriers to inclusion have been constantly listed, and mulled over for as long as I can remember. Negative attitudes from teachers, lack of professional training, poor resourcing, insufficient time, these are recurring themes that arise whenever we discuss the need for change in schools. Blame culture also has a significant presence in this field. Teachers in that school aren’t interested, the government doesn’t invest, parents object to having these children in schools. Each of these is cited as a reason not to progress.

Working with a group of dedicated students here in Bangalore is a tremendous antidote to the negative expressions that we often hear. Their enthusiasm is infectious and their ability to focus on a task and see it through makes our job as tutors relatively easy. Today began with them looking at how structured teaching approaches could be developed in classrooms to support pupils who experience difficulties with learning. They designed visual timetables, analysed classroom environments, developed positive approaches to visual structure and shaped plans for pupils with a range of individual needs. Such is their commitment to the tasks we set that getting them to break for lunch is all but impossible.

The afternoon was occupied with a consideration of how schools might best collaborate with families and the local community to enhance the inclusion of all children. Rights and responsibilities were at the core of the discussion with students considering how empathetic approaches could be developed for the benefit of all parties. The ability to decentre and see the perspectives of others is an important skill for any teacher who wishes to promote inclusive teaching and learning, and these were certainly in evidence throughout this afternoon’s class. A statement of actions to be taken for the support of families was written by each group and related back to the principles they established earlier in the week.

A key to successful inclusion is most certainly the development of partnerships based upon shared responsibility. In our current market driven education systems it is easy to lose sight of the reason why most of us entered the teaching profession, which was founded upon a commitment to children and their families. The principles that our students have devised for the development of inclusive schools need to be kept at the forefront of our thinking in all that we do. Once we sacrifice our principles for material gain or influence and forget our responsibilities or the motivations that originally set us on our paths within education we are destined to build failing systems and to let down those for whom we have a responsibility. There will be times for sure when we are called upon to make a decision to either do that which is expedient, or that which is right. Let’s hope we have the courage to follow the correct path.

Having seen the way in which our students have participated and shared in learning this week I am convinced that they will move forward with a high regard for the principles they have established. I only hope that we as tutors and organisers of this course can live up to their high expectations.

 

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Structure for support of an individual and the benefit of us all

Structure for support of an individual and the benefit of us all

 

7 thoughts on “Only through a shared responsibility will inclusion work

  1. A pointer to the fact that there is no dearth of committed teachers – they need opportunities to learn more ways to help children and higher ups who also believe in inclusion.

  2. Along these lines I had a good conversation with my pre-service teachers this morning. There was some negativity around the idea of inclusion so I, along with my teaching partner, turned the conversation around to the idea of staying true to core principles – in much the same way you have mentioned in this post, Richard. We then started talking about the need to keep children and love at the centre of their practice, and to try and remember this as they get involved in a ‘career path’. It was a really terrific, positive conversation in the end. By the sounds of it this sort of thinking is coming quite naturally to your Indian students. We have much to learn from them.

    • We really are very privileged to work with students who have committed themselves so much to their children. I am sure that the majority of teachers with the right support could be equally enthusiastic about the principles that students here have devised. Often the problems of moving on are associated with the business model that has infiltrated education systems and led to school managers rather than teachers making decisions based upon financial expediency rather than child focused principles. It’s good to hear that this conversation is continuing in Canada. Wherever we are we need to ensure that our students and colleagues are supported so that whatever the obstacles they can confront these for the benefit of all learners and a wider society.

      • We had an incident in our school, Pramiti. Just the day before, a couple came to me and expressed concern about their daughter who has been with us for 2 years now, that she has off late started exhibiting behaviour of a peer who is a child with downs syndrome. They said that although they did understand that these things don’t stay on and is only a phase, the grandparents were concerned and were constantly putting pressure to change the school and put a child in a ” non- inclusive” school. I was amused. Is there any school that is ” non inclusive”? I tried to put their worries to rest by giving them enough examples but finally what worked was when I asked them if they would have the same concern if the child had a sibling who was a child with special needs. They were taken aback. They got thinking and left without uttering another word. As people we are only concerned or tolerant when our own family members are facing issues, we do not care about anybody else. It is always my son, my daughter, my husband and so on and so forth. I did not want to be so out rightly honest with the parents but when they said that they have been telling their daughter not to be friends with the other child, I was left with no option but to tell the blatant truth which can come over them also. I hate to say this but we have always as people fought for ourselves, for our family, for our country. When are we going to see the world a s our home and not just parts of it? When are we going to become citizens of the world and not just India or America or Japan. Yes, there is a lot of talent and there are also people who want to work together but there are still barriers and walls. I am glad that through the M. A programme,we are able to find more and more passionate individuals who are truly working together for children.

        • A very thoughtful posting Savitha. I am aware of your committment and passion and this comes through strongly in your writing. I think we need to empathise with parental concerns and understand that these are genuine and not necessarily an indication of prejudice of exclusivity. After all, we all want the best for our children. Clearly you handled this situation well and hopefully concerned parents will seen be able to see the benefits of your inclusive set us as much as those aspects that may worry them.
          Keep up the good work

  3. What stands out for me is the reluctance of some teachers and school heads to embrace the concept of teaching for all children in the same manner…. is it the idea of change that stops them? or is it the concept of inclusion? Why this discrimination of children from lower social strata ? or who are different from them? It is not like they had a choosing on where they were born or how they were born? who wouldn’t want to be the best in everything they do? I believe the attitude of us Indians plays a key role.. we are sooo used to following what has been told and set in our ideas that we at times shy away from change. I agree with Mr.Tim Loreman we have forgotten our core principals for educating children .. that it is to enable the child to not only learn our values and subject matter but as educators to keep the needs of the child as the primary focus and move forward from there

    • Do not despair Kalpana. Every individual that works towards change makes a difference. If you lead by example some of your colleagues will follow for sure.

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