Après le déluge

 

A picture of concentration typical of students getting to grips with the challenge of identifying a practical research topic

A picture of concentration typical of students getting to grips with the challenge of identifying a practical research topic

 

Ah, the best laid plans, and all that. Yesterday I mentioned the need for a good night’s sleep before teaching all day today. Sadly nature, in the form of the monsoon, conspired against me. At two o’clock this morning I was sitting up in bed reading as the deluge roared outside my window allowing for only minimal respite. Sleep throughout the night was intermittent and I was not quite bushy tailed on rising this morning. However, predictably the adrenaline of teaching and the stimulation that comes from a group of enthusiastic students saw me through the day. Let’s hope for a quiet night tonight.

It is easy for those of us who work in universities and engage with research all the time to forget how daunting the prospect of writing a dissertation can seem. This morning I was conscious of the apprehensions felt by a number of our students as we began the journey to prepare them for writing the major piece of work associated with the MA programme. I hope they were strengthened when I showed them a dissertation received just this morning from a student from an earlier cohort who has completed her studies, and assured them that they are all more than capable of completing the task. The students I work with here in India are amongst the most able I ever encounter, the challenges they face are far more associated with the approaches to teaching and learning that they encounter on this course, many of which differ greatly from their undergraduate experiences, than with any conceptual or intellectual issues.

This morning our students have begun to consider the research that they will undertake over the next year, and it was soon apparent that they have already begun to reflect upon their experiences and challenge themselves to address a range of complex issues. At the core of all their thinking is a desire to conduct research that will benefit children, teachers and parents and help them to enhance their own roles as professionals with a commitment to inclusive learning. Listening to their ideas and engaging with them in debates about the justification for their studies sharpens my own thinking and reminds me of why I first entered this profession.

Their professional lives as teachers feel very familiar in many respects, though I also find myself wondering at the considerable differences that characterise the systems in which we work. The discussions today were far ranging from the relationship between a Montessori approach and principles of inclusion, through the pressures upon siblings of having a brother or sister with a disability and the nature of behaviours seen as disruptive by some teachers but not by others. As these students strive to develop their ideas for a research project they explore their own beliefs and attitudes and consider how their own actions may shape the education institutions in which they work.

By the end of this week I am confident that every one of these highly professional colleagues will have found the basis of a project that will add to our understanding of inclusive teaching and learning in India. My hope is that on completion of their studies each one of these individuals may influence the attitudes, expectations and understanding of colleagues with whom they come into contact on a daily basis. For some this will be an easier task than for others. But with the commitment I see before me in class here in Bangalore I wouldn’t put anything beyond their abilities. I anticipate the coming days with some excitement.