Teaching practicum today was a revelation. We visited a special school in the city and spent two hours learning about the various roles the teachers play, the challenges that they face and what makes them do it day over day.
A stark contrast between these schools and a normal school was the vibrance of the smile that each teacher carried. Veena, the computer teacher told us about how she’d walk into the school, in the morning, with her mundane worries and problems. But within the first five minutes, the children would bring a smile on her face and she invariably goes back home rejuvenated. Compare that to the general energy curve of teachers in “normal” institutions. It wanes through the day and by evening they are ready to snap at the first minor slight like a sharp twig.
Ajay, was a child of about 6 or 7, who had spinal issues that prevented him from standing up straight or walking on his own. He was sitting quietly, by himself, in the grass when he spotted me. He asked me to sit next to him. When I did, he asked me to call A over, and then sister as well. The child was collecting friends.
We met the “nerds” of the school, extremely regular-looking children, complete with their nerd glasses. They were the furthest in academics in the school. They had all attended regular schools at one point and were forced to switch over because they were either slow learners or showed minor signs of mental retardation. In most cases, it was the parents of other children that wanted these kids gone from regular schools. Huh!
Tarun was one of the senior boys in the school and walked us through their games room. Half his brain seemed to be eaten out from the inside, while the outside looked normal, with hair and all. His smile made it all disappear.
Stuti had a severe speech impairment and she could only call me ‘Se-Ah’. But that didn’t stop her from coming over and introducing herself to me or offering me her lunch.
All the teachers spoke passionately about how each child was an individual and there was no canned, one-size-fits-all approach with these kids. They talked about how most of these kids forget a lot of what was taught when they return from the summer vacations and they had to redo these lessons over. All are common with the mainstream education around us. Except, here that reality pinches much deeper.
I was surprised by the strange indifference that the principal showed to the kids. As she walked into the class for the autistic kids, Tuvon walked over to her to say hello. She almost looked past him towards the walls and moved on.
It made me wonder if that is what is bred when you do this long enough. When you teach special children for enough years, do they just become like normal children to you? And is that a bad thing? After all, we do want them to feel included, don’t we?
“Oh! All this talk is making me ultra solemn. Am I not your very own, crazy, special child? Pet me and your worries will be forgotten! ” Scotch