How often during our teaching tenure do we witness nuances pertaining to classroom inclusion? A boy from Africa waiting desperately to make friends in the class, that little girl belonging to a disadvantaged section of the society looking completely withdrawn as no one readily befriends her, or that learner who knows that he can’t read or write the way others do and is therefore mostly gazing outside waiting for the day to end. We have all these little flowers bunched up in a bouquet of diversity. Educators today have the huge task of making these children feel that they are the most beautiful creations of nature.
A classroom is a place where the self-esteem and confidence of learners are either made or marred by every little incident that occurs and registers in the conscious or sub conscious minds of the learners. Therefore, the responsibility of any teacher is to create a non-threatening environment where inclusion of every learner is the key focus. This can be facilitated through a few simple but effective techniques.
- The classroom seating arrangements play a vital role. It has been seen that the crew system, where learners work in clusters, has proved more effective than linear arrangements, where the focus is on the board and the teacher. On the contrary, the crew system propagates the ethics of collaborative working, where learners get into a peer learning mode. However, it is pivotal that peer learning be implemented effectively with certain norms and working agreements laid down in clear terms, otherwise there will always be the danger of a few learners benefitting more from such a method of learning.
- Every child can be assigned a particular role in the process of collaborative learning, where he/she feels an important stakeholder in the process. For example, a group of four students working together can be given the responsibilities of a time keeper, a volume manager, a recorder and a facilitator as regards any assigned task. In this arrangement everyone feels important and no one is left out.
- Learners are also directed to follow certain working agreements and norms: everyone gets a chance to speak, everyone uses positive expressions, ideas are brought forth to the table in a non-judgmental manner, etc.
- An effective lesson plan and a strong pedagogy that centres around discussions among learners, while each has an assigned responsibility of a given topic can add to the inclusive environment. Additionally, learners learn to accept each other and respect varied perspectives. Such an environment resonates interdependence and a sense of responsibility towards each other, which eventually enables learners to overcome discriminatory tendencies.
- Appreciation sessions during quality circle time can also help learners recognize their own attributes when their peers appreciate them for their various skills. For example, a class can be made to sit in groups and learners can be asked to share at least one virtue of their peers: “I really appreciate you because….” Giving a reason for their compliments will make them more authentic. The receiver feels good and the one who is complimenting will also observe and think about the other person’s qualities more honestly and empathetically.
A classroom is like a garden where each flower is beautiful in its own way. It is the educator’s responsibility to ensure that the learners sincerely appreciate each other’s fragrance and beauty.
The author has been working as a senior educator for the last eight years in The Heritage School, Vasant Kunj. She is currently facilitating the social science faculty on experiential pedagogies and innovative ways of teaching as a part of the school curriculum. She is also a practitioner of yoga and energy healing work and is creating a design to bring the benefits of yoga and meditation to the school children. She can be reached at [email protected].