This course in Pune turns the spotlight on shadow teachers
Indian classrooms in mainstream schools tend to be large. Personalized attention is mostly absent, and in such a scenario, the needs of children with disabilities tend to get neglected.
The Sugamya Bharat Abhiyaan and Sarva Sheeksha Abhiyaan mandate that all children have the right to education. This does not end at providing a ramp, handrails and an accessible toilet. What it also means is that children with disabilities are enabled in the classroom such that they have access to the lessons, and other activities.
It is here that the role of a shadow teacher becomes important. Children with disabilities enrolled in mainstream, inclusive schools benefit immensely from the presence of shadow teachers, who act as co-teachers and take a child with a disability under their wing.
This usually means sitting with the child in a regular classroom and giving him or her the support needed to keep pace with the other children. The idea is to enable these children to eventually become a part of the rest of the classroom and function independently.
A shadow teacher also acts as a go-between for parents and teachers. Hence, a well informed and sensitive shadow teacher is critical to make inclusive education actually work.
Nandita Paul, who calls herself a special needs educator and remedial teacher, says shadow teachers also have to ensure that the child under their care is physically and mentally engaged.
"The shadow teacher needs to have sound knowledge of his or her role, which is to assist the teacher in the class, to take the learning the class teacher is giving and to impart it to the child separately. Shadow teachers must also ensure the child interacts with others and give him/her opportunities to showcase their talents".
However, it is hard to find a shadow teacher and special educators are reluctant to do the job. So, there is a gap when it comes to the number of shadow teachers as well as awareness of what the role entails.
To meet this gap, NGO EKansh Trust and SNDT WU Department of Special Education have partnered to offer a two-day basic course in shadow teaching in Pune. Both days are Saturdays to enable more people to enrol.
Shadow teachers becoming more popular because of the whole focus on inclusive education. They act as enablers. A lot of parents are very academic-focused and tend to be concerned when they feel their child is not learning much. The shadow teacher helps ensure that the child's therapy needs are addressed and that he/she does well in academics. Also, many parents don't know how to negotiate with the schools in terms of exemptions, exams, etc., so shadow teachers act as a go-between. - Anita Iyer, Founder, EKansh Trust
The course is on two days, on 13 and 20 October and is open to parents, siblings as well as anyone who aspires to be a shadow teacher. This will be followed by an advanced course at a later stage.
Iyer says so far there is no system of a shadow teacher in place in many mainstream schools. Some schools recommend it as it helps the child get the attention he/she needs in the classroom.
"It's also a lucrative career option as usually parents pay the salary of the shadow teacher apart from the school fees. Some schools also split the fees with the parents", says Iyer. Typically, the payment for shadow teaching ranges between Rs.5000 -10,000 a month, sometimes more.
A Bengaluru-based parent, who does not want to be named, says her seven-year-old daughter has benefitted immensely from the presence of a shadow teacher.
"She sets certain goals for her every week, like learning the names of the other kids and the correct behaviour to follow to get the teacher's attention. Over time, my daughter has become more confident and is able to work in class without help".