Education that is Multicultural: Inclusive Education 1

Blog #11

January 11, 2017

This blog is authored by Study Abroad in India student Christina Singh who is currently pursuing her Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education at the City College of New York.

The Step by Step school is a private inclusive school welcoming to all children who need support. The school is made up about 50 professionals who are all committed to inclusion. One core belief of the Step by Step school is that "students learn best in a respectful, supportive community of trust where each student's learning needs and abilities are understood and accommodated as fully as possible." At the Step by Step school, inclusion is well executed - inclusion of children as well as inclusion of communities.

As we entered the gates of the Step by Step school, I could tell what we were about to see was going to be different than the Pratham community-based centers. The grounds of the school were well groomed and lined with pots of plants. Children's art work hung on the pillars leading the way into the school. Upon arrival, an image of Mother Saraswati greeted us at the door. Saraswati is the Hindu goddess of knowledge, musi c, arts, wisdom and learning. As we walked through the school children's art work was displayed on the hallway walls. The hallways were long and extending into different directions. As we peeked into one classroom, we saw children engaged in story time. We passed by the computer room where children were playing mathematical games. In the art room, children were painting pottery they had made from clay. We entered a special education classroom specifically designed for autistic children. The classroom teacher told us that he set up his classroom in a way that would support the children and allow them to complete classwork without verbal instruction. He told us that the reward for the children was completing the actual task. This made me think about the extrinsic reward system in America where a child would get a sticker or star for completion of a task.

Tagore's Theory of Inclusive Education promotes the idea that "education is a relational process between the child, teacher peers and nature (environment)" (Mukherjee, 2013). At the Step by Step school, this is well represented as we saw the school and parents sensitize and raise awareness about children with special needs. Professionals at the Step by Step school help students to reach their full potential academically as well as holistically, along with the help of parents and communities near and far.

8 responses
This school was really inspiring, and was concerned with the child's success beyond school years. I think its so important to have mentors you can identify with. The school for instance was very aware of this and asked success stories of people with special needs to come in and show the kids the embodiment of what was possible. They demonstrated not just examples of surviving, but thriving – 2 were attending prestigious Universities including Stanford and another the 8 armed man a writer/musician.
I agree with puiyee. I also think its incredibly important to have mentors that a child can identify with. The fact that they have so many activities for the children to do such as shows, cooking classes, science and so much more really captivated how happy the children are. Just because they have a disability doesn't mean they dont have the right to do everyday normal activities. When we entered the playroom where they had a chance to make the bed, fold shirts and play games really proved to see how rich and comfortable the school made the children feel
What I loved most about the Step By Step school was the motivational quotes surrounding the place. "Disability is not an inability" stood out to me the most. I work with adults with special needs and there are often terms used to describe them that are dehumanizing and disrespectful. Seeing how this institution is all about inclusion was beautiful and is what this world needs.
During this visit I could not help but think about how we define students with disabilities in the United States. Within the seven years I have worked in NYC public schools, students with an IEP are often given a vague label of "learning disability" that is not thoroughly defined. I think a large part of this labeling is related to our deficit views of specific communities and in our misunderstanding of students's "school readiness".
This school let me speechless. Everything was organized and well directed. I love the hands on experience these children are involved with. It is based on real life situations. Like the playroom, how it has actual bed, actual table, an iron as to prepare them for real life situations (It reminds me of Vygosky's philosophy on hands on experiences on making real life situations in the classroom, such as cooking, painting, sewing etc). I was also amazed by this children ability to paint. They are real artist. Art is real important for children with a disability, it is a way to express their feelings and emotions. I also love the dedication of these teachers. The school has creative dedicate teachers and talented students. I believe in equality for all, and you could be able to see that in the Step by Step school. Great work!
Step by Step was by far the most organized and comprehensive school we visited. I was very impressed with the way they taught their students to be so independent. As we walked around, couple of students were cleaning staged rooms while others were either making a bed or dusting some furniture. It felt as if every student was accommodated for whatever needs s/he had. It made me see a completely different way of dealing with students with disability, which is different than what we know in the U.S.
The inspiration that surrounds The Step by Step school is outstanding! not only do you see inspiration plastered on the walls through student' artwork and motivational quotes, but you can also see it through the tenderness of the faculty and staff. They want to see the children thrive. They want their students to be as independent as possible, and the effort shows tremendously!
I was so impressed by how eager and happy the students were to learn and how small the class sizes were. One thing that I was surprised about was how kids were allowed/ not reprimanded for running in the halls. As a student, I remember that being a serious offense and something we would only dare do when we thought no teacher was looking. Students at this school zoomed by us, adult visitors, and faculty members without a second thought. This made me think about the contrast of rules in the classroom and the leniency once outside the classroom.