Inclusion in pandemic times

The term ‘inclusion’ has been on the tip of every educator’s tongue for years and has developed into a movement all around the world. The quest to guarantee that all cultures, ethnicities, and religions are accepted within the four walls of a classroom has thankfully gained ground and has altered the way we interact with students. Educators and children alike have been sensitized to appreciate and support each other’s differences.

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As I reflected on the pandemic crisis taking India by storm, I grasped that we had been online for an entire year and inclusiveness means more than what it used to. I stared hard at the screen on our last day of school, and a theory entered my mind- inclusion as an approach is fantastic, but the ones that require to feel loved and supported now fall under different criteria.

The adults in charge

When we first began the school year, we wanted students to work independently so that we could gauge how much they were understanding and work from there. It was not until later that we realized that parental support is vital to students studying virtually, especially in the primary years. Disinterested parents transfer their indifference to their children who feel that they have the liberty to skip classes and cite technical glitches. A dearth of discipline at home makes students feel like they are above the rules and unlike a real classroom, there is no way we can encourage respect in their residences. I have come to understand that in a virtual setting, parental involvement is crucial for the child to realize that what he does matters and will have consequences in his future. Parents now wield power over the child’s school life that cannot be taken casually and therefore should be encompassed as a part of the virtual classroom. Inclusivity must extend to all stakeholders who make the process of education smooth, and parents certainly have a big role to play in this sector.

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The escapees

Inclusion must also extend to the child that we see once a week when he or she deigns to respond to a prompt from the facilitator. The children who are written off as disinterested need to be brought into the fray of education through any means possible. As educators, we have always risen to the challenge of difficult children, and we need to innovate and come up with strategies that bring in the children who try to escape online learning. We cannot leave a single child behind and so as the new session begins, teachers need to revisit their practices to strategize on how to bring forth a curiosity from each student in the classroom. Once the seed of curiosity has been sown, the rest will take care of itself. The children in the primary years are not cognizant of how impacted their education will be if they exhibit irresponsibility towards their lessons, so it is up to us to make them see the meaning in their learning journey.

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The busy bees

Learning online may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and I have become a big believer in a blend of asynchronous and synchronous learning. Teachers revel in assisting children in need which should not be taken advantage of by learners skipping lessons or indulging in gaming on another screen. In the primary years, I realize that it is crucial to have a certain amount of parental supervision during lessons. This ensures that the child pays attention to the lessons and is completing his work on time with a sense of responsibility. However, what happens if a parent cannot change their work schedule to suit the hours of schooling? A child that might have been otherwise contributing to conversations and submitting brilliant work becomes lackadaisical and disinterested because of the lack of accountability. We need to be able to include families which run on various schedules and figure out ways of imparting asynchronous learning that allows folks to support their children in their free time without the pressure of timetables. 

Education is evolving, especially since the pandemic hit us last year. We need to transform the way we think of teaching, the standards of what is acceptable to students and what is not. We should reconsider how we delegate work to our children and assess them, and mulling on the new needs of inclusion is a good way to start.

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