A teacher spat upon by a student in the middle of the class, may be a horrendous scene to visualise, but it is a familiar scene in ‘special’ schools. Here the children hit, smack, kick, vomit, shout and boss their teachers anytime without warning.
After the awkward situation, the teachers also have to explain themselves to the children’s parents who demand answers for the consequences that follow. During her training, 21-year-old Sangeeta Sisodia experienced many such odd occurrences (in her practical periods) with special children. Not being professional in the field, she agrees to have been irritated many times.
“But after getting irritated I feel sorry. They are just four and five-year-olds and being ‘special’ makes the situation even more overwhelming. Each passing day I just fall more and more in love with these children. Now, I am determined to pursue special education as my subject.”
“A special educator is basically everything for their children. They are the teachers, family, friend, doctor, guide and whatever you may think of for any ‘normal’ person. We fulfil all those needs for these children,” says Sisodia, who is presently pursuing her first year of special educator training at YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), Nizamuddin.
Hemlata, a trainer for special educators for the past 10 years says, “We teach them to deal with each child individually within a classroom. There are different kinds of special children in a class, some have hearing disabilities, some visual, some ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), autistics, some MRs (mentally retarded). A special educator has to handle all of them separately in one classroom.”
Sisodia says she realised that she wanted to be a teacher in this field because she wanted to ‘make a difference in someone’s life’. For many of her fellow classmates and others it has been a reason to ‘help a family member’, ‘be of service to humanity’, ‘to make God happy’, ‘to earn money’, but for a sizeable population it is also to make themselves happy.
“A special educator cannot make salary as their motivation to work in this field. They have to like their job. Though educational qualifications always matter, but a special educator is recognised by their interpersonal skills more,” says Alka, visually impaired, with 17 years of experience in the field. She earns Rs 13, 000.
“One cannot take the school as a workplace but rather like home,” she adds. “The job of a special educator is to make a special child ‘independent’ and a ‘contributory member of the society as per their potential’,” says Dr Anupam Ahuja, National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT) department of special education.
“The idea at the end is to integrate these children with normal children. In government schools, there is an inclusive classroom where special and normal children sit together. Under the category of special, we also include children from marginalised sections. The teacher student ratio is 1:40, where three to four children would be special,” Dr Ahuja tells Metrolife.
Keeping in mind different kinds of differently abled, the NCERT along with other non-profit organisations has created ‘resource centres’ under Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, where a severely or profoundly challenged child can be given single handed attention. “We realised that even a special educator requires a support system,” she adds.