Turning the spotlight on the shadow teacher

Last Updated : 20 August 2014, 16:37 IST
Last Updated : 20 August 2014, 16:37 IST

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The concept of shadow teacher is new to many. In fact most people may not have come across this term earlier.

Children in schools are taught to develop academic skills, social skills and independence. Teachers assist children to develop knowledge and gain an understanding of the world around them. 

Besides learning the 3 Rs, teachers also help children to understand the rules of play and social interaction, sharing and caring. However, not all children learn at the same pace as their peers and may need additional support in some areas. This is where the role of the shadow teacher begins.

By definition a shadow teacher is an educational assistant who works directly with a single, special needs child during his/her early school years. These assistants understand a variety of learning disabilities and how to handle them accordingly. Providing a shadow teacher allows the child to attend a mainstream class while receiving the extra attention that he/she needs. 
Roles and duties

In addition to management of the child’s behaviour, it is the responsibility of the shadow teacher to simplify the lesson for the child with special needs by preparing the appropriate instructional materials for the child. 

The shadow teacher is also expected to coach and teach the child in class, increase his or her learning skills and help the child to integrate and play with the other children. 

The place of the shadow teacher is thus inside the class. But in the school under discussion, the many ‘shadow teachers’ (engaged by the parents on orders from the school) apparently sat outside the classroom. 

They came in when called by the teacher to take charge of the child (or take the child out?) when he or she disturbed the class. 

It is obvious that the person whose job requirement is merely to take physical responsibility of the child is nothing more than unlettered ‘ayah’. 

It is an insult to principles of education to refer to these helpers as ‘shadow teachers’.  Clearly, the ‘international’ school has merely imported the impressive word from the developed world and conveniently dumped the objective! A clever arrangement that buys the parents time, teachers peace in class and the school its income! 
Lost cause

In the process, not only does the child’s education go for a toss, the crucial years when early intervention would make a lifetime difference are also lost. What is worse is that with this arrangement, the child is also isolated and seen by the other young children as someone who was ‘different’ or ‘odd’. 

It is a reality that our schools function under difficult conditions. It is common knowledge that almost no school takes in children with major disabilities, physical or mental. 

If there are children with milder forms of disabilities in our elementary schools, it is only because at age three plus, when the child gets admitted into the school, the condition is not apparent (quite often, even to the parents). In a task oriented, curriculum driven system with zero flexibility, a hyperactive child is undeniably difficult to manage. 

But the elitist schools have the money strength and infrastructure strength to not do it the old way. With parents prepared to pay the extra charges, these schools can afford to adopt the various modern ideas and make a real difference to the children. 

They can afford to have a flexible, innovative and less fact driven curriculum for all children in the early years and make learning truly inclusive. For if practiced in the right spirit inclusive education is nothing but good basic learning experience for all young children. 

Published 20 August 2014, 16:37 IST

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