2.1 An inclusive teacher respects the individuality of each child

An inclusive teacher helps children to develop self-confidence and self-esteem and to feel included in the learning community. It starts with the language used by everybody in the classroom, teachers and pupils, and by the way the language is used. The teacher must ask himself:

  • Does the language used by all in the class to speak to and about the child show she/he is valued?
  • Do my language and my attitude demonstrate that I respect this person, her/his identity and rights?
  • Do I value the child when I interact with her/him?
  • Do I know the appropriate terms to use when I name children who have a disability and to talk of their disability? 

The language used is often loaded with emotions, particularly for children who have a disability. Let’s reflect on Marie’s case.

Case study 1: Mr Dumee helps Marie regain her self-confidence

In a school in Mauritius, the young Marie has one leg shorter than the other. In class and in school, peers call her ‘One and a half hour’. Marie is really sad because of this nickname. At the beginning, she did try to resist being called so, but she was bullied and hit by older boys. She resigned to settle for the loser’s peace rather than struggle eternally. Marie became withdrawn and lost all her happiness. In class, she did not dare to raise her hand to answer questions as she was afraid that the slightest mistake will make other children laugh at her and that she would have to bear remarks like: ‘One and a half hour can only say stupid things.’ Mr Dumee, the teacher, could not understand why Marie would not participate in class even though her results were always good.

Activity 3: How to help Marie?

This activity will enable teachers to offer solutions to support Marie.

  • First, ask teachers to work individually and to quickly note all the ideas they have to support Marie.
  • Then, ask teachers to work in pairs and share their suggestions and discuss on how to help Marie to gain self-confidence.

If you are a teacher working alone, quickly note down all the ideas that come to mind and then, for each idea given, indicate how this would help Marie to gain self-confidence

Does Mr Dumee’s suggestion figure among your ideas?

Mr Dumee talked with Marie and then organised an activity for the whole class. He asked all the pupils to write a harsh word and a kind word on two different pieces of paper. He then collected the papers and turned them face down on the table so that the children could not see what was written on them. All children were made to choose one without looking at it and this nickname was pinned on their back. Those who had harsh words were profusely mocked by their classmates. Mr Dumee asked the children how they felt when they were called by these names and when the others mocked them. He then asked those who got nice words how they felt.

He concluded by asking pupils to think on how Marie must have felt when they called her ‘One and a half hour’. He motivated the pupils to present their apologies to Marie and to decide on using nicer words when they talk to her or when they talk about her.

 You must have noticed that Mr Dumee did not moralise, but instead helped the children to develop empathy towards their classmate. The idea was to make them feel what Marie felt, which helped them to appreciate and understand that in spite of our differences we do have similar feelings in similar situations.

2. The inclusive teacher’s attitude and behaviour

2.2 Using appropriate words when talking about disabled children and their disability