Last week, I joined with Mobility India to give a Kannada-language workshop to government school teachers in Chamarajanagar, near Mysore.
Mobility India runs after-school support classes for struggling students and students with disabilities. Over the last few months, I’ve been to Chamarajanagar twice for sessions with after-school volunteers. These volunteers are dedicated, curious and eager to understand the problems of students. Each time has been an eye-opening experience for me when they told me about the practical problems of working with students with developmental or learning disabilities in their jobs. It’s commendable that they are so involved with their students and care so deeply.
The session I conducted last week was exclusively for teachers. They were an engaged group who participated actively with questions, comments and suggestions. This workshop was on invisible disabilities — learning disabilities.
The approximately 40 teachers whom I worked with already have such struggling students in their classes. When I went through the list of possible symptoms of LD, many teachers said they recognized the symptoms in some of their students. They shared their own stories with me about students who struggled academically as well as behaviorally, and underperformed despite interest in the subject, asking me in-depth questions and agreeing that there were new ways to help their students succeed.
The second part of the workshop was a practical demonstration of the invisible disabilities. It was a simulation lab, where participants felt they had the disability. It established for the teachers that students don’t fake their difficulties; that these disabilities are genuine and cause real trouble for students. Perhaps the student has fine motor issues, and is thus unable to write well or do activities that involve a careful and steady hand, through no real fault of their own. Students might also have visual problems and be unable to see the board, or perhaps have dyslexia, and they may act out as the class clown rather than appear vulnerable for not being able to understand the squiggles and lines that make up the text.
The dedicated teachers spent an hour trying on different disabilities and putting themselves in their students’ shoes. It was gruelingly hot that day, which added to the discomfort, but we all agreed: students cannot escape their own disabilities, and being outside our comfort zone in such heat gave everybody a glimpse into what their students’ conditions can be like — all-encompassing and inescapable. But with our support, they can thrive.
I look forward to working with the teachers of Chamarajanagar again.
If you have any questions about SV’s invisible disabilities simulation workshop, you can contact us here or drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.